The winter storm that hit Texas last week brought pain and suffering to a state already hurting, like the rest of the nation, by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, through it all, local Texans showed up to help their neighbors in crisis.
After a hard week, we could all use a little joy. These stories from the community show how compassion carried Texans through the winter storm crisis.
Just one of many examples is McKinney Mayor George Fuller. Fuller spent the week updating McKinney’s residents on important issues surrounding power outages and water shortages on his Facebook page. But he also made house calls to help residents directly and created an email account for those in need.
In a Tuesday Facebook post, Fuller wrote that he set up the email address firstname.lastname@example.org for people to use for “critical needs.” He has helped bring food, water and blankets to residents in homes without water or power.
“It is truly a blessing to be able to help others during such times,” Fuller says. “To see the reaction [when] someone opens the door, and you’re handing them gallons of water and food that they have been without — it is heartwarming to the core.”
He even delivered hot water to a mother who needed to make formula for her newborn, the Dallas Morning News reported. And he performed music for seniors that had to be moved after their facility lost power.
“My wife and I are performers — we’ve played all kinds of shows everywhere,” Fuller says. “Last night, playing some acoustic songs and singing for 20 relocated seniors that had to be moved from the care facility without power to a church was more rewarding than the last show we played in front of [a] big crowd.”
McKinney’s Helping Hands
Luckily, Fuller had help. Other volunteers joined him in delivering oxygen tanks, generators, space heaters, firewood, water, food and blankets. Many people even opened up space in their homes for those who needed shelter from the winter storm.
“I, along with hundreds of others, had the opportunity to help, and seized it,” Fuller says. “I believe underneath all the noise, all the divisiveness, people are kind and humane — they are compassionate and want to help others in need. The evidence of that just gets lost outside of a crisis.”
The mayor gave thanks to the McKinney Police Department and fire department for working double — and sometimes triple — shifts to meet the community’s needs in a Feb. 17 Facebook post. He wrote that they have been working hard to transfer groups of vulnerable seniors to warming stations among answering dozens of other calls and are still asking Fuller how they can help more.
“Our fire department and police staff are true heroes,” Fuller says. “We get used to saying that, and we know it is true on many levels, but in a crisis like this, when I get to see them work double shifts and then reach out to me to ask how they can volunteer to do more during their time off before their next shift, is a superhuman thing — both physically and compassionately. They are very special people doing far more than just their job.”
Fuller also shared a specific moment he captured in a photo: Fireman Thomas Kosten helping a little girl whose family had been evacuated from their building. She was afraid the building was on fire.
According to Fuller’s post, Kosten took out his heat-detection gun to show her that it would detect if there was a fire by demonstrating on her stuffed animal and comparing her warm hands to her cold feet. He then pointed the detection gun toward the building she came from to show her that there was no fire, and it was safe to go back inside.
“A slight pause he took to comfort a young child that had no understanding of all that was going on, while I am sure he was exhausted and stressed himself,” Fuller wrote in the post.
Flower Mound Fundraiser
Denton County has been no different than Collin County as far as helping out those impacted by the winter storm.
Flower Mound resident Jack “David” Carter posted in the Facebook group “Flower Mound Cares” that he and his wife were raising money via GoFundMe for a mother who has been devastated by the winter storm and COVID-19.
Jennifer and Aron Wesneski and their five children are the family in need, according to the GoFundMe page. In December 2020, Aron tested positive for COVID-19. But in January, he was hospitalized.
He has been in the hospital for over a month now fighting for his life in the ICU on a ventilator. He can’t return home until he can eat and swallow, which he is still unable to do.
To top it off, the pipes in the Wesneski’s home burst Thursday due to the winter storm and left them homeless. The family has run out of money due to hospital bills. And now with the pipes burst, Jennifer is unable to afford the deductible for the repairs.
As of about 8 a.m. Feb. 21, the GoFundMe raised $19,630 of its $25,000 goal to help Jennifer pay for hotel rooms, food, hospital bills and the deductible.
“In no way will the financial help heal Aron but maybe it can lift this family out of a spiral,” Carter wrote on the GoFundMe. “It’s our prayer it will.”
Carter says his wife asked Jennifer to stay with them when their power went out on Wednesday. Because of their efforts, Jennifer and her children moved to a rental home over the weekend.
“My wife and I believe in helping others when we can,” Carter says. “Opening our home to their family was our pleasure. The Bible has scriptures about this as well. At the end of the day, it was an easy decision. I have no doubt in my mind that God works in mysterious ways.”
But Carter says helping the Wesneski’s was a group effort. Not only were people donating to the GoFundMe, but many also brought food, clothes and gift cards.
“Our community has wrapped their arms around her family,” he says. “As soon as we posted the GoFundMe, people jumped at the chance to help. This was a team effort by our wonderful and amazing community coming together.”
Plano’s Warming Center
On Tuesday, Feb. 16 the City of Plano opened a warming center in collaboration with Grace Church Plano, according to a Facebook post from the city. The warming center was open all hours of the day until Thursday, Feb. 18. The Plano West Rotary Club also worked with the city and church to gather volunteers for the center, according to the club’s website.
After the cities of Plano and McKinney asked residents to conserve water, and Anna and Princeton were both put under a boil order, the church opened up again on Friday, Feb. 19.
But this time, the church opened from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. During that time, they distributed bottled water to people who had no water, according to a Feb. 19 Facebook post from the city. Each household took home up to 12 bottles.
Denton Square Sandwiches
Ian Blain, 23 of Denton, posted in the Facebook group “Denton Downtowners” that he was giving out free sandwiches at Denton Square on Thursday, Feb. 18 and Friday, Feb. 19. He even offered delivery for those unable to leave their homes.
Blain says he did not have a lot of people stop by for food Thursday because it was so cold. Even he had to continuously go back and forth to his car to warm up. But as the temperatures rose Friday, more people showed up and messaged him for deliveries.
While Blain was the only one “manning the table,” he says many of his friends helped him fulfill deliveries. And even in the bitter cold Thursday night, he met a woman who helped him clean up and deliver.
Blain decided to start giving out sandwiches after spending the past week living without power. Denton is also under a boil water notice, so residents have to treat their water before consumption. He says he realized that many people would need help getting back on their feet with everything going on.
“I just wanted to bless people like Jesus did and does. And I know that when I’m able to give something, I’m glad to,” he says. “So many people have given freely to me, and I want to return the favor.”