By Front Porch Flyer Staff in the April 2021 Front Porch Flyer print edition
Winter Storm Uri came through Texas with a vengeance in February 2021. Weather forecasters predicted snow, ice, and a fierce cold that Central Texas has not experienced in a very long time.
What was not forecasted were the ramifications of freezing temperatures and their aftermath. Almost immediately we became concerned with frozen pipes, followed by loss of water and electricity, thus creating a significant sense of anxiety, fear, and for many, loss of their material possessions, and in some cases, death.
While families struggled with boiling snow to have water or lighting a fire to stay warm, the human spirit remained. Many neighbors provided respite for families or friends who were without; others pooled their food to share as grocery stores were empty, due to trucks not being able to make the trek to stock shelves.
First responders walked to their respective stations, and nurses to hospitals, to serve those who needed them most. The Mueller Community was no different. We rose to the occasion when our neighbors at SAFE Children’s Shelter posted a social media request that they were in dire need of water and other items to get them through a few days. For those of you that don’t know, SAFE provides shelter for children who are in the temporary custody of the state, and children placed here come from all parts of the state. I picked up dry canned food, blankets, water, frozen pizzas, and more. But what stood out for me is that one particular neighbor stated, “I’m sorry, it’s not much but we’re almost out of food.”
One of our resident Block Captains and an employee of SAFE, Christine Langa, was able to work with other staff to sort donations, creating a temporary food pantry for clients affected by the winter storm. “This work and connecting with essential staff and colleagues and just being onsite felt so good for the soul,” said Langa.
Christine Langa and her daughter with donations made to SAFE
Food donations to SAFE. Photo credit: Christine Langa
The Kraft family on Mattie Street sprang into action after the storm hit.
“The Winter Storm showcased how our Mueller community can rally together to help each other and others throughout our city,” said Vanessa Kraft.
“At first it started slow. I sent an email out to our block wanting to save ourselves and neighbors from a store run. We listed a few things we needed and a few things we could share. We quickly received plenty of what we needed. After the weather turned colder and more of Austin lost power, block emails turned into neighbors asking for pack-and-plays or cots for families coming to stay to find safe shelter from the storm,” she said.
“Our block captain left his shovel, plumber’s key, and a wrench on his porch in case someone needed to shut off their water or shovel sidewalks. Emails bounced back and forth between neighbors not able to turn off their water and other neighbors responding. Everyone was alert and ready to help however they could,” she said.
During the storm Vanessa checked regularly on a friend who was stuck with her daughter in their home with no power, water, or gas. They lived close enough to get to Northeast Early College High School while it was open to warm up, but then the shelter lost power and they had to return to a home still without water, electricity, or gas. After several days, they were out of food and water, and the city had imposed a boil water notice. Vanessa reached out through the Mueller Neighbors Facebook page asking for canned food or fresh fruit or bottled water, asstores had been emptied due to overwhelming demand.
Vanessa reports that more than thirty neighbors quickly responded, even after answering similar pleas from shelters needing the same things. Some of her donors mentioned that they had just the day before given food, but everyone kept doing everything they could to provide for the many, many needs that were streaming in through social media all day.
For the Kraft family’s friend, neighbors boiled water and set it out in containers, donated food items, and several gave money.
“We collected so much food that it filled up the back of our minivan and we easily had about 10 gallons of potable water to take to our very grateful friend, “ she said. “We are thankful to be part of a community that we can depend on to be generous and eager to help.”
Top row: Vanessa and Brandon Kraft
Middle row: Olivia, Teresa, Lina
Bottom row: Dorothy, Ruthie, Ana
“Selfless service alone gives the needed strength and courage to awaken the sleeping humanity in one’s heart.” – Sai Baba