Power of Community Helps Neighbors in the Dark

In the wake of May 28’s storm, power was patchy and hotel rooms booked fast, but there was no shortage of helping hands in the Park Cities.

Residents with power opened their homes to overnight guests and their fridges to food that would otherwise spoil. Neighbors helped clear debris from fallen trees, and hosted children whose homes didn’t have electricity.

On Amherst Avenue, where electricity was not restored until Sunday, an extension cord stretched across the street from a home with power to one without.

HPHS upcoming junior Jesse Luna, who is an offensive lineman and throws the discus for the track and field team, helped neighbors move fallen parts of about 30 trees after the storm on Tuesday.

“My mom, she always says ‘you should always have a helper’s heart,’” Luna said. “And so, I try to have a helper’s heart most of the time.”

Luna, who is also an Eagle Scout, got his first request for help shortly after his mom posted an announcement on the Park Cities Facebook group at his request. He worked for about seven hours clearing trees on Tuesday, and was still responding to requests on Wednesday, May 29, more than 24 hours after the storm ended.

“It was basically like a workout,” said Luna, who started Tuesday morning at the gym before heading out to help his neighbors.

Katherine Herron, who owns Hola HP, opened her Snider Plaza business to those in need of space to work or study.

Hola HP offers educational services, and the week after Memorial Day is almost always the quietest week of the year. Herron said on Wednesday that she wasn’t sure people would respond to her offer of space, “but I’m so happy because people actually are. So you can definitely tell that people are needing this right now.”

Students studying for exams, residents who work from home, and even a father-daughter pair who planned to work and study, had all contacted Herron by Wednesday morning to use space at her business. 

“I think this community has been so incredibly supportive of my program for the past 10 years. And I’ve been so grateful for the outreach that I’ve received from them,” she said. “I know it’s not an ideal time, but It just really fills my heart to be able to also give back.”

The kindness continued Sunday at Preston Road Church of Christ. When it became clear that the church’s annual block party was going to be rained out, the church posted messages opening its doors to anyone in the community who wanted to share the food it had planned to serve at the event.

“The church staff does not need to be eating all that food for the next couple of weeks. That’s not good for our health,” senior minister Josh Kingcade said. “But on a more serious note, we had food that we didn’t want to go to waste, and so we wanted anyone who needed it, whether it was neighbors who were just hungry or any of the people who lost their power, we wanted them to have the meal that was already being cooked and prepared.”

Kingcade added that he hoped people felt welcome and invited to come back to the block party next year, when there will hopefully be better weather.

Resident Shane Smith spent about two and a half hours helping a neighbor clear branches off a roof and around powerlines after the storm, then left his chainsaw with the neighbor so that he could finish the job.

Wednesday morning, Smith posted on the Park Cities Facebook group joking about how well he’d slept without power, and another neighbor offered to lend him a generator.

“I think that just goes to show why we live in one of the best communities in the world,” Smith said. “It’s perfect, and it’s only magnified when everyone starts helping each other out.”

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