Waco residents provide help to community during, after Winter Storm Uri

Local organizations like Caritas of Waco and The Waco Foundation are working to help those in need after the ice storm damage. Christina Cannady | Photographer

By Anne Walker | Staff Writer

Last week, Winter Storm Uri brought freezing temperatures that left many Waco residents without power or water. Throughout the perils of the storm, residents turned to each other for help. Many continue to rely on community support in the aftermath of the storm.

Like numerous Texans, San Diego, Calif., senior David Martinez found himself unprepared for the unprecedented weather event.

“The big issue for me was food — just finding where to eat, what to eat. We didn’t know. We were not prepared at all,” Martinez said.

Martinez and his five other housemates quickly realized that their older house on Speight Avenue was not equipped for below freezing temperatures.

“It was so cold that as the faucet was leaking it would turn into ice and accumulate. And so there was some ice building up from the sink … That’s how cold it was,” Martinez said.

When a pipe burst in the house, Martinez described the conditions of their off-campus residence as “unlivable.” He and his roommates turned to friends for a place to stay through the rest of the week.

Many other Waco residents struggled without water during the storm. Lisa Tyer, Waco utility director, announced around 500 residents lost water Saturday due to pipes breaking and related repairs.

Last weekend, the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. helped meet the families’ needs by donating water for a city distribution event near the Waco Convention Center.

While the winter weather has subsided and temperatures have soared back into the 70s, many in Waco are still facing hardships in the aftermath of the storm.

Alicia Jallah, co-executive director of Caritas of Waco, detailed some of the challenges families are confronting.

“The weather caused many businesses to close last week and some continue their closure due to facility repairs,” Jallah wrote via email. “The other hardship for many of our clients is replacing all the groceries they lost during the power outages. Many already struggle with getting adequate nutrition and acquiring the necessary food for healthy living so to have to replace everything is devastating.”

Natalie Kelinske, director of communications and donor services at the Waco Foundation, confirmed in an email that many families continue to contend with hardships.

“We also anticipate a need for vital home repairs so people can remain in their homes and have running water. We are working with the City to develop a deeper understanding of the current needs and we will learn more in the coming days and weeks,” Kelinske wrote.

Martinez stated that he was still waiting on Tuesday for the water to be restored at his house.

“Thankfully, we have friends, so I’ve been going to the friends that I stayed with most of my time, and I’ve been able to shower there,” Martinez said. “I brush my teeth at the dorm across the street … so that’s why I went this morning to put my contacts in and brush my teeth.”

The Waco Foundation, in coordination with the City of Waco, established the Winter Storm Community Relief Fund.

“During the middle of last week when we began to learn more about the wide-spread damage and severe impact of Winter Storm Uri, we had several conversations with the City of Waco about establishing a way for people to give donations for the benefit of individuals and families in our community,” Kelinske explained. “We are honored to partner with the city to receive these funds and distribute them to our most vulnerable populations who are unable to access basic necessities and home repairs. Waco Foundation’s Board approved a $25,000 gift to the fund to get it started.”

After approving $25,000 to jumpstart the fund, the Waco Foundation designated Caritas of Waco as a nonprofit that will receive grants from the Winter Storm Community Relief Fund. Jallah outlined Caritas’ plans for the funds.

“These funds will allow us to serve more clients that need the financial assistance with their utility and rental needs. The hope is to always keep our families with a safe roof over their heads, running water and electricity,” Jallah wrote. “We have so many families already hurting because of the pandemic that now the added stress of recovering from the winter storm has them at a loss. We are grateful to be here to offer hope and a gracious hand to those in need.”

For community members that are interested in assisting Waco fully recover from Winter Storm Uri, Kelinske recommended they visit wacofoundation.org/winterstorm to learn more about the Winter Storm Community Relief Fund or waco-texas.com/recovery to identify volunteer opportunities.