Austin in the Winter Storm: Loretta’s Story

In Texas’s unprecedented winter storm and power grid disaster, the non-profit organization Austin Disaster Relief Network inspired large-scale mutual aid and united the community with strength. They fielded calls and directly distributed resources that couldn’t be found anywhere else to hundreds of people in dire situations.

After personally experiencing some of the effects of this disaster, and consequently volunteering with ADRN as an emergency dispatcher, I felt called to visit with a few survivors to speak with them about their experiences.

I interviewed three individuals and families who not only received help from ADRN, but also gave generously of themselves to benefit the greater good. They’re inspiring humans. Read more about why I created this project here.

Loretta has been in Texas since she was a young girl. She loves Austin for its liberal, relaxed, family-oriented ways, and its parks, waterways and warm temperatures. “There’s nothing better,” she says. A mother of five, and even a young grandmother, Loretta is engaging in conversation and laughs easily. She speaks with passion and motivation about the future 501 non-profit she hopes to build to support folks who have struggled with homelessness, having experienced it herself for three years. On a self-professed “pay-it-forward mission of love,” Loretta is one of those inspiring, positive people you just want to be around.

When the snow first began to fall in February, Loretta and her family were excited. Her daughters (ages 10 and 25), her 3-month-old infant grandson and Loretta herself had all just recovered from a serious battle with Covid-19. So when they lost power and heat in the sub-freezing temperatures — and were given little to no information as to when it would come back — it was a hard blow to endure.

After several days of frigid indoor temperatures and huddling together in one bed to keep warm, the sun came out. Loretta thought her family was finally in the clear. But it was at that time that her hot water heater exploded, setting off the fire sprinklers, and flooding her entire apartment with water. Now they had a freezing apartment without power, without running water, without gas, and they were soaked. Thankfully, that’s when she got the call from Austin Disaster Relief Network (ADRN) offering assistance to put them up in a hotel.

Loretta describe the phone call from ADRN as “such a blessing. Oh my goodness. It was like drowning and having someone put their hand out and pull you out of the water.”

ADRN provided rooms for her and her family in the Embassy Suites for several days, bringing them hot meals as soon as they arrived, and fresh socks. She says they were asleep within 45 minutes. “I could breathe. I could look around and know my family is safe.”

Loretta expressed deep appreciation and inspiration for the mutual aid she experienced from her neighbors and Austin Disaster Relief Network. She believes that continuing to do that work together means that next time we experience a disaster, we will be better prepared, and feel less desperate.

“If you are looking to donate to any 501, or any organization, this would be the one that is desperately needing your assistance. They are helping across the board. They are helping people who have no homes at all — in tents — to people like myself, who suffer some catastrophic event at home, so that we have a safe place to be.”
— Loretta