Colorado Co-op Employees Reach out to Texas Neighbors
By Kent Singer, CREA Executive Director
As a kid growing up in Dickinson, Texas, Paul Hora was accustomed to the occasional east Texas “gully washer.” Living that close to the Gulf of Mexico, it was not unusual for hurricanes or tropical storms to roil up from the south and dump several inches of rain on Dickinson, a suburb of Houston. But Hora, key accounts manager for San Miguel Power Association in Ridgway, Colorado, knew that the deluge unleashed on the Houston area by Hurricane Harvey in late August was not your typical storm. In fact, it was unprecedented in its intensity and duration: Over a 48-hour period, Dickinson received between 40 and 50 inches of rain.
Not long after the rain stopped, Hora received confirmation of his worst fears: a text message with a photo showing his parents’ home under 5 feet of water. “It was really a profound moment to see your home under that much water,” Hora said. Although Hora’s parents were out of town and safe, he watched news accounts of patients in a nearby nursing home up to their chests in water. He knew at that moment that he needed to get home and help his hometown however he could.
So, Hora went to work. When he told his co-workers at San Miguel Power that he was going to Texas to assist in the recovery, they immediately pitched in, contributing money and supplies to assist in the effort. Alex Shelley, a communications executive with the co-op, even volunteered to join Hora on the trip. Two members of Hora’s church, Jeff Hogan and Dirk Johnson, also volunteered to help. Supported by contributions from the community, the group quickly loaded tools, building materials and other essential supplies and headed to the Lone Star State.
When they arrived in Dickinson, the devastation was worse than they imagined. Although the floodwaters receded, the loss of life and the destruction of homes and businesses were hard to comprehend. Entire neighborhoods were impacted by the floodwaters and the need for help was great.
Undaunted by the scope of the task, the Colorado crew went to work.
As Hora described it, his goal was to “help a few people out” by doing whatever was necessary to get folks on the path to getting back into their homes. As a certified energy manager, Hora is knowledgeable about how homes are constructed and how they can be improved to make them more energy efficient. It turns out that this background was useful when it came to knowing what to do to mitigate water damage and stop the spread of mold in the humid east Texas climate.
For five days, Hora and his friends helped families in Dickinson do whatever was necessary to help them clean up and start over. They tore out drywall and insulation, cleaned out refrigerators, moved appliances, threw out trash and lent a helping hand to a community in need. While the crew initially intended to only help Hora’s parents clean up their home, their efforts eventually resulted in the cleanup of 12 homes in Dickinson.
After their cleanup work in Texas, Hora and his friends came back to Colorado with a little different perspective on life. Seeing how property and possessions can be lost in an instant, Hora is determined to focus on what’s most important and “live life a little more simply.”
The selfless efforts of Hora and his friends to help out their long-distance neighbors would not have been possible without the support of San Miguel Power Association and the broader SMPA community. The co-op enabled its employees to take time away from work and the community and pitched in with contributions and moral support. Hora said that the trip was a “great example of how co-ops care for their communities.”
For many people across the country who lost loved ones or suffered great property loss in the recent hurricanes and fires, this will be a difficult holiday season. People like Hora and his friends remind us that even in the darkest hours, our way forward is illuminated by the cooperative spirit of friends and neighbors working together to rebuild lives and communities.