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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Community finds purpose in selfless service during winter storm


Christopher Cardoza poses for a photo, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, by the Blanco River.

The bone-chilling temperatures and icy conditions of February’s winter storm reminded Christopher Cardoza of a time when he spent nights outdoors freezing, praying for daylight to come.
“One time, I remember, someone pulled over on the side of a road and saw me wandering around a boulevard, and they gave me a blanket,” Cardoza says. “I was so grateful for that dingy little blanket; it was like gold.”
Despite frozen streets and rolling blackouts, Cardoza, along with many San Marcos residents, worked tirelessly to supply shelter, resources and food to those in need throughout the community.
Prior to February’s winter storm, Cardoza had been helping the local homeless community for nearly six years by providing them with items such as blankets, jackets and socks.
When the winter storm arrived, however, Cardoza knew there would be a greater need for blankets and warm clothing. He says when visiting homeless camps around the area, a lot of people expressed a desire to leave their encampments to escape the frigid temperatures.
While Cardoza was able to help out financially and work with fellow community members to place those in need with motel rooms, he also encountered homeless individuals who were reluctant to seek shelter.
“They wanted to stay there,” Cardoza says. “I needed to remind him that it was going to snow, and they said that ‘we’ve been through worse.'”
As someone who has experienced homelessness himself, Cardoza says his main priority was to help those adamant about staying in their encampments through the storm. He returned to provide those individuals with extra blankets and sleeping bags, trying his best to make sure they kept warm.
“I’ve been homeless at one time, maybe, God, 14-15 years ago,” Cardoza says. “So been there done that, you know. I am a recovering alcoholic, so I have 10 years of sobriety, and I kind of know what it’s like to be on that end of the stick so to speak.”
As the storm traveled throughout the area, leaving homes dark and grocery shelves empty, Cardoza says he found it incredible to see how many people were willing to help strangers in their own community. He adds he was grateful to see so many other residents visiting the encampment sites, providing any resources they could.
“That was like the most beautiful thing you can imagine from a community that was stepping outside of itself, not hoarding for itself, and just going out and doing for others, because they knew it was a desperate situation,” Cardoza says. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if these people hadn’t pulled together. Not just me but the community…that was an incredible thing.”
With the storm approaching, San Marcos resident Tod Miller knew the local homeless community was not prepared to encounter the inclement weather the storm would bring.
“I was going into camps before the storm actually got here and was kind of checking in with them and letting them know weather was going to turn really bad,” Miller says.
In between caring for his elderly mother at home, Miller worked nearly nine hours a day during the week of the storm to provide and deliver hot meals, hygiene products and water. He partnered with the H.O.M.E Center to provide motel rooms to homeless individuals.
Miller has helped those in need for nearly 15 years and says the conditions of the winter storm transformed his outreach, making it much more critical for him to serve others.
“Community is all about taking care of our neighbors, and people experiencing homelessness are still our neighbors,” Miller says. “My motivation is to build a better community, a tighter-knit community and everybody, you know, everyone needs help at times.”
Miller experienced homelessness in the ’90s and also lost his home and belongings during the 2015 Memorial Day flood. He works to serve as a liaison between the city and homeless community, as oftentimes people experiencing homelessness are hesitant to engage in outreach initiatives with city officials, local organizations or law enforcement.
“I’m coming to people in these camps more as a friend checking in on a friend,” Miller says.
With frigid temperatures, freezing pipes and power outages forcing some restaurants and home kitchens to close, Janie Perez, a member of El Buen Pastor Church, and her husband helped residents turn their water off and provided food items throughout the community.
“We had fruit cups, we had soup, stuff that, you know, could be eaten without having to heat up,” Perez says. “So we gathered a couple of those and took those to people that were still in their houses.”
Perez says El Buen Pastor is a partnering agency with the Hays County Food Bank and receives food donations from the organization. Hays County Food Bank Communications Coordinator Mallory Best says while it was unfortunate that the food bank was not able to provide its regular services, it was amazing to work with local partners and provide more than 5,000 pounds of food items to the community.
“It astounds me that when a catastrophe happens, this community really pulls together,” Best says. “I’ve been here for the floods, I’ve been here when the hurricane hit [and] it’s been amazing how people just pop up.”
The weather began to improve by the end of the week, but Perez continued to provide food to those throughout the community and even served breakfast for the nearly 100 community members the Sunday after the storm.
“We had over 200 tacos that my daughter and I made; we got up at five in the morning. We went in it hard; we were like, ‘let’s do this,’ and we made tacos and another person within church brought kolaches and donuts. We had oatmeal; we had plenty of clothes. So we had a good turnout,” Perez says.
Days after the storm, the power in Perez’s home returned. However, she knew there were still residents who did not have electricity. She decided to cook enchiladas for whoever wanted them and ended up making 50 plates and 17 household deliveries throughout the community.
The desire to serve stems from her faith and the selflessness of others who helped her after the death of her father in 2014. During that time, she says she fell into a deep depression, did not really care for life anymore and was at the point of being homeless.
Perez was referred to El Buen Pastor and its Life Together program which provided her with rental assistance. She says the love dispensed by the church helped her find the strength to continue on.
From those experiences, like many other selfless leaders in the community, she now aims to do the same for others.
My dad always said, ‘God always sends us on Earth to do something grand and you just got to find what it is,” Perez says. “For me, it’s caring about others, it’s loving on others, it’s helping others and I didn’t realize that until, you know, later in life, but I’m glad I did.”

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  • Tod Miller poses for a photo, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, near Rio Vista Park.

  • Janie Perez poses for a photo, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at El Buen Pastor United Methodist Church.

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