When winter storms blew across Texas, many people had a big problem. Luckily for the residents of the Rattan Creek neighborhood in Northwest Austin, they also had Christine Newman. When neighbors were without power, Newman harnessed the power of her community to make sure no one who needed help faced it alone.
Newman, who manages the neighborhood’s very active Facebook group and started as Rattan Creek Neighborhood Association president at the beginning of the year, jumped into action to use the online community to organize needs and connect people who could fill them, with daily posts for firewood, water, tree services, plumbing and more. She recruited volunteers to deliver goods and staff the community center, which opened as an impromptu warming and charging center.
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When she found out a neighboring retirement community lost power and then water, Newman rallied help to gather blankets and coats, a generator, food, water to flush toilets, and even volunteers to serve meals and sit with residents.
“The thing about Christine is that she’s this way 24/7, not just during a crisis,” says neighbor Alessandra Land. “She will help anyone who needs it at any time. She will always answer messages and do what she promises, while somehow still being an amazing mom.”
Newman, who has lived in Rattan Creek for 10 years and has a 12-year-old son, helps coordinate resources for neighbors in need all year long, an especially important task during the pandemic and now winter storm. She says helping her community has been the obvious thing to do.
“I didn’t really consider any other option. I just got moving,” she says. “I’ve been working for years to build the Facebook group we have for the neighborhood into a place where doing the right thing is the norm, and everyone wants to be a part of that culture of kindness. I spent my career doing animal work, and caring for people is a natural pivot while I’m being a stay-at-home mom for a couple more years.
“But I guess essentially, I volunteer because I want the world to be better with me than it would be without me. I believe strongly in something I heard a long time ago: The best human you can be, is to be of service to others.”
Neighbors sing Newman’s praises, calling her the heart and soul of the neighborhood, a superhero, a badass, and more, but she is quick to call out all the volunteers and the spirit of giving in Rattan Creek that makes it all possible.
“It’s truly overwhelming,” Newman says. “We’ve rallied together several times previously to help neighbors in need, but this was a whole new level. Every single time I’ve put a neighbor’s need out there this week, three people have answered the call. We had teams of drivers in 4x4s ferrying items from those who wanted to share to those who needed it. Not a single person complained or said it was too much to do. Not one.”
Newman is used to being behind the scenes working hard, but she said she hopes that sharing her story might give other moms the confidence to step up and make their communities better, which can have an impact for this generation and the next.
“My greatest wish is the children of this neighborhood will go out into the world knowing the very real value of community,” she says. “Those children whose families have struggled will know what it is to be shown kindness and support. And those whose families have given and volunteered will grow up knowing the importance of service and having a kind heart. They have all seen adults taking care of each other, in a society that too often values monetary wealth over the act of giving. I really believe they’ll all be better human beings because of it.”