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Vickery Meadow grassroots effort helps 1,200 families impacted by winter storms

For the past week, Literacy Achieves has been more than a school. It's been a warming center, water source and food pantry in a community effort to help residents.
Credit: Byron Harris
Community members line up at Literacy Achieves for support following winter storms.

DALLAS — Tens of thousands of Dallas’ lowest income residents who live in Vickery Meadow were among the hardest hit by last week’s storm.  

“It’s been kind of like when Hurricane Katrina came through and you had all these people without water and without power,” said Ashley Holm, the outcomes manager of Literacy Achieves.  

For more than two decades Literacy Achieves has been teaching English as a second language in the neighborhood.

But for the past week, the two clapboard buildings that make up the Literacy Achieves “campus” have been much more than a school. They have been a warming center, water source and food pantry that has so far served more than 1,200 families. 

Credit: Byron Harris
Ashley Holm is the outcomes manager of Literary Achieves in Vickery Meadow.

“It is just a testament to grassroots organization,” said Holm, who’s spent 20 years working for non-profits. “Temple Emmanuel, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church and other faith communities have just come together and done all this and it’s just spread word of mouth.”  

Donors showed up with food, clothing, diapers, blankets. Restaurants pitched in with hot meals, filling a chasm of need in a pocket of poverty that’s only about a mile east of one of the city’s poshest shopping centers, North Park. 

“It’s just been wonderful neighbors and community members who stepped up,” says Holm.

On Monday, hundreds of people lined up for snacks, staples, diapers, a hot turkey dinner, and a perhaps a coat, each dispensed from a different folding table in the parking lot. It was the fourth day of giveaways.  

Sarah Papert, Literacy Achieves executive director, looked on and shook her head. She and others had come up with this rescue plan as the snow deepened last week. She seemed in disbelief—first, that it had worked and second, that the need was so great.

Credit: Byron Harris
Community members line up for food, supplies at Literary Achieves in Vickery Meadow.

Of the 225 families that signed in for help on Monday, 140 still did not have water. The need here will persist far beyond the storm.

And the turkey dinners on table five were running out.

As if by magic, an SUV eased into the parking lot and a woman and her daughter began unloading scores of bags of hamburgers and French fries. She was part of what she called a “gorilla” fund-raising group that had bought the hot meals on their own.

Papert processed it all with a half smile. “In this project it’s been like that. Just when it seems like the worst is coming, something happens that bails us out.”

Byron Harris is a member of the Literacy Achieves board.