‘Strangers helping strangers’: Two local women help those suffering from winter storm


AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Amanda Pensack moved to Texas two months ago, she didn’t think to pack her winter clothes. 

“Being from Boston, coming to Austin, thinking it was gonna be the 60s and 70s over the winter, I wasn’t prepared,” Pensack said.

What she thought would be just flurries or light snow on Sunday became something much worse.

Pensack was also expecting a delivery from Whole Foods on Monday, but the grocery store canceled her order. They weren’t the only one.

“To my horror, all of the grocery stores ended up closing all together because the semi trucks couldn’t fulfill the food because the road conditions were so poor and because of the power outages,” Pensack said.

She found herself in a “crisis for survival” with food and water supply dwindling and not knowing anyone besides her roommate, who was also from Boston. So, she called the fire department who brought what they had on hand: 10 cans of beans and a half-eaten bag of chips. 

“Which was really sweet of them. They took everything that they could from the fire station but it was a desperate situation and I was in need of food.” Pensack said.

But then a ray of hope came through on social media.

Pensack posted a “cry for help” on a neighborhood Facebook group and then, within a half-hour, she was connected to Kami Irwin and Kim Pfeiffer — two local women with a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Kim and Kami delivering food to Amanda (Amanda Pensack)

“They were they with smiles on their faces, great energy,” Pensack said. “They were able to surpass blockaded roads. In Lakeway, we had a main road that was completely blocked because of the ice and they got to me, they found a way and they were able to get my roommate and I through the night and through the next day with their support and with their supplies that they provided.”

Irwin and Pfeiffer spent their week navigating icy roads to fulfill the requests of strangers who responded to their Facebook posts. They gave rides to people stranded on roadways, reunited kids with parents, and distributed donations from the community.

“We probably drove to Florida and back, honestly, with how much we drove.” Irwin said.

“Everyone was so appreciative and thankful and hugged us,” Pfeiffer said. “I don’t know if it was because we were so focused on getting there… I just don’t think we really stopped to think about if it’s really made an impact.”

“It meant so much to me that these complete strangers, who I had never met before were willing to sacrifice their safety and to bring me, a complete stranger, the supplies and the food that I needed to sustain myself in a crisis.” Pensack said.

Power has since been restored to the Lakeway area, Pensack said. Neighbors have been able to obtain water through the National Guard, churches and other donation sites. By sharing her story, Pensack has been able to collect over $3,000 to donate to other families in need through Irwin and Pfeiffer’s ongoing effort.

Irwin woke up Monday morning and found out Boston is donating money to Austin.

“It’s crazy, it’s crazy that people have seen what we’re going through and want to give and I think alone, already from Boston, we have over, it’s close to $1,000. People are doing what they can to help us for supplies.”

The pair points out it wasn’t just them helping others. They say others with the same means of transportation helped just as much.

“We don’t even want credit for anything, we just want more people to keep helping. That’s all we want.” Irwin said.

“Just go and help your neighbor, go check on your neighbor. If someone needs milk, split that gallon of milk, you know?” Pfeiffer added.

Kami created a Venmo account @Kami-Irwin and so far has received more than $6,000 in donations. The effort isn’t done though.

“Just because the ice is melted, the impact is still there. It’s still being felt,” Pfeiffer said. “We’re not gonna stop, and if there’s a need, maybe we’ll just get a little Sprinter RV and go to the next ice storm or the next flood and try to connect people and get the word out where the help is needed.”

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