Acts of kindness displayed during historic snowstorm

La Plata, MD-- Maryland State Troopers from Barrack H in Charles County helped a 78-year-old man by driving him to a pharmacy to pick up his medication and shoveling his driveway! Thank you Trooper Jeans, Trooper Davis, and Trooper First Class Harrod!

Mandy and Alfred Peters. Photo courtesy of Mandy Peters

White Plains, MD - Saturday, Jan. 23 was a day to stay off the road unless you were dealing with an emergency. Waldorf resident Mandy Peters told The BayNet that is exactly she and her husband Alfred were dealing with during the worst possible time.

“We received a call from a tenant that the sump pump at a house we own went bad,” said Peters, who received the call during the height of the weekend’s blizzard. The tenant, according to Peters, was bailing water out of the basement so it would not overflow. The pump needed to be fixed as soon as possible.

Peters called the Tractor Supply Company in White Plains. The store manager had told the couple had been planning to close early due to the storm but would stay open so they could purchase what they needed. They traveled on Billingsley Road through the storm in their Ford Bronco. “The roads were really bad,” said Peters. “We saw a lot of cars stuck.”

After purchasing a replacement pump at the store, the couple went to the rental house, which is also in White Plains. However, when Alfred Peters began work to install the replacement he realized he needed another part to complete the job.

Mandy Peters called the store again and again the manager agreed to stay open for their return to purchase the needed part.

“They could have just shut down and gone home, but they stayed,” said Peters, who added, “we weren’t the only ones.” Other customers needing stove pellets and other items were also served.

The sump pump fix was a major action that had to be addressed. “Absolutely, it could have cost us thousands from flood and mold damage,” said Peters.

The BayNet reached out to the store manager Monday, Jan. 25 for comment but a store employee explained he was out on the road aiding another customer.

“Without question they went above and beyond,” said Tractor Supply Company national spokesman Rob Hoskins. “We’ve had quite a few stories this past weekend of our team members who have made the extra effort to help customers.”

Keith found himself homeless and said LifeStyles "has been a blessing."

La Plata, MD - It seems a bit ironic that just days before LifeStyles of Maryland Inc. was to conduct its Point in Time Homeless Survey, that one of the worst snowstorms in the region’s history arrived with intense wind, dumping up to 23 inches of the white stuff in Charles County.

Thanks to efforts to bring people out of tents and under shelter, more than 150 people were housed, according to Sandy Washington, executive director of LifeStyles.

“We were able to get everyone who contacted us into shelters,” Washington stated. “It ran exceptionally well as far as getting people into place.

“We tried to get the word out so we could make a determination of how many people needed help,” she added. “We had a couple of calls where the sheriff’s office was able to go out and pick up people. We had some in Safe Nights, some in hotels. Bernadette Cole with Exit Realty were able to put some folks up at the Waldorf Motel. We were able to house quite a few people. It’s tough. Safe Nights, we have to staff around the clock. Because of the storm, it was time we hadn’t intended to use but we had to shelter people.”

As of Monday morning, Washington was still trying to get transportation in place to get people transferred from Trinity Baptist Church in Waldorf to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in La Plata.

Washington said Charles County got 20 to 23 inches in places.

“It’s crazy,” she admitted.

“This was a storm where a lot of the community helped us by calling to let them know about someone homeless in their community,” Washington said. “We were able to bring those folks in that we might not have found otherwise.”

She said they were able to house over 150 people.

“That’s a lot of people who might have been out there in the weather,” she said. “I just hope we didn’t have any fatalities because of the storm.”

At Sacred Heart in La Plata, Ron Jacks, a burly African-American said he became homeless due to identity theft and “domestics.

“I had $12,000 in my bank account and then it disappeared,” he said. “It was kind of a snowball effect after that.”

He said that while the authorities are trying to sort out his financial mess, he’s living in a tent city in the county.

“I try to stay out of the weather, but if I can, I prefer to stay in my tent,” Jacks said. “I can’t stand a lot of movement around me when I sleep. I do have privacy issues.”

Shawn, a volunteer with Safe Nights, said he had put in 36 hours in three days, and Jan. 25 had ferried the 28 people from Trinity Baptist to Sacred Heart.

The work is challenging he admitted, trying to deal with a lot of differing personalities on little sleep.

“They’re dealing with homelessness, they’re down on their luck,” he said. “They’re looking for a place to call home.”

While the church has one family with two small children they are sheltering, Shawn said there haven’t been many families with children this year.

Keith, another homeless person sheltering at the church, said that LifeStyles “has been a blessing.”

The Washington, DC native had moved out to Pittsburgh, KA before moving back east to Charles County. He worked for an electric company when a co-worker told him he could move in with him until he found a place to stay.

“Then Dec. 23, he said he wanted me out,” he said. “My suits, shoes and other clothing is still at this guy’s house. Before Life Styles started helping me out, I spent one night at the bus stop in the rain. I’ve never been homeless before. It’s been quite an experience.

“People here for the most part are good,” Keith noted. “Most of them are just trying to feel normal again.”

One fellow who asked not be identified said he has been living in a barn in Charles County. He said he went back to his shelter Sunday and found that it had been broken into.

“Nothing was stolen, but they broke my back door when they kicked it in,” he said.

Exit Landmark Realty in White Plains has been working with the Arnold House and put up 30 people in the Waldorf Hotel during the storm and fed them every day. As of Monday they were running out of time and funds to keep them out of the woods in tents.

Their site on facebook is Landmark Wings of Love and details what is needed for their effort.

One thing that came out of the blizzard is that agencies and communities came together to help where it was needed most.

“What a big difference it makes when everyone is working together,” Washington said.

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