LUBBOCK, Texas — As millions of Texans grapple with the aftermath and destruction caused by Winter Storm Uri last week, including struggling to find access to clean water and funds to clean up their flooded homes destroyed by pipes that burst as they froze and thawed, some are benefitting from the generosity of kind strangers who have dedicated their time, effort, and money to repair the state one pipe at a time.
Ashleigh Cedillo, a 36-year-old single mother in Lubbock, is one of the many people in Texas who faced no heat, no water, and burst pipes that flooded part of her home. Despite her unfortunate circumstances, Cedillo has also experienced the generosity and care of her fellow Texans as she works to return to normal.
Last summer, Cedillo’s air conditioning and heating unit broke, leaving her home with no internal temperature control other than space heaters to keep her home warmed in the winter months. So when record subzero temperatures and a blistering wind chill plagued the south plains last week, Cedillo and her 7-year-old daughter gave up trying to find more space heaters, which were sold out at many local stores, and sought shelter at a family member’s house for a few days with the hopes of staying warm.
“We made do with what we had,” Cedillo told The Federalist.
When she left her house early in the week, Cedillo said her kitchen sink faucet froze due to the increasingly dropping temperatures outside and in. It wasn’t until she received a phone call from her brother on Thursday that she realized the water pipes in her kitchen had burst, gushing water over her countertops and flooding her floors. While the water department acted quickly to shut off her water and prevent further damage to other areas of her home, Cedillo immediately knew the repairs were going to be costly.
“I don’t really have money for a plumber right now,” she said. “I have a sister. She allowed me to go over there, but of course, she has her own family and I don’t want to get in the way. And so I didn’t know [what to do].”
With her water turned off, no money to fix the catastrophe that struck her kitchen, and a sudden return to work and school after a crazy week, Cedillo and her young daughter were forced to get creative with how they would continue their daily lives, buying storage tubs from a local dollar store to carry and store water.
“I went to the neighbor on the corner and I’m like, ‘I don’t mean to bother you and this might sound strange, but can you fill this water up for me? This is what we use right now to flush our toilets,’” Cedillo explained.
The neighbor eagerly agreed to help, filling up the tub so Cedillo and her daughter could flush their toilets, take showers using plastic sacks with holes, and wash their faces. She also bought a case of water bottles to use for brushing teeth.
“I’ve heard there’s boiling notices like around the surrounding areas, and I just want to be safe with my daughter and just make sure that no matter what, we’re safe,” Cedillo explained.
When her daughter asked how long they would have to pull water from a plastic tub to complete their daily routines, Cedillo said she didn’t know.
“Today was the first day at school,” Cedillo told The Federalist on Monday. “We woke up 30 minutes extra just in case anything went wrong, but it worked out. I mean, we’re able to brush our teeth and we washed our face with it and then also to take a shower.”
Just as Cedillo started to settle into a routine without running water, a man and his wife, whose names she couldn’t remember, came to her house and offered to fix her pipes for free. In just one day, Cedillo’s water was up and running again.
“All I had was $30, and he didn’t even charge my card,” Cedillo said choking back tears. “I don’t know why he did it, but he just fixed it for me and he said, ‘Thank you and have a good day,’ and then went on about his business. … Texas takes care of Texas for sure.”
The man and his wife are Will and Raquel Arausa, who own and operate Flatland Plumbing in Lubbock, a “family-owned business with family values.” Together, they are offering their services to people in their community hit by the effects of the recent weather on a “pay what you can” basis.
The idea to provide gratuitous plumbing services to those in need first came to the Arausas two years ago after an elderly customer, whose home required thousands of dollars worth of repairs, requested Will’s help. At first, he told the woman he couldn’t do the job at the payment plan rate she suggested, but after stewing on it, Will ultimately decided to take a week off of his normal paid plumbing schedule to help her.
“I didn’t ask her for any money, I didn’t. … And she was so grateful,” Will told The Federalist. “She was just such a beautiful lady. It was awesome to see how appreciative she was of it.” It was the woman’s genuine gratitude for the act of generosity that Will said pushed him to keep up some of his free services.
“I got with my wife and we prayed over it, and I was like, you know what, we need to be doing this for our customers that can’t afford this because there is a need for plumbers that even the elderly, they can’t afford it,” Will said. “Plumbing is expensive, crazy expensive, so we came up with a couple of game plans.”
While Will said the plans didn’t always stick, he knew when the storm hit last week that it would be a prime opportunity to give back to the community and help anyone who needed it. The response, he said, was “overwhelming.”
“We started with [putting] a Facebook post out and telling our story about this lady that I did the work for and also offering the pay what you can or name your price,” Will said. “We were going to run it for a week from Friday to Friday. So we did that and we’re still getting calls from it now. … There’s so much need for it, but that’s where we’re at now and we’ve been running calls until 10 or 12:00 at night, since Thursday or Friday. We worked all the way through the weekend, taking care of customers, and we’ve still got a list of about 40 people left.”
Will, who is the only plumber at Flatland, is responding to the influx of calls from Texans all across his city by himself. “It’s a lot of work but we’re trying our best,” he said.