The city’s post-hurricane drainage, flooding and road problems have caused headaches, but for some residents, they’ve also created the opportunity to get to know people who are going through the same adversity.
“Jay, what are you drinking,” Marika Fuller asked Jay Holley on social media before the two met up on Wednesday as part of an organized drainage cleanup event.
“Nothing yet,” Holley replied, trailing off with a crying-laughing emoji.
Even though the event Wednesday afternoon at Avenue H and 20th Street in Dickinson ultimately got rained out, Fuller and Holley — and more than two dozen others — have participated in plenty of other local cleanup-focused community get-togethers that have allowed neighbors who wouldn’t ordinarily meet to hang out and become friends.
The catalyst for these new relationships was Hurricane Harvey, which dropped feet of rain on Dickinson last year, flooding hundreds of houses and businesses. Smaller floods have happened since Harvey.
When John Dougan, a resident who took the city’s drainage problems into his own hands, created Dickinson Bayou Group on Facebook a couple months ago, more than 500 people who were concerned with the fate of their flood-prone properties — most of them strangers — joined.
They’ve tackled bayou community cleanups, where dozens of volunteers have removed garbage from Dickinson Bayou and its tributaries, as well as mowed overgrown ditches. They’ve even filled their own potholes.
Now many of them know each other as friends.
“I reached out to John and said ‘Hey, let’s meet up and talk. I understand you need some help,’” Holley, who runs his own maintenance business, said. “An instant friendship developed. Now, we talk pretty much every day and get lunch and stuff. I didn’t even know him before this.”
It’s the same story for others, too, both individuals as well as those involved with local organizations and businesses.
Gloria Greene, for instance, works for a local emergency care facility. She got involved with the community cleanup efforts through the Dickinson Bayou Group, too. It was an obvious way to get to know her neighbors and help out how she could, with the backing of her employer.
“After I met everyone at one of the events, I just instantly saw how sincere everyone was,” she said. “So we partnered with a hardware store in Dickinson and they even gave us a 20 percent discount. We bought the tools and got to work.”
The work movement has even crossed the borders of nearby city limits.
Marika Fuller, who lives in League City, started attending community cleanup events after she heard about the need at a recent drainage meeting at Dickinson City Hall. That’s where she met other people involved with de-clogging Dickinson’s overgrown ditches and filling its potholes on their own.
“Everyone started talking with each other and we’ve met up a few times,” she said. “I’m all for researching and digging up information on why the city wasn’t doing its job, so we formed a friendship, and it’s all because of this whole drainage thing.”
Of course, organized cleanup events can be exclusive just as easily as they can be inclusive, Fuller said. Flooding can make friends, but flooding can also draw social lines.
“Sometimes when I meet people, I’m like ‘Did you flood? Oh you didn’t flood. Sorry, I’m not sure if we can be friends,’” she said. “I’m joking, but it’s also kind of true.”