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Stillwater couple moved to help mothers in Texas devastated by winter storms

19February 2021

Steven Strandberg learned on Wednesday about the hardships facing Texans living in frigid homes without electricity amid the state’s power crisis.

By Thursday afternoon, the Stillwater man was on his way to help.

“I’ve got an SUV packed with gear,” Strandberg said during an interview Thursday evening as he drove south on Interstate 35 through Iowa. “The big thing was water, and ready-to-eat meals was No. 2. I’ve still got to stop and get firewood, blankets and candles.”

Strandberg and his girlfriend, Michaela Poole, are the parents of 6-month-old Edwin. Poole is active on a number of Facebook groups for new mothers.

Steven Strandberg and his girlfriend, Michaela Poole, who live in Stillwater, pose with their infant son, Edwin, in December 2020. The couple this week organized donations for new mothers in Texas devastated by the winter storms. (Courtesy of Michaela Poole)

With winter storms and freezing temperatures wreaking havoc across Texas this week, Poole started reading posts from new mothers trying their best to stay warm and dry as burst pipes flooded their homes. Without electricity, the mothers were struggling to save stashes of frozen breast milk and operate breast pumps.

“She was reading me these posts about what a horrible situation it is for the women there, and I thought, ‘Well, something has got to be done,’” Strandberg said.

Strandberg posted a message on Nextdoor, a neighborhood-based social-media app, pleading for donations of ready-to-eat meals, baby formula, water and blankets. “My plan is to ride out tomorrow around noon,” he wrote.

Neighbors and local businesses stepped up to help. The manager of Aldi in Oak Park Heights donated cases of bottled water; Cub Foods in Stillwater donated cans of ready-to-eat soup. Strandberg and Poole raided their own pantry.

A woman in Minnetonka donated 100 ounces of frozen breast milk. “Women work really hard to pump and get as much milk in their stash as they possibly can,” Poole said. “People are losing hundreds of ounces of milk.”

Strandberg, 32, said he planned to drive through the night in his 2007 black Volvo and arrive in Texas on Friday morning. “I’m just going to fall asleep in my car and then wake up and head on back,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get back in time to work on Saturday.”

Strandberg, who works in construction, said he was inspired by Bryan Ring, the Stillwater man who has been collecting donations in the St. Croix River Valley and delivering them to  homeless encampments in Minneapolis.

“I had seen everything that Bryan was doing, and I thought, ‘Well, if Bryan can tackle these situations head on, well, then, so can I,’” he said. “Or I can at least give it my best shot.”

Strandberg said he also wants to set an example for his infant son.

“My biggest fear lately is my fear of not being able to provide for my son and my girlfriend,” he said. “I thought that this would be the best way to conquer the fear — to go all in and just make something happen. I want my son to grow up in a household that encourages bravery.”

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