Published in the Rains County Leader on March 2, 2021:
On September 7, 2017, Heather Rollins created a Facebook group called Emory Alerts. In March of 2020, the name was changed to Heather Rollin’s Community News, and now this group is a great source of information and more to just under 4,000 members. Rollins describes the group this way:
Just a side gig to help keep the citizens of Emory informed about community events. Something I choose to do – NOT something I have to do. If you are a business I will share for you. Please understand – one post a day is relevant, more than that is too much and people will dismiss!! My page my rules…I will help if I can, Thank you!!
I discovered the group sometime last year and found it very helpful as well as educational and entertaining. During the pandemic, the various posts provided much needed information about what was open and what was not, which events were scheduled and which had been cancelled, and the current status of the mask situation. There were also a few ads that helped in finding Christmas bargains without braving the mall, and sometimes there were hilarious memes that helped ease the cabin fever.
Occasionally someone would share a cute photo of a cat or dog, but more often, pictures of animals were of beloved pets that were missing or of strays that had been found. Many reunions resulted from such posts, and many strays found new homes. And more than once, someone who had fled the scene of an accident or was being sought for some other reason was located after a photo was posted.
As the sole owner and administrator of the group, Rollins adheres to her “my page/my rules” doctrine, and in doing so she has prevented Community News from deteriorating into just another advertising vehicle or another venue for political rants and disputes. A sense of community is obvious throughout the group but never so much as the last two weeks during and after Snowpocalypse 2021.
Always a good source for community information, it became a go-to place for weather reports, road conditions, school closings and more. People shared updates about power and water outages, boil notices, and other vital information. As situations got worse, people shared where to find water, propane, gasoline, and food – and people stepped up to fill needs. Several people allowed those in need to fill containers with water from their wells or faucets in their driveways, and one motel offered cabins at a discount.
As stores began to open and customers found only empty shelves, Rollin’s page became a clearing house of where to find milk, bread, eggs, produce, and other necessities. P&E Farms, on CR 3410 was probably overrun by excited customers when one resident posted that he found milk, cheese, bread, and eggs there. And one picture of the fully-stocked produce section of the Sulphur Springs Walmart received almost one hundred “likes.”
Heather Rollin’s Community News provided not only information and ways to fill needs but also a much needed way to connect during a time when contact was difficult if not impossible. When asked for permission to share this column, she replied:
Of course. I am thankful that it is helpful. I do it because I saw a need for communication. Emergencies can be stressful [and] a little information goes a long way. There is comfort in knowing anything no matter how small.
Once again, after seeing the generosity and care exhibited by Heather Rollins and so many other residents of Rains County, this city girl is reminded of why I’m glad we moved to the country.