Horse Balm and Hard Work

Boulder Creek Neighbors social network founded by an old-school cowboy with community at heart.

By Julie Horner

Kevin Foster and his rodeo buddy, Billy Ray Coffey, stood tall and lean in front of Jenna Sue’s, chiseled, well-tanned faces shaded by crisp cowboy hats. Both men seemed naturally compelled to greet passersby – with a gentleman’s nod, touch to the brim, and a genuine “howdy ma’am” – eliciting bemused smiles and reciprocated pleasantry. The man with the bucket of fresh-cut flowers was making his morning rounds. In an entirely spontaneous gesture, Kevin bought a cellophaned bouquet of red roses and asked the man to open the bundle and present a single rose to every lady in Oh Suzannah! Hair Designers…and if there were any left, to take them to the lady patrons next door.

“Two years ago, I wouldn’t remember the exact date, I started Boulder Creek Neighbors because I was in some other groups and people were mean and complained to each other. Where I’m from, you’re kind and polite, you don’t swear. My mom would whip my behind if I’d said some foul language or was rude.” He wanted to bring that ethic to his adopted hometown and figured there was another way to bring people together. “People all need to come together out of their little nooks in these mountains regardless their preferences – you’ve got the elderly…the bar people…the church people.” So, Kevin started the Boulder Creek Neighbors group on Facebook to provide a place for “local, nice, positive neighborly Boulder Creek residents and SLV neighbors to socialize and help one another like neighbors should always do, and to stay connected and know what’s going on in our community.”

The first step was to make some guidelines. He wanted it to be friendly, “make sure folks didn’t have rude pictures up, “fippin’ off the camera. Some groups are about drama; we want to use this group to inspire neighbors to put out positive ideas. People are using social media to complain about the world. I want people who see the world as a blessing…it’s raining, whatever, you can turn a bad day into a good one with positive thinking…it’ll grow on you.”

Kevin started the page, and a team of community members act as administrators to help manage posts. “I still check it daily…I got to monitor the moderators. I brought them together…they ask questions about how to handle difficult posts. “I’m willing to be the bad guy in the group to keep it sweet. I’m not doing it for me, I’m doing it for 2800 members.”

Boulder Creek Neighbors was one of a handful of social network pages that became a crucial lifeline during recent storms. Members were the first to know when trees and mudslides had closed mountain roads and what the immediate, and often everchanging, workarounds were to get from one place to another.

“Not a lot of people do a good deed anymore without expecting something out of it. BC Neighbors, you do it, and down the road, by putting out the good, down the road someone’s always out there to help you. Small town communities like this, when it comes time, the community shows up…whether it’s plumbing…if there’s branches down and someone needs advice or someone to come help…a little old lady all by herself…whatever the cause. I’ll be paid in pies and cakes all day long…it’s taking care of your neighbors.”

“The helpful stuff, he says, “has really blown up on the page.” He points to all the pets that have been saved. “If I had five dollars for every animal that got found and returned. ‘What neighborhood? Yeah, I just saw your dog running down the street.’”

With Boulder Creek Neighbors, Kevin aims to inspire in the cowboy way. “My bull fightin’ students…I teach bull fightin’ and so forth…I’ve got six thousand followers who look to me as inspirational. In the arena, there’s no time to quit. You ain’t out until you’re knocked out. You’re in there fighting bulls and you stay in there, digging in. There’s always two bull fighters, there’s always one who picks the other up…they have your back.”

“You can strip us all down naked and it’s the actions that identify you. And you can really tell the mindset of someone’s heart by what they post on Facebook. There are a lot of good-hearted folks in our mountains…”

Join Boulder Creek Neighbors: www.facebook.com/groups/bouldercreekneighbors/

Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. This article originally published in the April 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin print edition. Also online: www.santacruzmountainbulletin.net

Boulder Creek Home Hit by Mudslide – Family Seeks Assistance With GoFundMe Campaign

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“While we’re in limbo, there will be no respite” – Val Hollen

By Julie Horner

Locals have seen the force of unrelenting nature first hand while making the daily migration to Barbara Day Park to snap photos of the swollen San Lorenzo River surging over the dam. On the other side of the bridge, a lone home clings to its moorings against a moving mountain.

On February 7, the hillside behind Kirk and Val Hollen’s Boulder Creek home gave way, taking down trees and boulders and slamming into the back wall of the house. Storm watchers at Junction Park several hundred yards upstream reported hearing the initial rumble of earth set into motion punctuated by the rending crack of uprooting tree line. The slide, Val Hollen said, “Made a terrible noise when the compression shock hit the house.” No humans were home at the time of the slide and no one was hurt. Elke the German Shepherd was immediately rescued from inside the home, visibly shaken but OK. The mud, rocks, and debris came to rest with enough force to cause windows to shatter.

“The house is still on its foundation,” Val reports, and the home is insured. “There was a lot of mud on the back wall and we’re working with a hydrogeologist. It’s just been a bit frightening.” Her husband, Kirk, and his team of volunteers have managed to clear the mud away from the home but there are serious unknowns. “We don’t know about the availability of the FEMA funds and there are insurance deadlines to file with the county.” They will have to pay out-of-pocket for necessary inspections. “Everything costs money. We need to have a geologic report that is mandatory, and the mitigation plan for the unsafe and dangerous conditions. I’m not sure where we are about it, actually. I’m feeling like I’m not as shocked and terrified anymore – but I’m lying – it’s awful.”

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“Short term there is a lot of rallying around. Most of the assistance that is out there – Red Cross has been awesome – is immediate. Do you need a blanket? Do you need a roof over your head?” Now it’s not immediate anymore; the medium and long term is the problem. “We’re staring down the next 6 months to a year. It’s very scary. Two weeks in a friend’s guest bedroom is not the same as six or eight months – you won’t be friends at the end of it.” And there’s nothing out there for rental housing, she finds. “We want to be staying near the house to be keeping an eye on it properly.” But after a frustrating search in Boulder Creek, it looks like temporary accommodations will probably be in Scotts Valley while the couple tackles the requirements that will determine the fate of their property.

A GoFundMe campaign to help the Hollens with some of these daunting expenses has reached $9,779 of a $20k goal. Donations continue to be gratefully accepted: www.gofundme.com/veterans-home-hit-by-mudslide

“I just want to thank everyone who has reached out to offer help, hugs and otherwise send good vibes. This has always been an awesome town and we’re not planning on leaving! We’re taking it one step at a time and one day at a time and remaining grateful for all the things we do have.”

Copyright 2017 Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin. Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, March 2017 issue. www.santacruzmountainbulletin.netwww.facebook.com/SantaCruzMountainBulletin/