For Hallie Greene, It’s All About Community
Welcome back to our monthly feature of moms who have faced the task of pandemic parenting while also continuing their work in our community. Research has shown that women have suffered greater economic and personal fallout from the pandemic, losing jobs or having to work while also caring for children.
Many people lost homes in last year’s CZU Lightning Complex Fires.
Hallie Green lost three.
On neighboring Boulder Creek properties, the fire took the home she was living in, her childhood home over the ridge that her parents lived in, and the home nearby where her two daughters’ dad lived.
Their life was in many ways idyllic. The children had the freedom and love that comes with extended family nearby, and Hallie had a flexible job that allowed her to be a mom and have a fulfilling career.
As director of Boulder Creek’s Recreation & Parks District, Hallie was able to take her kids to work, which she said worked beneficially in both directions.
“It’s important to me to show them that you can work and be a mom and still enjoy your life,” she says of raising girls.
And continuing to work was very important to her as well. “You lose a little of yourself when you become a mother. It’s nice to have those other layers of feeling important and valued. A lot of young women don’t always have that.”
Covid threw a wrench in the works, of course, but unlike a lot of moms, Hallie, 38, didn’t get the experience of being at home with her kids. With a budget slashed by 54%, she had to cover the jobs of employees who were laid off—including maintenance and bookkeeping. It was an unexpected turn at a time when the department had been expanding and Hallie had been looking toward a number of new projects coming down the pipeline.
“I took a lot of the Covid experience to heart,” she explains. “It’s hard to build something up, everyone takes some pride in the things we create and then to have it just pulled apart. That hurt me more than I realized at the time.”
But the family support and flexibility that she had built before the pandemic—and then the fires—paid back. When her parents or their dad were busy, the kids could come to work with her. And then Parks & Rec got funding through the CARES Act to expand their afterschool program to a full-day distance learning program. Her daughters were two of the students.
Hallie refers to her kids’ distance learning experience in a small cohort as “a little bit of normalcy” in the middle of a chaotic year. After losing their home, they took part in a therapy program with other families, which was helpful for the girls. For her part, as a person who was already deeply involved in the community, Hallie got to work.
She joined the Long Term Recovery Group, a committee that helped fire victims organize and interface with nonprofits, governmental programs, and insurance companies. One example of the good work done by the group, Hallie says, is the County debris flow mapping, which she estimates has saved individual homeowners $40-50,000 each.
As to the slow pace of reconstruction, Hallie says that although there is a lot of red tape and debate at the county level about how to move forward, a lot of homeowners are like her, holding back to get a lay of the land before she charges forward to rebuild.
“When you’re one of the first people pushing through the permitting process, you’re the first one to come up against any issues,” she explains. “It’s overwhelming—I’m happy to be waiting. I’m not done yet with my insurance claim.”
And an experience like this—a combination of being a working mother during Covid, losing her home, getting deeply involved in community rebuilding—has led Hallie to lots of introspection.
She says she realized that she tends not to react right away, and it’s only later that she understands how the experience affected her. She’s trying to work on being mindful, saying that she’s learned that staying strong “for the kids” and pushing anxiety into the future will “catch up to you.”
She describes herself as hopeful.
“You watch the news and you see things and you think, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s definitely the end of the world’,” Hallie says. “It’s hard to not feel like that some days. But I feel like this community in general really supports each other well. And I’m happy to be a part of that.”