When Heather Price was a child, she hoped to be either a nurse or someone who would catch bad guys for the FBI.
Price has always wanted to save the world in one way or another. She never became a nurse nor an FBI agent, but the Bluffton woman continues to help others any way she can.
After working as an EMT and paramedic with Jasper County Emergency Services Department, Price had just started taking classes at the University of South Carolina Beaufort when terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11.
Price didn’t hesitate to jump in and help. She was on the phone with a fire captain in New York City when he got word that a group of firefighters had been found alive at Ground Zero.
“I will never forget listening to the sound of a grown, tough New York firefighter sobbing and the entire firehouse screaming and cheering,” Price said. “The guy got back on the phone with me and said, ‘Yes, come up. … Bring your stethoscope because I hope you’ll need it.'”
Three days after planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center, Price was at Ground Zero with her stethoscope and bunker gear she had borrowed from a Hilton Head Island firefighter. Price spent a week working at the site.
Fast-forward to Jan. 8, 2013, when Price and her fiancé at the time entered their own personal hell. That morning, they awoke to find their six-week-old daughter, Vivienne, had died. They later learned she had died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Yet even in the midst of tragedy, Price managed to make lemonade out of extremely sour lemons. A friend had come up with an idea to honor Vivienne. She started a “Paying it Forward for Vivienne” movement in which she encouraged people to perform random acts of kindness.
To get the word out, Price’s friend passed out business cards with a photo of Vivienne and information about SIDS. She gave Price 500 cards to distribute.
Price quickly ran out of the business cards and ordered more. She mailed them to thousands of people in the U.S., England and Australia. She started a “Paying it Forward for Vivienne” page on Facebook, where she asked people to perform acts of kindness and share their stories.
She asked people to donate supplies to a local animal shelter, and school supplies and uniforms to local children. The movement was a way Price could both cope with the devastating loss of her daughter and honor her memory.
Two years later, Price found yet another way to help others, and it also involved Facebook. After witnessing a couple of people being teased on Facebook for asking questions, Price thought there should be a group specifically where people can ask any question about Bluffton or Hilton Head Island.
So in 2015, she started the Bluffton/Hilton Head Ask and Answer (original) group. She invited her friends, and they invited their friends.
At first, Price was the only one posting in the group, but slowly others joined in, asking questions about where to go out to eat or how to get rid of those nasty palmetto bugs. The group slowly became more and more popular.
When Hurricane Matthew hit the Lowcountry in October 2016, it became a lifeline for many.
People who had evacuated were able to connect with people like Price who had stayed home. Price and others checked on people’s homes and businesses for them before the evacuation orders were lifted. They rescued animals that were left behind and collected donations – and later that year, Christmas presents – for people who were out of work.
“I didn’t think about it because it was just the next thing,” Price said. “There was just so much need, and people were so confused about what was going on. So, I just figured out a way to break it down for people so it was more understandable.”
That’s the thing about Price. She doesn’t stop to think about whether or not to help someone – she just does it.
But Price won’t take credit for all the good deeds that happen in the Ask and Answer group. She said it’s the members who make a difference.
After the hurricane, someone suggested the idea of “Laundry for Linemen,” where volunteers would pick up, wash and return laundry to linemen working to restore power to the area.
“I got them pointed in the right direction, and then they took it over,” Price said. “The help during Hurricane Matthew showed the grace and strength of this community.”
Since then, the Ask and Answer group has benefited countless people in the community. People have reached out to Price for help dealing with drug addiction and domestic abuse, and she has referred them to the proper agencies.
More recently, one of the group’s moderators, Christy Smith, started a Masks 4 Heroes project to collect face masks for healthcare workers.
Price is a single mother to 5-year-old daughter Charlotte, and has an adult son with a family of his own. She also works two part-time jobs: She has a house cleaning and home organization company called Breathing Spaces. And she is the coordinator of New Paths, a program that works with female inmates and former inmates to reduce recidivism. She hopes that program will continue to grow and soon become a full-time job for her.
Despite all that is on her plate, Price still volunteers several hours a week running the group. During the week after Hurricane Matthew hit Hilton Head, she worked about 17 hours a day. As of June 24, the group had grown to 22,415 members. Thankfully, now she has five moderators helping with the group.
People aren’t always nice when they post in the group. Price said she has been yelled at, called names and slandered many times over the past five years. She tries her best to be fair and includes the moderators in difficult decisions.
“They are all rock stars,” Price said. “We have a great team, and I couldn’t do this without them.”
Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.