DALLAS — Around Dallas, nonprofits and community leaders in the city’s poorest neighborhoods scrambled this week to keep people warm as a frigid winter storm kicked off persistent power outages across the state.

Without electricity to work computers and phones, the city’s go-to multi-taskers were facing Herculean challenges.

In Vickery Meadow, nonprofit leader Martha Stowe has for years served a neighborhood of refugees and immigrants, where half the population is foreign-born and low-income. She thought she was battle-tested. But then the storm and outages came.

“Don’t ever ask what else can happen,” said Stowe, executive director of the Vickery Meadow Youth Development Foundation.

Several big apartment complexes in the apartment-dense Vickery Meadow neighborhood are without electricity, Stowe said. At least one big complex has busted water pipes because of the freezing temperatures. Children need hot food but parents with electric stoves can’t prepare meals. Many families living in apartments along Pineland Drive were going to their cars to keep children warm and charge phones.

“In 48 hours, we had eight hours of electricity,” said Elva Perez, who lives in a Vickery Meadow apartment complex. “It was unimaginably physically difficult to take. It is such a critical situation for the vulnerable, the children, the babies and the old people. The system just isn’t equipped for this.”

Perez left Tuesday night with two neighbors to stay with another family in Rowlett that had electricity. A neighbor poured kitty litter on the 15 steps of her icy stairs so she could get down safely.

Her neighbor Viola Delgado thought she could handle the frigid temperatures, but headed with Perez to Rowlett, too. Delgado stayed busy phoning friends who had survived cancer and were particularly vulnerable to the cold.

The people in Vickery Meadow reflected the frustration throughout the city: They wanted a warming center at the public library or a school or a community center. But Tuesday, all those options were without power, Stowe said. By Wednesday morning, a bus where people could stay warm and charge phones was sent to Literacy Achieves, a nonprofit organization in Vickery Meadow.

Stowe was also busy trying to coordinate hot meal deliveries into the Vickery Meadow neighborhood. She was striking out there, too.

She’s been through crises before. There was, for example, in 2014, a visiting man from Liberia and staying with his girlfriend at a Vickery Meadows apartment came down with the Ebola virus and died. That sent Dallas into a tizzy.

With the coronavirus pandemic, Stowe has been busy trying to spread safety education in multiple languages to the many refugees and immigrants from places like Myanmar, Iraq, Syria and Mexico who live in Vickery Meadow.

Then, the snow fell and temperatures plummeted. Power snapped off. For Vickery Meadow, by mid-afternoon Tuesday, there were more than 10,000 customers who filed outage complaints. That represented about 70% of the customer base. Some of those customers have since had power restored by Wednesday morning.

“Cold and hungry” and “hungry and cold” were adjectives Stowe heard all day long. Apartment complexes just weren’t up to take the load of so many needing heat and pipes were busting at one large complex, she said.

“It is just so frustrating these apartment complexes are so old,” Stowe said.

Nonprofits need to plan to get through the crisis. But without electricity for phones and heat, it was hard on the city’s grassroots organizers.

South of Vickery Meadow in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas, the cell phone vibrated constantly for Leslie Armijo. Armijo, who works for a medical nonprofit, has led volunteer efforts to educate her neighbors on the dangers of the coronavirus and taught them how to register for the vaccine around Oak Cliff. She has become so well-known for her work that one man even called her to see her number was the hotline to schedule his vaccine.

But Armijo, too, had no electricity and has two young children. She lives in ZIP code 75211, one of Dallas County’s hardest hit areas for the coronavirus.

She wanted a warming center set up. A parking lot would do. There they could have a small generator to run a heater and to provide electricity and serve hot liquids for people, she said.

“People are calling me asking for blankets and hot food because their refrigerator is going out,” she said. “I can’t because I have two small kids. Right now, it should be all hands on board.”

She went to a friend’s home after 24 hours without consistent electricity.

By late Tuesday, a warming station, a big city bus, had been set up in Weiss Park in Oak Cliff. Armijo headed out to greet people there. But no one came.

At Catholic Charities of Dallas, CEO Dave Woodyard had staff without power and water, too. Then there were the needy families who have become needier in the snowstorm.

He focused his response on caring for existing residents at a senior housing location and immigrant children who crossed the border without parents.

Food deliveries in the white-blue-and-orange mobile pantry vans of Catholic Charities were going on “as the weather permits,” Woodyard said in an email.