Why I volunteer at THNA

By: Pablo

Date: September 22, 2022

Alamo City, here we come

The Calvo Family, Terrell Heights residents since 2021. Pictured clockwise are Pablo, Carmen, Massimo, and Enzo.

My family and I moved to San Antonio in 2018 from Baltimore, Maryland. Like a lot of transplants to Texas, we moved halfway across the country to be here for work. I was offered an opportunity to become a partner of Digiboost, a digital marketing agency focused on small business to lead marketing operations. We fell in love with the people, the food, and the culture of Alamo City. We just weren’t sure if we were ready to call San Antonio our permanent home.

Since the company was a new venture at the time, it wasn’t ideal to buy a home immediately. We decided to “try before we buy.” We rented a wonderful home in Alamo Heights’ cottage district to get a feel for the city, while being close to everything that we could possibly ever need in terms of food, entertainment, and public parks; all within a 15 minute drive to nearly everything. The only problem with that decision was that we quickly realized what “living in the bubble” meant. We rarely ventured outside of the area.

If friends mentioned anything outside of our comfort zone, we realized that we just didn’t travel very far. The truth is, we really didn’t need to. Of course, as a new family to the area, venturing around is the way to learn the roads, neighborhoods, and the multitude of offerings that San Antonio offered. However, after a couple of years, my wife and I sheepishly admitted to most of our friends that we still used our GPS for nearly any adventure that took us more than 30 minutes from home. After nearly two years living in Alamo Heights, we were slowly moving further and further outside of our “bubble.” Then, the pandemic of 2020 hit. Everything shut down, and so did we.

Big changes all around

While I believed that I lived a very tight existence prior to the pandemic, the pandemic showed me just how small living could be. At that point, we only left our house to purchase groceries and not much else. Our children started at-home schooling, and my wife and I did at-home working. For a year, we lived a spartan lifestyle, rarely going out for anything. The pandemic also pumped the brakes on our plans to finally buy a home in the area. While my children settled in beautifully to attending school in the Alamo Heights Independent School District (AHISD), my wife and I were still unsure what to do next. Luckily, the pandemic eventually started easing and life went back to relatively normal in 2021. After nearly four years in Alamo Heights, we finally decided to buy our piece of Texas to call home. The question then became, where?

It probably would seem like a simple decision to just buy where we’d lived for so many years, but the market had ballooned as the pandemic slowed down. Homes that were seemingly affordable when we moved into the area were now simply out of our price range. That began a feverish search on every major home search engine from Redfin to Zillow to try to find our perfect home. While we could have moved to another part of the city, we were still very comfortable living in the area. We finally were at a point where we knew where everything was, and didn’t need our GPS as we once did. The city was finally becoming familiar to us, but most importantly, we wanted to be sure that our children didn’t have to make another transition. We decided to do what we could to find a home in the AHISD.

Terrell Heights on the horizon

Finding the right home was a challenge because when we found something suitable to our needs, the home would disappear just as fast. My wife and I have two pre-teen boys and they grow by the day. We needed a home that would allow our family to spread out a bit, but also allow for out-of-town family to stay with us when they visited. Finding the right home was tricky since we were looking in such a limited set of neighborhoods. It was a frustrating experience. Finding a rental home in 2018 was tough, but finding a home to buy was a completely different animal. After we sold our properties in Baltimore, we were finally ready to call Texas home, but we spent every bit of 6 months looking and looking for a home that was both affordable and within the AHISD. I felt like maybe we were just not going to buy after what seemed like fruitless searching. What we did notice was that we were continually drawn to Terrell Heights. I didn’t know much about the neighborhood, other than traveling through it when we went to Target at Terrell Plaza. We also had friends that were renovating homes in Terrell Heights and we were drawn to how unique each home was. Similar to the cottage district in Alamo Heights, history was apparent in almost every home in Terrell Heights.

We find our home

After narrowing our searches to Terrell Heights, we ultimately didn’t find our home, our home found us. Like every home we walked into, none were “perfect.” They all needed something that we would need to make it ours, but we finally found a home that needed just a bit less than the others. We were also quite lucky in that the sellers had initially shot for the moon on price, then came to their senses. After the home was repriced, we finally were able to buy our Texas forever home. We couldn’t have been happier after living in rented spaces for nearly half a decade.

Becoming a bigger part of the community

After living in Terrell Heights for nearly a year, I noticed that while we were inwardly focused on making our home our own, I wasn’t really connecting very much with my neighbors. Sure, I spoke to my neighbors whenever I was outside or if they walked by, but I didn’t really feel like I knew many of my neighbors. I joined the Next Door app and found that it offered an opportunity to engage with some of my neighbors, but it was mostly limited to lost pets and occasional recommendation requests for different service providers. I felt like community engagement was still lacking. I was seeking a way to get to know what was happening in the neighborhood, while also getting to know my neighbors better. Around this time, the Terrell Heights Neighborhood Association (THNA) president, Kay Kimbell, posted a note on Next Door asking for volunteers to help with THNA activities. I had some skills that I felt that I could contribute and connecting with my community was high on my list. Done and done!

Greater things to come

I’ve now attended my first THNA meeting and I’ve learned so much about the board members that live all over Terrell Heights. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity in my normal day-to-day activities to meet them otherwise. All with different connections to Terrell Heights, and I was surprised at how many have lived here for decades. I already knew that Terrell Heights was a unique location, but connecting with more of my neighbors has given me a greater appreciation for what others consider the best characteristics of my neighborhood. Most importantly, the pandemic had forced all of us to shut down and close ourselves off from everything. It made me realize that you simply can’t take anything for granted. If you want to see change, you have to be part of the change. I decided to be part of the change that I believe will make Terrell Heights the best neighborhood in San Antonio.

Join the THNA

I hope this story gives you a sense of my motivation for participating in the THNA, and I hope that it motivates you to become part of our wonderful organization. We are planning numerous neighborhood events and activities. I certainly look forward to meeting more of my neighbors and getting to know you better!