Social media these days has become a source of both angst and advice, and a Bluffton resident has taken the latter path to help her neighbors and other users find answers.
Heather Nicole Price is well-known in the community as someone who, though she might not know the answers, certainly has a way of finding out who does.
The single mother and self-described empath is the creator of Bluffton/Hilton Head Ask and Answer (original), a private group Facebook page with more than 26,000 members. The page has become an information power source on a wide variety of topics from haircuts to traffic.
“I am very outspoken and passionate for the underdog. I feel like I am an empath. Growing up I was always very aware of people. I don’t always love them, but I was aware of them and their feelings. I just kind of know how to make things right,” Price said. “Part of that is being here so long, part is being aware, part is having been through things myself, so I know what it’s like to pull myself out. Part of it is from interacting with people – I have friends from all walks of life and have always had that. I have always been very curious and wanted to know about people’s lives. I was reading my mother’s college psychiatry books at age 10. I like knowing how, why, when, where.”
Some of the latest questions asked and answered by page followers included reports of stolen electric bikes (that were rentals to begin with), where to find rhubarb now (Harris Teeter, apparently), what to do with a baby duckling brought in by a cat (a rescuer took it under her wing), and a query as to whether there was such a thing locally as a stay-at-home Dad’s group (not yet, but it sparked some conversation).
Lost pets have been found, unemployed folks have found work, and those in need have been showered with assistance.
Administering the popular page wasn’t something she expected to do. It took two incidents on another Facebook page and a conversation with her sister for Price to start the page in 2015.
“I had a baby and I was home with her all the time. I was on Facebook a lot, and I saw there was a huge local men’s buy/sell group. A woman went on and asked a question that had nothing to do with men’s things, and they ripped her to shreds,” she said. “I thought that was awful, and I thought there should be a place to ask real local legit questions. Then I got involved with something else.”
A few weeks later, another woman went on the same page and asked a question about spiders.
“They did the same thing,” said Price. “I again thought about starting a page myself but dismissed it. I thought nobody would come on a Facebook group.”
Price’s sister thought otherwise.
“She said, ‘So what? If no one uses it, delete it.’ And then people began asking where’s the best groceries, where’s the drycleaners. And then it grew,” Price said.
Most inquiries are not unusual but sometimes the lost-and-found posts get surprising results.
“I did have somebody post they left their flip-flops at the beach, and someone posted 30 minutes later ‘Hey, I’m going to the beach. I’ll look for them.’ And they found the flip-flops!” she said.
Some of the most satisfying results came from posts connecting people after Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“It was pretty intense, and very, very satisfying. There were a lot of needs for months and months after Matthew,” said Price. “One of the most interesting was when the linemen were here working after Matthew came through, and Laundry for Lineman was born. A reader suggested it, and we kind of developed it. The linemen would drop their laundry in front of their hotel with their names on it, and volunteers would pick it up, wash it, fold and return it, often with treats and little gifts.”
Price said she heard from several of the wives about how appreciative they were of how the community was taking care of their husbands, including cooking big meals for the first responders and the lineman.
When one wife reached out, worried about her husband’s health, Price found help for him. “I got a physician’s assistant I knew to go over (to Duafuskie) and take a look at him,” said Price. “He got the medicine prescribed, and then one of the pharmacies opened up and got him the medicine.”
When she’s not monitoring posts, responding to questions and reminding people to be kind, Price works for the 14th Circuit Court helping people.
Born in Grand Blanc, Mich., outside of Flint, Price said she grew up doing normal kid activities like riding her bike and reading. Her family moved to Bluffton in 1988 when she was in the sixth grade.
“Michigan was dying, so we moved. My mom was a teacher in Beaufort County, and my dad is a builder and does remodeling,” said Price.
“I remember Bluffton in the 1980s. It was definitely a culture shock, and very different from Michigan,” she said. “The biggest differences were the slow pace and the Gullah culture and family names, and then the schools were different. We had state-of-the-art in Michigan, and a different curriculum in general. It was an adjustment.”
Price went to the University of South Carolina-Beaufort for a degree in human services and also served as a paramedic in the county.
“I gravitated to the social service thing. Going into human service has always been my heart. I’ve always known what it’s like to be the underdog. … I have the intrinsic ability to see things that aren’t working and know what the fix it is,” said Price. “I currently work for the 14th Circuit Court helping people. And I’ve lived here so long and I’ve been involved and immersed in the human service side of the community, so I usually have the answer or know who does, and connect people that way “
That also extends to her personal life.
“I’m also adopted, and have found my birth family, so when people ask about how to find their family on Ask/Answer, I usually can help with the do’s and don’t’s, especially the don’t’s,” she said.
Besides running a Facebook page and working in human services, Price also would like to own a small business and, while capital is a challenge, the business is needed.
“A laundromat. We need one so bad in Bluffton. I hear that all the time,” she said. “So many people are asking for that, and we need a laundry service, especially so people can drop their laundry off and pick it up.”
In five years, she’d like to be heading for law school, too.
“I definitely will be getting more education, whether it’s a master’s or law school. I would like to do something helping people that really have multiple issues that inhibit their ability to get a job,” said Price. “I love what I do.”
Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.