Giving Back When Money is Tight

Last weekend a nasty tornado ripped through my town of Raleigh, NC. Many of you undoubtably heard about this nasty cyclone on the news, reported to have been 4 miles wide and continue for roughly 96 miles. By a miracle my family and I were spared from any devastation. However, some were not as lucky.

It’s been almost a week since the storm and local organizations are still begging for help, money and donations around the area.

An updated list shows:

  • 133 injuries;
  • 439 homes confirmed destroyed, with that number expected to rise;
  • 6,189 homes with some level of damage (5,000 reported in Wake County alone);
  • 21 businesses destroyed, likely more to come;
  • 92 businesses damaged, with that number expected to rise;
  • 2,000 employees confirmed out of work because their place of business was destroyed or damaged (1,000 of those employees are at Static Control in Lee County, which was demolished) and that number is considered a low early estimate. – Source

Personally, I felt helpless. I was so grateful to have been safe from the storm but I wanted to help so badly but money is right. That is until I realized I have two hands that could do a world of good cleaning up the mess.

I signed up for a local volunteer list and spent today cleaning debris from local neighborhoods.

I spent three hours working on one woman’s house, for the sake of this article I will use a name other than her own, let’s call her Mary.

Mary lives in a neighborhood a few blocks from downtown Raleigh. Her corner house and lot, along with her neighbor’s across the street, sheltered most of the neighborhood from the storm. This was great news for Mary’s neighborhood but left Mary, distraught and not sure where to turn.

The first thing you think when you realize the devastation to your home is, who do you call? I called the insurance but then what? How long was it going to take to get my life back to normal?

Mary was quoted $6,000 and a time span of three months for clean up from her “yard guy”. However, Mary didn’t have $6,000 to pay or three months to wait. Not only was her yard in ruins but half of her roof caved in during the storm and she couldn’t get it fixed until the yard was clear so that repairmen could reach the house.

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The day after the storm Mary received a call from her cousin who told her that the screen door on the back of her house had been sliced open and it appeared she had been robbed. Since Mary has made other living arrangements for the time being she came to the house to find not only the devastation in her yard but also inside of her house.

Drawers were out and clothes were thrown on the floor. They took anything of value and anything that wasn’t valuable they just threw on the floor.

The robbery is what troubled Mary the most. She mentioned, “natural disasters I can deal with, that happens, but when somebody personally violates me by robbing me, that I can’t stand”.

Mary was stuck. Unsure which way to turn.

Myself and dozens of others headed out this morning in a downpour to help Mary and her neighborhood get back on track. Our jobs today consisted of using chainsaws to cut up the trees, dragging the trees to the curb and collecting pieces of the house and disposing of them. Many of us were volunteers that did not have money to donate but wanted to make a difference.

When Mary was told that volunteers would be coming to help she thought “I’ll believe it when I see it”. And when she saw us coming in mass numbers she was shocked that so many cared to help.

As Mary and I sat on her porch, admiring the job myself and other volunteers had done today. She said this morning she looked out in her front yard and saw nothing but trees, and now, she had her yard back. It broke my heart to sit there and listen to Mary’s story. It also helped me realize how lucky I was to have been spared this heartache, trouble and stress. It then made me realize how happy I was to have come out to help, to help give Mary a little more faith in humanity, to help show her that people do care, and to help even though money was tight.

It’s amazing what a little time and hard work can accomplish. It’s amazing the difference you can make in someone’s life. And that’s something money can’t buy.

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