Nonprofits remove trees for free

MAXTON — Two organizations have joined to help victims of Hurricane Florence in Robeson County remove fallen limbs and trees from their property.

ACT-2, a Miami nonprofit and humanitarian organization, and Virginia-based National Disaster Emergency Response Team have worked together in the days after the storm hit. Anyone who needs the removal of trees that could fall on powerlines or homes can call 434-579-0843 to see if they qualify for services. People with physical challenges may also be eligible for debris removal.

The organizations recently removed debris and vulnerable trees from the property of an elderly couple in Maxton.

“When we first got here, we helped distribute supplies in flooded areas, and doing rescues and evacuations,” said Robin Rogers, an ACT-2 board member. “We typically respond to natural disasters. I specialize in hurricane and flood response. We put our team together and joined forces to help out the area.”

A partnering group called A1E Group, also based in South Florida, supplied the money, Rogers said. National Disaster Emergency Response Team provided the free manpower and equipment for the Hurricane Florence relief project.

Act-2 was connected with the Maxton couple and their family members by a Lumberton Junior High School staff member.

“Not everyone is in a financial situation or physical situation, for that matter, to help themselves. We try to help them when we can. That is what we are here for,” Rogers said.

Linda Jacobs, who taught at Oxendine and Aberdeen elementary schools, was afraid large trees on her property may hit powerlines or nearby homes during the next storm.

“She (the school staff member) asked me if we had tree limbs and things like that around the house we needed to clean up. I gave her my name and my mother’s name,” Jacobs said. “I was concerned about them being so close to the house and they are so big. A fella went around there, and he said that tree would have come down the next storm.”

Jacobs said she and her family members needed the help.

“My husband, Clyde, is sick and I have feet problems. I just had surgery. It would have took us a long time to clean up that stuff. I couldn’t have done it,” Jacobs said. “Mama’s 86 years old, and she can’t do much. My brother has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Also, one of my sisters just recently came out of the hospital. She has a port in her.”

The crew arrived on Jacobs’ property about noon on Wednesday and got to work.

The five trucks, nearly a dozen workers and three pieces of heavy machinery came as an unexpected surprise, Jacobs said.

“I come up out there and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ They must be working on the lights,” she said. “I seen all the trucks. I said, ‘Something’s happened’ ‘cause I didn’t know they were going to have all of this.

“I got to looking at the signs on the trucks and I really didn’t know they came here for me until I pulled in to the driveway. I thought maybe four to five men confined in one truck were going to come.”

Large trees, some as tall as 40 feet, came crashing down one by on on Jacobs’ property. The sound of chain saws, cracking wood and the machinery used to remove large tree trunks provided a noisy background.

Jacobs choked up with emotion as she expressed her gratitude.

“It was needful. I appreciate them. I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I do, and I know my husband and my family do, too,” Jacobs said as tears filled her eyes. “It was a blessing. I told my husband, ‘The Lord has answered my prayers’ ‘cause I had been praying. That was two weeks ago.”

The removal of the four large trees and debris from Jacobs’ property would have cost nearly $5,000, said Everette Thomas, vice president of National Disaster Emergency Services. Residents should be careful, some people are claiming to be certified, insured and federally contracted tree service companies.

“We got guys that are running around with FEMA logos on their trucks and stuff like that. They are taking advantage of people,” Thomas said. “They will cut your tree then give you a bill. I’ve run into a lot of that.”

Homeowners should be vigilant, he said. When receiving services, opt for a local company or call the Better Business Bureau to make sure the company is licensed and insured.

“Instead of just getting anybody just because they are doing it at a cheap price, do your research. The tree could fall on your house. You will be liable for that if they don’t have insurance,” he said. “Just make sure all your paperwork is legit.”

Residents who feel like they are being taken advantage should take down license plate numbers and logos on vehicles and report it, he said.

Annick Joseph can be reached at [email protected]

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Maxton couple benefits from service