WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Our community here in Southeastern North Carolina has been forever changed since Hurricane Florence. In the days, weeks, and even months following the historic storm, we’ve covered stories of struggle, heartache, and defeat. But we’ve also covered stories of hope and optimism. So many in the community stepped in to help their neighbors in need, even if they were strangers. We want to recognize those who have gone above and beyond in a new weekly segment we are calling Hometown Heroes.
This Friday we spoke to Amy Riggs who lives in Wilmington. Amy and her husband and 10-year-old son were the only family in their neighborhood that evacuated before Hurricane Florence. They went to Asheville. Riggs said they have never evacuated for a hurricane but they just had a bad feeling about this one.
Riggs and her family live in a house that was owned by her grandmother. She said many memories have been made in the home over the years.
An oak tree, estimated to be about 100-years-old, stood next to the home until recently.
While the family was in Asheville, escaping the hurricane, Amy received pictures of the damage Florence left to family’s home. The oak tree had fallen right through the side of the house spanning the length from the living room to the kitchen.
Riggs said seeing it for the first time when they were finally able to return home was shocking.
"When we did see it, it was…shocking," Riggs said. "When we walked in there was just water everywhere, tree everywhere, just mold, insulation. Nothing you’d ever think of to see big, huge branches right in the middle of the kitchen. Tree right in the middle of the kitchen and living room."
Oddly enough, being the only family in their neighborhood that evacuated, Riggs said their home was the only one with major damage.
They called multiple tree companies to get estimates of how much it would cost to get the monster of a tree out of their home.
All the estimates they were getting were anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000. An amount they really did not want to have to spend.
Their neighbors, and fellow classmates of Riggs' son, the Fox family, decided to hold a lemonade stand to try to raise money for them so they could pay to have the tree removed.
Coincidentally, Jacob, the owner of Tree Guardian, a tree company out of Louisiana that was in town helping with tree removal from the storm came by the lemonade stand.
He asked the kids what they were raising money for and when they told him he asked to look at the tree that had fallen through the Riggs' home.
“Jacob was like, ‘Well I think we might be able to help,’” Amy said. “And I was like, ‘Okay, so how much do you think it’s going to be?’ And then he was like, ‘We’re not going to charge you anything. We’re going to come get this tree out because it can’t be in here another day. You need to be able to save what you can.’”
Riggs said Jacob and his crew of about 12 came to the house around 6 p.m. that evening to get the tree out.
"They came back about 6:00 when they should have been going home and worked into the night about two hours and had it done, chopped up, and all out by the road," Riggs said. "And the only thing that was left was a stump and they came back four or five days later and got the stump and everything else and moved it out."
Riggs considers Jacob with Tree Guardian and the entire Fox family her heroes. She says they didn’t have to do what they did to help out her and her family but they did anyway.
"We were just strangers to them. They didn’t have to come. We were getting estimates of $10,000 to $15,000. It was a lot of money and a lot of work but they heard our story and they knew we had good hearts and you know, what goes around, comes around. When you do good, good comes back to you. And that’s what we live by and that’s what they live by and they just – they saw that and helped and just… They’re amazing."
If the Fox family hadn't done the lemonade stand to try to raise money for the Riggs, the tree may still be in the house to this day.
"Fox family, thank you so much," Riggs said. "I could never – I just can’t say it enough. Thank you. They’ve just been amazing."
If you would like to nominate a hometown hero, send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org