Todd Caroline, a pastor in Pensacola, Fla., thanked God, despite having a large tree across his roof. The powerful wind and rain from Hurricane Sally had split the tree in three and sent it crashing through Caroline’s home, narrowly missing where his three young sons were sleeping.
“It could’ve went through, all the way through. It could have landed on my boys,” Caroline said. “I’m just thankful, very thankful that God saved my boys.”
Inside his home, a portion of his ceiling was exposed and had collapsed to the floor. Luckily, Caroline and his wife said that was the worst of the damage. However, the two were faced with the possibility of having to shell out thousands of dollars for home repairs. Even with that on their plates, they were equally as concerned with how they could help others in their community who were in the same predicament.
“We’re not just trying to focus here; we’re trying to help those in need as well because we’re not the only ones that got some damage. This is what we do, we help each other in times of need,” Caroline said.
Moments after Caroline spoke those words, a crew of about six workers from a Tallahassee-based company named Emerald Coast Striping pulled up to the pastor’s door with a bucket truck, a steer loader and chainsaws. The crew said they had three crews going door-to-door to help clean up downed power lines and tree debris. Earlier in the day, Ashley Moody, the attorney general of Florida, warned residents to be aware of scam artists “who want to prey on Floridians,” so naturally Caroline and his wife looked skeptical when the crew offered to remove the massive tree that was on their home.
Dustin Nims, one of the crew members, repeatedly assured the couple that there were no gimmicks to their offer, and they were willing to do the $10,000 job without being paid a dime.
“Everybody’s been through the same thing. Nobody expected it to happen. It just caught everybody off guard, so why charge somebody when you got free guys,” Nims said. “You can help them out a little bit. Everybody’s out of work right now, for a little while anyway, so you can help them out a little bit.”
Nims said the owners of the company had received help when they needed it 16 years ago after Hurricane Ivan hammered the Gulf Coast in 2004. When they saw the destruction Hurricane Sally left behind, Nims said he and his bosses knew it was their chance to pay it forward.
“The community’s here for us. We went through Ivan, most of us went through Ivan in Panama City, so it’s just something we’re just trying to give back,” he explained. ”The owners decided to help out for a little while. They got some help down in Panama City when they needed it, so we’re just trying to give back.”
Caroline and his wife decided to accept the crew’s offer and within minutes guys were hoisted dozens of feet in the air, clearing power lines and sawing large chunks of tree from Caroline’s home.
As the pastor and his wife looked on with their youngest son, the family beamed with smiles.
“I’m blessed,” Caroline said.