Current News

Marianna, FL – Early Response Weekly Report

January 3, 2019

We arrived at the house and there were 3 or 4 trees that had fell in the backyard all on top each other. Homeowner, Joyce Hoffman, told us before we signed the job card that there was an orange tree under those 3 or 4 big trees and it would be wonderful if we could save it.  Reuben Miller, the project director, told her that we will do the best we can, but didn’t make any promises.  Slowly but surely, log by log, we cleared the brush and lo and behold, an orange tree was indeed at the bottom of the pile.  The entire root system had been pulled out of the ground, but with the help of our creative Amish volunteers, we were able to stand this Orange Tree back up with minimal damage.  MDS typically does not replant trees that have fallen over, but we figured there must be something special about this orange tree.  We asked the homeowner if there was a story behind this tree and why she was so determined to save it.  It turns out her husband had purchased and planted the tree for her a number of years ago as a promise of his love and his presence that he will always be with her.  For many years, it never bore any fruit.  However, 2 years ago her husband died, and that very same year was the first harvest of some wonderful, juicy oranges, and it has produced fruit ever since.  Once we got the tree upright, she offered our volunteers some of the oranges, and we gave her some instructions on how to water it so it had a better chance of recovering.  I was reminded that hope signs of love don’t always have to come in the form of a house repair…sometimes it can be an orange tree.   

One of the first houses that MDS worked on was Ms. Brenda Hand.  When I first met her, she was pretty unsure about who we were, and I could tell she was a little uneasy about who a Mennonite was and why would we ever want to help out…for free.  I could tell she was physically worn out, and her voice didn’t have too much hope left in it.  She mentioned that her husband had some dementia or Alzheimer’s, so if we talk with him we might get some confusing statements.  She had 1 very large tree down in her back yard and 2 trees down on the side of her property.  One of the first things that she mentioned as we were talking was that “I’ve got it bad, but my neighbor, Ms. Louida Hicks, across the street has it worse.  You better help her first.”  On my way over, I met another neighbor who explained that the people of the panhandle are proud, and generally don’t like to ask for help because they can do it themselves, but they look out for their neighbors.  This cultural attitude was becoming evident in real-time in the most remarkable way.  I did go over to meet the neighbor, a widow in her 80’s, and her late husband fought in the battle of the bulge during WWII.  She lost power after the storm because when contractors came through to pick up the first round of tree debris, they accidentally pulled the electric meter and panel off the exterior of her house with their equipment.  In addition, she had trees covering her driveway and backyard.  She had a history of some heart issues, so she just wanted enough space cleared so an ambulance could get in and out if needed.  She had never evacuated from any hurricane before, but she said she will never ride one out again.  I signed her up as well, and let the crews get to work the following day.  When I came back in the evening to sign off on the job card, it was like meeting two different people.  Both Brenda and Louida were more confident, happy, and talkative, and were amazed at how quickly our volunteers worked with the heavy equipment.  It was 2 weeks after the storm, and Brenda just got power back that afternoon.  It will probably be a little while until Ms. Louida gets power back, but she was so grateful that MDS was able to help out.