Neighbors near and far pitch in

Staff WriterApril 18, 2011 

  • To learn more about Neighbor to Neighbor, call 919-618-6235.

  • To learn more about Neighbor to Neighbor, call 919-618-6235.

— Marks Street runs for only two blocks south of downtown, but it contained multitudes Sunday as dozens of volunteers joined residents in a committed cleanup of a neighborhood hit hard by Saturday's storms.

Wielding everything from chain saws to machetes, volunteers such as Samuel Getka, 16, of Chapel Hill sawed limbs from storm-blasted trees and, seemingly within minutes, left only neat piles of branches for curbside pickup.

Throughout Eastern North Carolina, residents worked - some in spirited groups and some in painful solitude - to untangle themselves from masses of debris left by the line of storms.

Venerable trees had crunched cars, blocked roads and severed houses, bringing death to some people and lost power to thousands more.

With nearly two dozen people dead and hundreds of homes destroyed, the arrival of Palm Sunday found people in need of both spiritual and practical support.

On Sunday afternoon, Marks Street resident Rita Mangum stood watching, amazed at the pace of Sunday's cleanup work.

"My heart was touched," Mangum said. "I'm appreciative. I'm speechless."

Not forgotten this time

Marks Street between Bledsoe and East Lee streets is home turf for Neighbor to Neighbor, a nonprofit organization that brings together congregations from several counties to "feed the needs" of inner-city neighborhoods.

Tucked in a corner of Raleigh bounded by South Wilmington Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the area of small houses and apartments tends to keep a low profile, Mangum said.

"It's not the main road that gets traveled, so we get forgotten," she said, as volunteers from Cary, Angier and North Hills determinedly dealt with debris and made plans to provide food to the power-deprived neighborhood. "But not today. In full forces, they are here."

Around the corner on South Blount, the Rev. Jacqueline Jones and members of the Ship of Zion choir had been in rehearsal when the storms hit. The church was undamaged.

"We went door to door checking for the elderly people we know live along here," said Jones, whose church is also affiliated with Neighbor to Neighbor.

The Rev. Royce Hathcock is executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor and pastor of the Tapestry Church of the Nazarene.

"We're going to be serving lunch at the church; they said there might not be electricity for two or three days," Hathcock said. "We've got a lot of needs to be meeting, but we believe our God is bigger than this, too."

'What we had to do'

As chicken sizzled on outdoor grills on Bledsoe Street,areas to the north and eastweren't so fortunate. From devastated Shaw University to Martin Street, along Pettigrew and Bloodworth streets, out Raleigh Boulevard to Brighton and Hartford roads, neighbors were still grimly surveying damage caused when Saturday's storms toppled towering pines and century-old oaks like so many bowling pins.

"At 4 p.m. my fiancée and I got home from the store, at 4:03 we heard the pop, pop, pop (of electrical circuits shorting), and at 4:06 we saw that tree come down," said Maurice Richburg, who lives on Brighton Road.

In front of Richburg's house, the mighty oak that fell crushed the passenger side of the minivan in which the couple had just returned from the store. Earlier Sunday, Richburg said, neighbors had teamed up to clear the street so that Progress Energy vehicles could begin the work of restoring power.

"Everybody came in as a community and did what we had to do," he said. or 919-829-8929

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