Helping a neighbor in need
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Oct 9, 2013, 14:32
Tommy Meadows, chairman of keep hopewell beautiful, right, with chainsaw in hand works to cut down a tree in the yard during the clean up.
HOPEWELL — As the sun began to rise over the clouds, the sounds of chainsaws and rakes broke through the silence as a group of volunteers and soldiers from Fort Lee gathered at a home on River Road in Hopewell to clean up the yard of a couple in need.
The home of William and Kay Ogburn became a rental property, and within six months of renting the home out, it became trashed. Kay estimated there to be about $5,000 worth of damage from the renters. The couple did not have the resources or the ability to get the yard to a manageable condition.
In December of 2009, William suffered neck and back injuries from a fall at work and is currently wheelchair bound, while Kay is recovering from neck surgery, leaving both physically unable to do any yard work.
Tommy Meadows, chairman of Keep Hopewell Beautiful, heard the story of the couple and immediately asked what could be done to help. With partners from the community, such as Kevin Johnson, Crime Prevention Officer with the Hopewell Police Department, and soldiers from Fort Lee, Meadows began to organize the clean up on Saturday morning.
“Being out here makes me realize this is how it’s supposed to be, neighbors helping neighbors,” Meadows said, chainsaw in hand. “You don’t have to live here to help somebody. You don’t have to be family to help somebody. You don’t have to be anything other than a good person, a neighbor.”
The group helping on Saturday came from all over the community and beyond to help, such as Sgt. England Phillips, who is currently enrolled in school at Fort Lee and is stationed at Fort Campbell.
With a trash bag in his hand, Phillips picked up debris from the yard and remarked that helping others was a great way to celebrate his birthday, which fell on the day of the cleanup.
“I don’t mind helping people like that,” Phillips said, noting that after hearing the story of the couple’s situation before the cleanup, he was even more eager to help. “They can’t do any of this stuff themselves. I don’t mind doing that stuff. I would want somebody to help me. I always help people out because somewhere down the road it’s going to come right back.”
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The group of volunteers and soldiers at the clean up on Saturday pictured with homeowners, Kay and William Ogburn, far right.
Sgt. Freddie Conn, with the 30th class at Fort Lee, brought 17 soldiers to the property and said though community service was a required part of their training, he said the soldiers were eager to get out and help.
“I brought it up to the class and they all liked it and it seemed like a good way to give back so here we are,” Conn said. “... We try to set an example even though most of us aren’t from here. It’s still an Army community. It does good for us to give back because the rest of the community will benefit from it.”
Johnson knew Kay and William would benefit from the work being done that morning. He said the couple, like so many others, depended on the income coming from the home being rented out. With the home being in disrepair and a yard in desperate need of clearing, they were not able to rent the home, thus putting them in a bind.
Almost a year ago, Officer James Finch, with the Hopewell Police Department, responded to the house on a police call and saw the house was trashed. Finch then told some of the other officers in the department, and as time passed, other members of the community, such as Keep Hopewell Beautiful, were brought in to try and help the couple. Johnson said the cleanup represented why he became a police officer.
“One of the reasons I became a police officer was to help people,” Johnson said. “And whether it’s on duty time or my time, I still do it because I want to help people.”
Johnson, like Phillips and Meadows, said the day was all about lending a helping hand to members in the community, and helping those in need.
“My thing has always been help those that can’t help themselves,” Johnson said. “If you’re physically disabled, if you monetarily can’t afford to so something then we as a community should be looking out for the people.”
The work of Keep Hopewell Beautiful has also caught the attention of Del. Roslyn Dance, who has praised the group for the work they do in the community.
“I am very impressed with the work of the Keep Hopewell Beautiful Project. Through community partnerships they are helping to improve the visual appearance of neighborhoods while positively working with residents to ensure compliance with City Council Ordinances,” Dance said in a quote sent to Meadows.
Meadows said though the group does not have large upcoming projects planned, they are currently building another partner in the community, local nurses and health care personnel.
Though in the early planning stages, Meadows said a group of nurses is trying to get together in the coming weeks to rake the falling leaves for those in need in the community, tentatively calling themselves “Nurses for Neighbors.”
Meadows is also wanting to reach more members of the community through the Adopt a Neighbor program, noting the group is also looking for more members and donations to continue their mission of community outreach in the city.
“We are doing what we can with the help and resources we have. More resources and volunteers will increase the effectiveness and reach of Keep Hopewell Beautiful and Adopt-A-Neighbor,” Meadows said.
As the hours passed on Saturday morning and the trash bags of debris grew, along with the branches being cut down, Kay and William stood at the doorway of their back porch and watched as the volunteers continued clearing their yard, continued making it beautiful.
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Sgt. England Phillips adds another trash bag of debris to the growing pile outside a home in Hopewell.
“It is absolutely unreal,” William said. “I didn’t have the money to hire a contractor to do all this and my gosh.”
With tears brimming in her eyes, Kay looked out at the soldiers and community members in her yard and just smiled.
“You know there’s a God because he sent all these people to help us,” she said.