(WBIR) East Tennessee communities hit hard by last week’s devastating ice storms are in the process of clearing thousands of trees and branches, and a number of organizations are lending their support.
Team Rubicon, a national non-profit organization made up of veterans and emergency responders, is one of them.
Since the organization’s start five years ago following the earthquake in Haiti, Team Rubicon has deployed disaster response teams to more than 80 ordeals worldwide.
Ice storm clean-up in the Cumberland Plateau is the latest addition to that list.
Holly and Richard Nelson sat awake one week ago in their Pleasant Hill home, listening to the effects of the ice storm raging outside.
“You would hear something that sounded like a shotgun and then a moment later it would sound like thunder, and it was a branch snapping and then dropping to the ground,” Holly Nelson said.
The storm left the couple without power for a week and ravaged the trees in the Nelsons’ continuing care retirement community, called Uplands Village.
“Most of our community up here is woods,” Richard Nelson said. “It’s 500 acres, but about 330 or something like that is woods. They really got blasted. We’ve got places that were full of trees that are now meadows. Just flat on the ground.”
That’s why Team Rubicon is in the Nelsons’ neighborhood, removing fallen and damaged trees and branches from neighbors’ yards – at no cost to homeowners.
A lot of the people who live in Uplands Village happen to be retired Christian missionaries, who didn’t make a lot of money in their working years. They say this free tree removal service is a big help.
“This kind of service would cost thousands of dollars to have a private company come in and do,” Team Rubicon volunteer and veteran Shannon Derouen said. “When you can come in and help people and just make a difference in somebody’s life, I mean, just for me, that’s awesome.”
“To have them here and to look now and see things pretty well cleaned up is just a blessing beyond anything I can think of,” Holly Nelson said.
Over at the operation’s base in Crossville, incident commander and Team Rubicon Region IV administrator Bob Obernier said the organization helps both disaster victims and the mental health of the veterans who volunteer.
“Part of our philosophy is by getting them back together with like people that have shared the same experiences, that’s going to help,” Obernier said.
The organization offers veterans a sense of purpose, service and mission as they rebuild communities and build friendships with disaster victims.
Team Rubicon plans on staying and helping in the Cumberland Plateau through Friday, though leaders say the organization will stay longer if they’re needed.
To learn more about Team Rubicon, visit the website HERE.
Ice storm victims in Cumberland County in need of help with tree removal can call 931.787.1033. Victims in Putnam County can call 931.839.2111.