Unexpected Christmas gift comes to homeowner impacted by recent tornado

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A large tree from the neighbors yard fell in Lehew’s yard. (Kelly Lehew/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Days before seeing family a tornado decided to uproot not only trees but almost a Wilmington woman’s life. The clean up was too costly for her to bare, but help come from an unusual place.

When an EF-0 tornado hopped around the Pine Valley area of Wilmington it left Kelly LeHew’s home littered with trees.

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“There were two trees down in the side yard. Three trees on the house,” said Cliff Willman who was one of the first people Lehew’s family called for help.

It also left a bill LeHew could not pay. The clean up was estimated to cost thousands.

“It would have taken a year to get my yard cleaned up,” said LeHew over the phone as she is visiting family out-of-town for the holiday.

In reality she only had to go a couple of houses down for help.

“I did not expect it one bit,” said Lehew.

LeHew and her daughter sent out pleas for help with her hosting a family Christmas gathering days after the tornado hit. Her ex-husband Willman stepped up. As did two of his church members from nearby Lifepoint Church.

“It’s sort of like a dream,” LeHew said. “The tornado came and it left and angles came to clean up the mess. And then I am like did it really happen but when you look in the front yard you know it really happened.”

A years worth of clean up for LeHew, they finished in one morning. However, it’s what happened next that makes their work even more special.

“Kelly tried to feed them, they wouldn’t take money, she tried to give them a little bit of cash, they wouldn’t take it,” said Willman. “They just stood there and smiled and said ‘Merry Christmas’.”

It was an early Christmas gift. Their names are Timothy and Nathan. The tornado may have left behind broken limbs and trees, but they left behind a warmth in LeHew’s heart.

“Thank you, thank you so so much. You guys are full of grace and love,” LeHew said.

“That’s the kind of people that live in Wilmington, North Carolina,” said Willman who is also 8 years retired from a career with the Wilmington Fire Department. He has seen his share of tragedy around the holidays. So stepping up for his ex-wife was easy. Seeing what his fellow church members did, was inspiring.

“The good-hearted people that want to help the people that are really in need,” said Willman.

LeHew still has a broken window or two to repair, but even after three trees fell on the home, her roof sustained no actual damage.