Strangers clean up Deland man's home after tree kills girlfriend during hurricane

More than 50 volunteers helped remove trees, debris

DELAND, Fla. – Dozens of volunteers spent their Saturday chopping trees and hauling away limbs at the home where a man's girlfriend was killed during Hurricane Matthew.
A hard day of labor was a labor of love from complete strangers.

"The world needs people like this to take a step and to help people in the community," volunteer Christina Williams said.

More than 50 volunteers from across Volusia County rallied behind 68-year-old Doug Bell. Bell's girlfriend, Susan Mathes, 63, had been out feeding their animals when a tree crashed down and killed her.

"It took a sad moment to show the power that God, to open the hearts of people, to help a fellow Christian," Bell said.

With a little help from bulldozers, chainsaws and heavy machinery, the volunteers lifted the tree and helped ease the man's pain.
"To see what he's gone through, to hear his story, there's no hesitation in our group that we were coming to help," Jason Clisby, with the Facebook group "DeBary Proud" said.

A Facebook post on the group "DeBary Proud" went viral. Brett Douglas helped mobilize the volunteers to come together, roll up their sleeves and get results.

"To give the warmth and love, the community around the arms of someone who suffered such a tragedy," Douglas said.

The cleanup effort by the residents left Bell speechless. He said it also reaffirms his belief that in the darkest days, there is light from those who are willing to help.

Bell added that he knows Susan is nearby watching the volunteers labor for her love.

"She's smiling, she's smiling. She was a smiler. She was a good woman," Bell said.

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