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'I wanted to pay it forward' | How one Memphis resident is helping neighbors recover from the ice storm after they helped her years ago

Dana Mansolillo couldn't afford to remove a fallen tree from her yard in 2010, but her neighbors answered the call. Years later, she's returning the favor.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Thousands of Memphis residents are still recovering from the effects of Winter Storm Landon, which hit the Mid-South region as a dangerous ice storm on February 3. 

While city officials and organizations are gearing up to help residents with their clean up efforts, one Midtown resident decided she was going to take matters into her own hands, with the help of her neighbors. 

Dana Mansolillo moved to Memphis in 2006, buying her Midtown home the following year. 

In 2010, Dana said a large oak tree, once a fixture of her back yard, fell.

"Thankfully, the only damage was to my neighbor's fence," Mansolillo said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Unfortunately, Mansolillo said she was low on money, and could not afford the thousands of dollars it was going to cost to remove the debris. That was when she reached out to her neighbors.

"I’ve been organizing cleanups here in Memphis since 2008 and I posted up in my group to see if anyone was crazy enough to help me out with this tree," Mansolillo said. 

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Her neighbors answered the call, showing up to help her out in her time of need.

"Five of my friends showed up, and it was so helpful," Mansolillo recalled, fighting back tears. "One of my neighbors showed up with a chainsaw and we just went at this tree. He died a couple years ago, and I never got the chance to tell him 'thank you.'"

Years later, Mansolillo said the memories of that time spurred her into action to help victims of the ice storm.

"I realized people would be in the same position I was in, so I figured 'what the heck' and wanted to pay it forward," Mansolillo said. 

She posted on her neighborhood's Next Door page, around the same time as a few of her neighbors, to see if anyone needed help clearing tree debris. Those neighbors then decided to band together with her and help their community.

Credit: Dana Mansolillo/Caroline Gillard

They've been working around the clock since last Saturday Mansolillo said, some showing up after work, some spending their free time to help out.

"We cleaned up about 10-13 houses that first day, and since that number has grown to about 30 houses all over Memphis, including a local school," Mansolillo said.

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She's since created a form online where people in the Memphis area can either request help removing debris, or sign up to volunteer.

Credit: Dana Mansolillo/Caroline Gillard

Dana said the fact her house's internet is down due to the storm is not stopping her from monitoring the site.

"I've been camping out at local bars and coffee shops to use the internet to get the requests in," Mansolillo said. "We’ve had probably 20 volunteers helping clear out houses."

When asked how she feels about the efforts she's doing to help her community, Dana said she's just doing what she loves.

"I’m just really grateful that I can be there in a time of need for someone," Mansolillo said. "I love helping people and it’s so rewarding to make a difference in people’s lives."

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