Many local residents know Rosie and Annette Lombardo's family from their St. Elmo shoe repair business, located in the old Mojo Burrito space at 3815 St. Elmo Ave. from the late '40s until the shop closed in 1991.
But it is the Lombardos who are now in need of repairs.
During storms and heavy winds on the night of June 21, a large tree fell on the Lombardos' Alabama Avenue home. The tree pierced the roof, damaging it and the walls near the home's entrance and allowing rain to pour inside.
The two sisters, who never married, have lived in the house which they inherited from their parents for more than 60 years. Ages 80 and 76, they have very limited income and no homeowners insurance.
When neighbors awoke to the sound of the tree crashing through the roof, into the sisters' bathroom and living room, they immediately rallied around the Lombardos to offer support.
The next day, Alison Van Winkle, who lives several doors down, created a GoFundMe campaign with a a goal of raising $5,000 to help the sisters pay for tree removal, structural and water damage repairs, and to replace furniture and other items.
"The tree was huge and pretty well encompassed the entire roof," said Van Winkle, explaining that it was impossible to protect everything inside from the continuous rain, so it's very likely that some things will have to be replaced.
Danny Birchman of Birchman Tree Service offered to start the tree removal himself, and then hire another company to bring in a crane to finish the job at a lower cost than what it would charge customers outside the tree business. Local company Tree Worx was able to remove the tree for a cost that was much lower than expected, Van Winkle said.
At press time, she said the home still needed to be inspected by a structural engineer to evaluate whether any other damage had occurred.
Van Winkle and other neighbors also reached out to various agencies, such as the American Red Cross and United Way, to connect the sisters with other resources that could provide assistance.
"It's hard, especially when you're older, being displaced from your home," Van Winkle said, adding that the food and clothing vouchers provided to the sisters by the Red Cross that night were really helpful.
The Lombardos are staying with another sister in Flintstone until their home is repaired, said Van Winkle. She will be regularly adding updates to the GoFundMe page.
"The neighbors have been so amazing with the outpouring of support," she said. "Every little bit helps, even just prayer or a note of encouragement. The sisters are really appreciative."
Email Emily Crisman at firstname.lastname@example.org