"I made him a promise way back when, that I was going to do something for him, to pay him back, and this is it."
Hurricane Florence Washed Out Road
Credit: GoFundMe

Winston Marsden felt compelled to help the moment he learned about a rural Virginia community outside Richmond that had been trapped by damage caused by Hurricane Florence's historic rainfall.

Patten Lane, the only road leading in and out of the tiny Amelia Courthouse neighborhood, had been completely washed out by the storm. A 10-foot drop in the middle of the private dirt road stood between its 15 or so residents and the outside world. Because it wasn't a state road, residents would have to pool together the estimated $10,000 to fund the repair themselves. After hearing about their plight on social media, Marsden knew he had to help.

"I knew that the good Lord was pushing me 'hey something needs to be done,' so we kept pushing," he recalled to WWBT.

Marsden, the CEO of Pascat Graphics & Marketing in Lynchburg, reached out to friends and other business owners and assembled a team of contractors from all over the state who were willing to donate an underground pipe, gravel, an excavator and even the labor.

"They've done more than expected and people are offering more help every day," Bill Ford, who lives on Patten Lane, told WWBT.

But that's hardly where this story ends.

As Marsden and Ford got in touch to discuss the logistics of the project, they realized they weren't strangers at all. Nearly two decades ago, Ford, then a deputy with the Amelia County Sheriff's Department, had saved Marsden's life.

"Found out it was the guy that saved my life— Officer Ford— that needed the help," Marsden recalled to WWBT.

In 2000, Marsden got into an ATV accident, and fell into a freezing cold creek. His internal body temperature was only 75 degrees when Ford got the call to rescue him. It was Ford who took him to the hospital that saved his life.

"I haven't seen him since," a shocked Ford told the station. "When he got out of the car, he told me who he was and that we saved his life."

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It was an emotional reunion, to say the least. But it's one Marsden hoped might happen one day.

"I made him a promise way back when, that I was going to do something for him, to pay him back, and this is it," he said.

A dedicated team of volunteers spent two days repairing Patten Lane, and last week it was up and running once more. A tale of neighbors helping neighbors if we've ever heard one!