Chesterfield man honored for helping neighbors after Hurricane Michael

Robert Hanifer is always willing to help out his neighbors. (Source: NBC12)
Robert Hanifer is always willing to help out his neighbors. (Source: NBC12)
Updated: Nov. 6, 2018 at 1:36 PM EST
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CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - In October, Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm, ravaging communities there.

As it arrived in Virginia as a tropical storm, it brought heavy rain, strong winds and tornado warnings.

The morning after the bad weather in Central Virginia, residents were left with a mess to clean up including Kimina Harris and her North Chesterfield neighbors.

“The rains were heavy, you couldn’t see anything ... there was a lot debris. We had a lot of limbs down,” said Harris.

But a very special neighbor, by the name of Robert Hanifer, was ready to carry the load.

“Once the daylight hit you could actually see what was going on," said Hanifer. "That’s when I noticed which neighbors really needed help and that’s when I found my one neighbor in the ditch.”

It turned out to be Harris' father.

"My father has a Tundra, and Robert has ... a little car. He then went and grabbed a strap, tucked it to the front of my father’s truck, hooked another part to the back, and within three minutes he pulled him out the ditch.”

She called Hanifer “the neighborhood angel."

“He just helped everybody,” Harris said.

Strong winds also uprooted a massive tree in a neighbor’s yard, and crushed the back of a nearby car.

Hanifer, remaining true to form, took action.

“I grabbed my chainsaw and once the kids were being watched by their mom, I went down and cut up as much of this tree as my saw would let me," he said.

"He went up and down the street picking up debris. He was outside probably that whole day just helping whoever he could,” said Harris.

He even helped an elderly woman who lost power for days.

“He unplugged some stuff from his own house, put an extension cord on his generator to give her lights,” Harris said.

Hanifer says helping your neighbor was just something his dad taught him as a little kid. After Hurricane Isabelle, he and his father cleaned up their neighborhood.

With Hanifer’s daughter now watching his every move, he too is teaching her a lesson. But the wings of this angel spread a lot farther than just North Chesterfield.

In fact, it reached New Bern, North Carolina.

Just days before Hurricane Michael, Hanifer was in North Carolina helping families recover from Hurricane Florence. On his own dime, he volunteered with a church group, cleaning out houses devastated by flood waters.

After witnessing all of Hanifer’s actions, Kimina was speechless and she had to figure out how to thank him.

“We even asked him, “What can we do to say thank you? He said, ‘I don’t want anything because this is what I should do.’ I said, ‘hmm I’m going to find a way,'” Harris said.

That’s where NBC12′s Acts of Kindness came in to recognize his selflessness and surprised him with $300.

“It just catches you off guard," Hanifer said. "I told dad, ‘I got caught doing an act of kindness.’”

He didn’t do it for anything outside of just being a good neighbor and because of the world we’re living in now, it’s hard to find people that are that good of a neighbor nowadays,” said Harris.

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