It seems like nothing brings folks together quicker and stronger than a crisis. (We’re looking at you, Florence.) Our Port City withstood more than 100-mile-per-hour winds and rains for four days. Hundreds (if not thousands) of trees toppled leaving behind tons of damaging debris. Like many people after Florence touched down, Tegan Harmon set out to help.
By Friday, Sept. 14, Harmon set out to cut and clear trees around his own neighborhood. His friend, Drew Salley, had a felled tree blocking the road to his home. “We were just helping each other out,” he notes. By Saturday Harmon and Salley, along with friends Josh Gore and Chase Hedrick, had cleared the tree. And they wanted to keep up the work to help others.
“We said, ‘Let’s go clear some trees off the road, get some power trucks in here, and we can get the power back as soon as possible,’” Harmon tells.
After clearing out a few roads, Harmon and his small crew each started spreading the word:
They’d cut and clear any trees they could for their neighbors. “We probably did about three or four houses on Saturday and Sunday,” Harmon recalls. “[Since Florence], lord, I don’t know … [we] probably [cut] 150. But people kept trying to give us money.” Harmon and his crew always refused—yet, it led to something greater. “That’s how I came up with this charity idea,” he explains.
Enter: Port City Proud.
Last Thursday Harmon created the official Facebook group and had around 1,000 members in a mere two days. Along with his partner, Jessica Miller, and Salley’s wife, Ellen, they created an expansive and hardworking volunteer corps to get out and clean up the community.
“Jessica’s out there with our baby leading crews right now,” Harmon notes during our interview.
He had to resume normal work hours at his 9-to-5. “As you can imagine, we’re pretty damn busy right now. . . . We just want to get everything back to normal.”
As PCP continue to cut and clear trees, folks pay what they can afford. All monies will go to Hope From Helen, which supports local and global organizations dedicated to health, education, animal welfare, the environment, as well as individuals and families in need.
Port City Proud has since set a goal of $10,000 with a GoFundMe (gofundme.com/port-city-proud?member=803918). As of press they were only $300 away from meeting it. Add to it $3,000 in checks and cash (and counting), and there is more money to be spread throughout Hope From Helen. And there’s no suggested donation or scale to go by; Harmon just wants people to give what they feel comfortable giving—and that’s if they can give anything at all.
“Not everyone’s situation is the same,” he observes. “We’ve done a lot for elderly people and fixed incomes that can’t donate. They always try to or give us drinks or whatever they can, and we’ll take it, but we tell them that it’s not necessary. We’re there to do the work, whether you give or not.”
Port City Proud is doing all labor by hand (sans industrial saws, trucks, et al), and they avoid liability jobs, such as trees directly on homes or near live power lines. They take jobs based on pictures shared upon request of service via their Facebook page. Every 10 minutes Harmon gets a call about a yard in needing of clearing, and they average about 30 yards or more a day. In fact, they have more jobs than volunteers currently. Now that people have to get back to work, volunteer numbers have steadily gone down from 50 since the first day.
“There’s not a chance in hell any of this would have gotten done without them and countless hours [they] invested,” he notes.
Folks can volunteer with Port City Proud without lifting a hand saw, if they’re so inclined. The organization needs hands with website development, social media integration, and streamlining volunteer efforts and service calls. Harmon says they won’t stop anytime soon, either.
“I don’t foresee us going anywhere,” he asserts. “One of the ideas I have is to maybe get some of this wood and make tables and furniture out of it, then auction it off [for Hope From Helen],” he explains. “I remodel houses for a living and built a lot of furniture we have at our house. And Drew makes cabinets, so we’re both pretty handy with wood.”
Though Harmon and others in their group are construction and building professionals, anyone, with or without experience, can volunteer. “Anybody can pick a branch up and haul it, right?” Harmon quips. “Just show up.” Even if it’s only an hour, they’re welcome. Folks can head over to the Port City Proud Facebook page to learn about volunteering.