One hundred days which changed the lives of so many

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:30 PM GMT on December 22, 2008

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The following is a guest blog from Paul Timmons, Jr. (Presslord), leader of the portlight.org charity. Thanks to the efforts and donations of the Weather Underground community, the portlight.org charity has made a major difference in the lives of hundreds of under-served victims of Hurricane Ike:

Sunday September 14, 2008, was supposed to be, for me, an intentionally uneventful day. I had even made a point of going to mass the previous evening, so that I'd have no obligations on Sunday. For a variety of reasons, I needed a day of rest and relaxation. So there I sat Sunday morning, in my living room recliner, having walked the dog and fed the cat, ready for a day of nothing. Some cable news program was on the television as background noise, reporting the aftermath of Hurricane Ike and my laptop was in...well...my lap, as I read Dr. Masters blog and the comments on the same subject. Just your average, garden variety lazy Sunday morning.

Then a fellow by the name of Patrick Pearson (y'all know him better as Patrap) posted a comment which would profoundly and positively transform my life...and the lives of hundreds and hundreds of people.

It's a story about the fundamental goodness of the human spirit and the power of community...and the Internet as a tool to facilitate great works.



And it goes something like this.

Pat posted that he was putting together a truck load of relief supplies to take to Texas, as repayment for the generosity shown by Texans toward his beloved New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I, and several others, e-mailed him to ask where we might send donations to help defray expenses.

Then, it occurred to me that I was on the board of a small non-profit, tax exempt 501c3 organization called Portlight Strategies, Inc., which might be able to help. This group was founded in 1997 to facilitate a variety of projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief projects. I suggested to Pat that we run donations through this group, as it would enable people to deduct their contributions. He agreed...and set up a PayPal account to accept donations. Portlight Strategies, Inc., would then reimburse his expenses. It was a win/win situation for everyone involved. I expected we'd raise about $1500 from a handful of folks, Pat would make a run to Texas...and that would be the end of it.

There is simply no way I could have been any more wrong.

What ensued throughout the rest of that day...and the following days and weeks...can best be described as a nuclear explosion of human generosity. The blog filled quickly with posts from virtually all of you wanting to help the Ike survivors. My e-mail and WU mail boxes filled up with notes from people wanting to help. Ideas were flying around like (I know this is lame, but it kinda fits)...debris in a hurricane. And the PayPal button was on fire.

Volunteers, money, and ideas began rolling in. Crashing in. It was astonishing...and a bit frightening...and overwhelmingly gratifying. Within a day or two we had collected over ten times what I expected in contributions.

At some point on that Sunday, I called my friend John Wilbanks (Stormjunkie) here in Charleston (it's in the Carolinas), and told him what was happening...and he agreed to meet me at my office the next morning to help sort through things and come up with a plan. As Dr. Masters has noted, hurricanes cause chaos. And in my conference room that Monday morning I handed John a big old bag full of chaos...and asked him to begin sorting it out.

(By the way...this is a good time for me to address a very important point. Literally hundreds of you are integral to this wonderful story. It has truly been a grassroots phenomenon...and we all share equally in it. To mention everyone would likely shut down the WU servers. But three people have been critical: Patrick Pearson, John Wilbanks and Jeff Masters. Without the vision, focused effort and support--in that order--of these three, we couldn't have accomplished a fraction of what we've accomplished.)

So...John got busy. By the end of the first week he had made contact with people in the affected areas outside of Houston and we began to get a sense of what their needs were. Meanwhile, members of the Weather Underground community were continuing to communicate their thoughts and ideas with us, and plans were coming into focus. Dr. Masters got wind of all this and began mentioning it in his blog entries. Thanks largely to input from a variety of WU faithful, we realized that the most pressing needs were in the rural and small town areas away from Houston; additionally, people with disabilities throughout the area needed help. Thus we began to plan our efforts to assist the un-served, under served and forgotten people.

Supplies were secured to fill specific requests. Trucks were arranged. People were recruited. Funds were budgeted. And by the next week we were rolling. Into Houston...into Anahuac...into Winnie...into Bridge City...onto the Bolivar Peninsula.



The stories of the devastation we heard from our crews were unimaginable...and heart wrenching. The stories of the gratitude expressed to our crews by the Ike victims they met were heart felt...and heart warming.

"We thought the world had forgotten us," said one tearful Bridge City official.

"I don't have the vocabulary to adequately thank you all", said a Houston official.

A poor mother at a shelter in Winnie broke into sobs when handed a box of diapers. A box of diapers.

Other truck loads of supplies were delivered to the area in a second wave of relief about a month later. Thanks to some brilliant WU minds, much of our effort can now be seen and heard in real time via webcam at www.portlight.org. Many of you "rode in the back seat" and saw first hand the destruction of the Bolivar Peninsula on one of these trips.

Additionally, a significant amount of specifically requested supplies--from clothing to medical equipment--have been freighted into the area to contacts we made.

Also, we've facilitated ramp building for disability service organizations, arranged a scholarship for a college student with a disability, repatriated WU blogger BillyBadBird to his home on the Bolivar Peninsula, hosted a pizza party on the Bolivar Peninsula for survivors and relief workers. And we put on a big Christmas party with gifts for children in Bridge City on December 20th which was attended by WU members from around the country...and which was webcast at www.portlight.org.

And our work isn't done. Sometime early next year we are going to begin making small financial grants to groups in the Ike affected area.

At this point, we've raised about $40,000...and delivered over $500,000 in goods and services.

So, we now turn our attention to the future. Ike will hardly be the last hurricane to create chaos on our shores. But out of the chaos of Ike came some great revelations.

There are certain populations which are simply not well served by the large institutional and government relief infrastructure. It's a niche which Portlight Strategies, Inc., has filled in relatively small ways in past disasters. And which this community has filled in a big way since Ike. We are deeply committed to filling this niche in the future.

We are working now to establish several permanent staging areas along the East and Gulf coasts, so that we can respond to the needs of un-served, under served and forgotten people in an efficient manner. A series of grants we are scheduled to receive will begin to fund this. We are also working through budgeting and planning for the future. We are committed to having a reserve fund of $100,000 by June 1 of next year.

John is planning a Valentine's online auction to help raise funds. And I am working on a multi-city Walk A Thon which will raise awareness and funds. Shortly after the Holidays, we will unroll details on all of this. We're gonna need y'alls' help with all this. In the meantime, if you have any money laying around that you don.t know what to do with.the PayPal button at www.portlight.org still works nicely. Or checks can be mailed to: Portlight Strategies, Inc. 2043 Maybank Hwy, Charleston, SC 29412.

OK...I got the shameless plug for money out of the way...so I'll wrap this up.

Each of you owns an equal share of all this. You...I mean YOU...made this happen. Hundreds of people have come together in a spirit of community to help people in desperate need. And next year, any one of us could find ourselves in the exact same situation.

This can be one of two things:

1) A one shot deal that did a lot of good for a lot of people.

or

2) The beginning of an ongoing transformational process that makes us all the better for it for the rest of our lives.

I'm casting my lot with the second choice. And, based on what I've seen in the last 100 days, I'm pretty sure you will, too. We should all be proud of ourselves..and grateful for the opportunity to serve.

Paul Timmons, Jr.

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112. Orcasystems
5:33 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting hurristat:


I do, or at least my parents do. It's on WU. You can most likely put it on your blog, but I do not know how. About the rain collector, depends what type. The type I have you dont have to empty, but there is no rain in the winter, so there is a good 6-7 inch stack of snow on it, when it melts it will spike the rain rates... but no, i have never cleared mine.

Modification: Oh, I see what you mean. Most, if not all, weather stations have a drainage device.


They have a good one on sale for $99 bucks.. same one listed on a site connected here for $179. So.. I think I will grab one.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
111. hurristat
5:29 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting Orcasystems:
Does anyone have a personal weather station on here.. I think I am going to get one for myself for Christmas. Can I put it on my blog? do you have to empty the rain collector.. or is it self draining somehow?


I do, or at least my parents do. It's on WU. You can most likely put it on your blog, but I do not know how. About the rain collector, depends what type. The type I have you dont have to empty, but there is no rain in the winter, so there is a good 6-7 inch stack of snow on it, when it melts it will spike the rain rates... but no, i have never cleared mine.

Modification: Oh, I see what you mean. Most, if not all, weather stations have a drainage device.
Member Since: October 15, 2008 Posts: 11 Comments: 2312
110. smmcdavid
5:26 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting John2008:
Whatever happened to giving anonymously?


I'm raising money for the Houston Humane Society through active giving... details on my blog. You can most definitely give anonymously if you want! LOL...
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 31 Comments: 2309
109. hurristat
5:25 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting presslord:
Gawd orca....stop shovelin'....and start drinkin'....


It's called multitasking...LOL
It'll keep the beer cold, that's for sure...
Member Since: October 15, 2008 Posts: 11 Comments: 2312
108. Orcasystems
5:22 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting zoomiami:
Geez - someone always has to throw the *(*( in. Don't listen to them - I think it was a great blog & so do lots of other people.

Glad it quit snowing Orca.

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
107. zoomiami
5:03 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Geez - someone always has to throw the *(*( in. Don't listen to them - I think it was a great blog & so do lots of other people.

Glad it quit snowing Orca.
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 4158
106. Orcasystems
4:49 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Does anyone have a personal weather station on here.. I think I am going to get one for myself for Christmas. Can I put it on my blog? do you have to empty the rain collector.. or is it self draining somehow?
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
105. John2008
4:36 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Whatever happened to giving anonymously?
104. StormJunkie
4:31 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Thanks David :~) Sad for the little guy, he has to get shots tomorrow.

Vort, how big of a problem is it really? In light of what we have accomplished? Pictures of some and not others have made it in to the blogs. It just sort of seems trivial to be concerned about who gets credit when; everyone has got it one way or another. Be it a letter, email, phone call, picture, or mention in a blog. Thanks have gone out many times, many ways, and by many people.

Ok, really got to go before Hana kicks my...

Night all
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
103. barryweather
4:27 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Good night all! Please stay positive, its Christmas:)
101. Orcasystems
4:16 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting vortfix:
You have made your political point Press.

I'm sure Dr. Masters wanted you to mention Patrap in your posting.

As most of us have observed and learned since...Patrap is not one you can trust!

But yet you chose to lead with whatever.

That's where you chose to exclude many who have worked hard for you!

You should know better than to do that.



Curious, why do you only appear to be happy chatting when your stirring it? To make remark like that, which may or may not be justified has no business being made in a public blog.
It irresponsible and probably legally liable.


Someone WU mail me when the subject changes.. it seems every time this stuff gets mentioned in the blog it goes into the crapper for a day or two.




Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
100. smmcdavid
4:14 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting presslord:
Gawd orca....stop shovelin'....and start drinkin'....


Because that's what you are supposed to do when you are in this blog... don't you know? LOL...!
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 31 Comments: 2309
99. etnaterry
4:14 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Presslord is one of the "angels" that walk on Earth! As a newly elected gov. official in a small town in PA that had 25% of our homes devastated by the effects of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, I have seen these "angels" in person! It is a wonderful thing to experience the selflessness and generosity of people who decide to help their fellow humans in times of need. I applaud your efforts and thank you and those who are assisting you!
98. presslord
4:11 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Gawd orca....stop shovelin'....and start drinkin'....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
97. smmcdavid
4:10 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Thanks for stopping by SJ. Always good to see ya. Take care of that kid... he's a cutie.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 31 Comments: 2309
96. Orcasystems
4:09 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting presslord:
orca....Congrats!!!!!! How much ya got?


Almost 2 feet at the house..
I am tired of shovelling :(
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
95. StormJunkie
4:08 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Evening all

Good to see ya David

Vort, everyone has been thanked imho. In different ways, but thanked just the same. The point of the whole thing is the folks that attended the Crystal Beach pizza event, or Billy, or the over 1000 Bridge City residents that had a wunderful time.

Just my two cents.

And let me say, thanks to everyone that has been involved! It was amazing to see how much we accomplished so far, and personally I think there is huge potential to accomplish even more in the future. Which I would assume is the point.

Night all, back to baby :~)
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
93. presslord
4:04 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
orca....Congrats!!!!!! How much ya got?
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
92. Orcasystems
4:03 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Its not snowing :)

Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516
91. smmcdavid
3:59 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Good evening press.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 31 Comments: 2309
90. KidsSportsCoachGuy
3:59 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting vortfix:
My thoughts are that you should not have started mentioning anyone in particular Press!

Once you embark on that path you inevitably piss other people off if you do not mention them!


I think you are right Vort!!
Member Since: December 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 20
89. presslord
3:58 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Anyone who can read that story and be "piss(ed) off" about anything relative to this experience has no heart....
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
88. smmcdavid
3:57 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting vortfix:
My thoughts are that you should not have started mentioning anyone in particular Press!

Once you embark on that path you inevitably piss other people off if you do not mention them!


Good deeds should not be about getting recognized, they should be about doing the good. But I understand the point. Human nature I guess.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 31 Comments: 2309
86. TampaSpin
3:50 AM GMT on December 23, 2008

I updated my Weather Blog today and also completed the Christmas Songs list that some requested.
There are 47 songs on my blog and it plays continusly for over 2 hours of playing. Hope some of you enjoy it....

TampaSpins Weather blog Link
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
85. presslord
3:42 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting vortfix:
2) The beginning of an ongoing transformational process that makes us all the better for it for the rest of our lives.


I'm casting my lot with the second choice. And, based on what I've seen in the last 100 days, I'm pretty sure you will, too. We should all be proud of ourselves..and grateful for the opportunity to serve.



I'm with you on the second choice as well.

Thanks Paul for the great posting.

Thank you Dr. Masters for allowing this to happen on the WU!

Thank you to everyone that have found it in their hearts (and wallets) to support this worthwhile and uplifting effort!

Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
84. barryweather
3:36 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
No scantily clad relief workers though please. ;)
83. barryweather
3:35 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Keep us informed of your locations. I would love to show my cub scout den your operations if you have a headquarters near Pensacola.
82. barryweather
3:31 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Thanks for everything you do.
81. zoomiami
3:29 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Nice pic Sugar - see you figured it before New Year!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 10 Comments: 4158
79. presslord
3:23 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
"Sorry that all the people involved were not mentioned in Paul's comment in the header of this blog!"

I have spent a lot of time thinking of how to recognize everybody...am thinking maybe something like a "Hall of Fame" on the www.portlight.org website...

Any thoughts?
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
78. KidsSportsCoachGuy
3:23 AM GMT on December 23, 2008

Hi Presslord, Storm Junkie, Patrap, Drak, Hades, Surfmom, Sugarsand, Ike, Bonedog: I am new here and will rarely post about the the weather(I do not know enough!!) but I am hoping to be able to show some pictures here and there!

This is a great community, and you should all be proud of what has been accomplished!!!

Surfmom: I have been praying for your son!! One of my son's best friends is named Gabe, which makes me think of you!!

Merry Christmas to you all
Member Since: December 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 20
77. palmettobug53
3:12 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Quoting presslord:
I have standards....

they're very low....but

I do have standards...


LOL, Press!

Thanks for filling us in. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about future plans.
Member Since: October 7, 2005 Posts: 239 Comments: 25426
76. smmcdavid
3:11 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Good evening all! And Merry Christmas! It seems like I can say that over and over and not get tired of it.
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 31 Comments: 2309
74. TampaSpin
3:05 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Good evening everyone......Merry Christmas....
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
73. animalrsq
2:52 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Thanks to all of you for not only the work you have done and continue to do, but also the inspiration you are to others.
Member Since: August 4, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 223
72. sugarsand
2:42 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
"A poor mother at a shelter in Winnie broke into sobs when handed a box of diapers. A box of diapers." This is the kind of thing that really hits home. I sent money to the Red Cross during Katrina, not quite sure where it went. I never doubted it was abused, but now I have seen where the Portlight donations have been sent after Ike. You guys are definitely right to be pro-active. You can bet there will be another storm or two.
P.S. Don't let Sports Illustrated get a hold of your bikini shot! lol
Member Since: September 13, 2008 Posts: 9 Comments: 2953
71. surfmom
2:16 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Night Presslord StormJunkie Patrap & all those other helping hands and hearts --thanks for opening our eyes to who we are and what we can do
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
70. surfmom
2:13 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
I'm signing off - another big barn day - cool weather making them frisky and they're needing lots of track work to keep them focused on game.

Surf had a small bump today in the Gulf - 63 degrees water temp -- just too much work and too cold to grab a quickie. waiting for spring and warmer temps. Maybe a 1-2ft swell Tuesday late afternoon, Wednesday AM --gotta keep an eye on it. the East coast of Florida has got some action -- so if your desperate and got gas $ go East.....
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
69. nlimbo
2:10 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
press nice write up i ennjoyed reading that I still think thta you in that dress was great yous hould try selling that lol I was happy to be a small aprt of that HAppy holidays to you and everyone sles NLIMBO
Member Since: July 21, 2007 Posts: 33 Comments: 141
68. surfmom
2:05 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Vort you are a HOOT!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
67. presslord
1:59 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
excellent vort!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
65. surfmom
1:39 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
I happen to like that a lot Southern Lady - Pirates of WU -- makes a great calender! Pictures of Hurricane Ike with a WU Pirate for each month LOL If the FL geriatrics can do it......
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
64. surfmom
1:27 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Yes I remember you wouldn't wave the Jolly Roger!
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
63. surfmom
1:26 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Hades thanks for keeping us on track here....still a chance for a second landing I see
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
62. presslord
1:25 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
I have standards....

they're very low....but

I do have standards...
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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