Portlight Disaster Relief

Spring Relief Walk Info

By: Portlight, 8:16 PM GMT on January 09, 2009

1-23-08 Spring Walk Update

This morning there was a conference call with some of the city coordinators for the Spring Walk. This morning we discussed New Orleans, Atlanta, Charleston, Summerville, and a potential walk in the Kissimmee area. In order to have the walk in the Kissimmee area, we will need one or two more people to help coordinate in that area, so if you are interested then please contact us. In Atlanta we are working to have the walk at Centennial Park in early April. In the Destin/Fort Walton Beach area a dog walk is in the planes as well. As we lock down more details on walk location and date in the various cities we will continue to update.

Over the next couple of weeks it is critical that we secure the location and date for each of the cities that we are having the walk in. In order to do this we will have a couple of conference calls a week with the city coordinators. It is not critical that every coordinator attends every call, but our goal is to communicate at least once a week with each of you. If you are interested in assisting with a scheduled walk, or coordinating one in your area then please contact us and we will get you involved in these calls.

1-20-08 Update
We received this update from the New Orleans walk and wanted to pass it along...

Were getting organized to an extent here.Blogger tkeith is going to help us here in New Orleans.
We hope to hammer out the details when we all get together.
Our goal is to Raise a boatload of Money and Bring the effort to the local media as well as the date of our walk approaches.
March 21st looks to be our target date.
Will be speaking to tkeith today and hope to have another person in the mix as well.

Along with New Orleans, we have had someone step up and take on St. Augustine. The walk coordinators in Houston are also moving forward with the walk there. The coordinator for the Summerville, SC walk is currently working to set the location and date.

We will continue to update on the walk in each location as details become available. In the meantime we are going to schedule a conference call for Friday morning with all of the city coordinators, so if you are interested in coordinating a walk in your area please let us know and we will get you the call in information.

We have just about wrapped up our Ike work, and now we plan to take the lessons learned from that experience and begin to build our future.

Our goals are to expand our network of supporters, continue to create a sense of ownership and community…and create a financial reserve. Achieving these goals is critical to us being able to serve future hurricane victims in a strategic, pro-active and efficient manner.

We are working now on a national multi-city grassroots event which is crucial to our success.

Our Spring Relief Walk will continue our grassroots tradition…while helping us achieve our critical goals.

Here’s the deal.

In March and April of this year, we want to have 40 local Spring Relief Walks – each with the goals of raising $3000-$5000 from 20-50 walkers. We are providing enough guidance to local coordinators to make the job pretty painless…while allowing enough flexibility to make it fun…and unique to each location.

So far, we have about 20 cities committed. So…if you live in one of the cities listed below and you want to be involved, please contact us and we’ll connect you with organizers in your area.

If you’re willing to take this project on in a community not listed, PLEASE contact us. Our goal is 40 communities. But more would be great. And remember: these don’t all have to be big cities and towns. Smaller places are great, too. Just one church group, youth group or other organization of 20 people is really all it takes.

This began in a spirit of community. This event will build on that.

It’ll be fun, for sure. More importantly, it continues our Wunderful opportunity to serve.



Atlanta, Ga 2 coordinators
Savannah, Ga
Knoxville, TN
Greenville, SC
Columbia, SC
Charleston, SC
Summerville, SC
Jacksonville, Fl
Destin, Fl
Tampa Bay, Fl
Lake Placid, Fl
Houston, Tx 2 coordinators
Chicago, Il
Auburn, Al
New Orleans, La

Updated: 2:05 PM GMT on January 28, 2009


100 Days which changed the lives of so many

By: Portlight, 3:30 PM GMT on January 08, 2009

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.

We are currently working on a multi-city Walk A Thon which will raise awareness and funds. We're gonna need y'alls' help with all this. Please contact with your intent and ability to help. In the meantime, if you have any money laying around that you don.t know what to do with.the PayPal button 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.


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.

Updated: 8:06 PM GMT on January 08, 2009


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