Local campaign to aid Rockport, Texas, exceeds initial goal

By Louis Bettcher | Sep 01, 2017
Photo by: Louis Bettcher Chief Jason Peasley will be joining other firefighters from the Rockport Fire Department in a trip to aid Rockport, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Rockport —

In just six days, the GoFundMe fundraising page "Hurricane Harvey - Rockport, Texas," established by the town of Rockport, has met and exceeded its $15,000 goal.

As of 1 p.m. Sept. 5, $17,636 had been raised in donations to the page. The money was raised by 167 individuals and businesses that donated sums ranging from $10 to $1,300.

The funds raised will be used initially to pay the travel expenses of Rockport responders, who have volunteered to go to Texas and assist the city of Rockport in the cleanup following Hurricane Harvey. All money raised after the initial fuel and food expenses for the trip will be donated to the Texas city.

Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley has been in communication with the fire chief of the Texas city, Steve Sims, to determine when the crew from Maine will be most useful on the ground. Peasley would be embarking on the trip with four volunteer firefighters as well as Selectman Owen Casas.

"I want to make sure that we will be down there making a difference physically -- tearing down houses, helping rebuild, taking down trees. It all depends on what [Sims] tells us they need," Peasley said Sept. 5. "A lot of these men who have volunteered [for the trip] have full-time jobs, and one is in college, so once we get down there we want to be active and helping, not just standing around."

The fundraising campaign went live on the town's website immediately following an emergency meeting of the Rockport Select Board Aug. 29.

Three of the five selectmen, Chairman Ken McKinley, Casas and Tom Gray, were present at the meeting and voted unanimously to approve creation of the "Hurricane Harvey - Rockport, Texas" fundraising account for the purpose of raising monies for the relief effort in Texas.

At the meeting, Casas said he would be joining the group of five firefighters from the Rockport Fire Department on the 35-hour drive to Texas. The six men were planning to make the trip in two pickup trucks: one privately owned, and a town-owned truck used by Peasley.

The board also decided that the maximum time for the group to be on the ground assisting in Texas would not exceed seven days. In Peasley's absence, the Rockport Fire Department will be led by Deputy Chief Todd Philbrook.

Also present at the meeting was Finance Director Megan Brackett, who set up the GoFundMe account. Brackett estimated that the 5,000-mile round-trip drive for both vehicles would require approximately $2,000 worth of fuel. Casas said that through phone conversations with government officials in Texas, a house outside of the flood area may be available for him and the other volunteers to stay in once they arrive.

McKinley credited Casas and Peasley with spearheading the fundraising and outreach project. Gray said he hoped the Rockport to Rockport outreach program was about more than "creating a soundbite," and that a relationship between the two communities could continue into the future.

Later that day, Casas said he received word from Texas officials that their city has received sufficient emergency personnel for a week or more. Many of these volunteers came from north and west Texas and Oklahoma.

Once those crews return home, the volunteers from Rockport, Maine, could be called to assist in Texas at any time. Rockport leaders will then speak to Texas officials and determine whether the Maine group should fly, rather than drive.

Peasley said Sept. 5 that flying might be more advantageous for the responders than driving because it would save them an entire day of travel time, as well as deliver them to Texas better rested and able to assist physically in cleanup efforts. Driving conditions could also be affected by Hurricane Irma, which is expected to make landfall in Florida in the coming days.

In addition to sharing a name, Rockport, Maine, and Rockport, Texas, are both situated on the coast. Donations to the "Hurricane Harvey - Rockport, Texas" fund can be made via the link on the town's website as well as in person at the Rockport Town Office.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Dale Hayward | Aug 31, 2017 18:28

Because of the storm gasoline has gone above $250 a gallon already. May need to budget a little higher.

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