Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy News - Group of Phil Campbells help town after tornado.......

I haven’t mentioned a ‘Happy News’ story in quite a while - there is so much negativity in the daily news. However, there is something about the following story that really made me smile.


The town of Phil Campbell, Alabama is located about 95 miles northwest of Birmingham, it began in the 1880s as a work camp established by railroad crew leader Phillip Campbell, originally from England. It was incorporated in 1911 as the only town in Alabama to have both a first and last name, a distinction it still holds.

A few years ago Brooklyn writer Phil Campbell visited the town during a trip to Alabama and decided to organize a gathering for people with the same name to be held in the town of Phil Campbell.

At the first convention in 1995, twenty two Phils and one Phyllis showed up. Plans for making it an annual event faded out. Earlier this year Brooklyn Phil and others banded together through the Internet and decided to try again. They sent out 400 invitations to people named Phil Campbell. This year’s gathering was planned to coincide with the town’s 100th anniversary celebration scheduled for Saturday June 18th.

On April 27th of this year a massive EF5 twister plowed through the city during the Southern tornado outbreak. The twister killed 27 local residents and injured twice as many, some seriously. Among the city’s 450 or so homes, dozens were destroyed and more were damaged.

One Phil, in Juneau, Alaska, took up a collection in his church and raised about $5,000 to help the Alabama town.

“Just because of the coincidence of our names we can do some good,” he said Friday as he joined several other Phils in clearing tree limbs and a shattered pavilion outside the Phil Campbell Community Center, now a distribution site serving tornado survivors.

This weekend Phil Campbells from across the globe converged on the hard-hit city of 1,150 for the “I’m With Phil” convention, a gathering meant to raise spirits, money and new roofs.

Phil Campbells are cleaning up storm debris, marching in a parade, donating money to build a Habitat for Humanity house, listening to country music and just showing they care.

“We’re doing whatever it takes to be part of the town for a weekend,” said Phil Campbell of Nottingham, England.

There’s also Phil Campbell from La Farge, Wis.; Phil Campbell from Austin, Texas; Phil Campbell from Glasgow, Scotland; Phil Campbell from Palo Alto, California. A couple Phils from Alabama and two from Australia.

It gets confusing having so many people named Phil Campbell in one place. The Phils tend to call each other by their hometown or state.

“Hey California, you want a sandwich?” said Brooklyn Phil.“There’s Birmingham,” said Alaska Phil.

In those first days after the storm, Mayor Jerry Mays wanted to cancel the anniversary festivities and the Phil Campbell gathering. The thought of celebrating anything amid flattened homes and funeral wreaths seemed wrong.

“A tornado just takes everything with it,” he said. “Those 27 people who died, we knew them all.”

Then Mays heard about all the people who were planning to visit despite the tragedy. He reconsidered, and he’s glad he did.

“I got to thinking maybe it would give people a chance to get this off their minds and enjoy themselves a little,” said Mays.

Now, rather than having just another sweltering weekend in Phil Campbell, the Phils are helping in the cleanup and reconstruction. The Phils, some companies and others donated money to help the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity construct a home. About $35,000 has been raised so far, said Brooklyn Phil.

Adapted from a story by Jay Reeves -The Associated Press


Just the thought of spending a few days with people who have the same name as me is very intriguing – and to meet them while helping in a disaster relief mission would be priceless!

As I mentioned before – this story made me smile. J


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