Levi Anderson explained his presence in Port St. Joe, hundreds of miles from his Nebraska home, in straightforward terms.
“I wanted to help the people down here,” said Anderson, a middle-schooler. “I feel good about it.
“This is the service part of Trail Life.”
Trail Life is a father-son faith-based discipleship program and service organization that emphasizes outdoor adventure to develop leadership and character, according to the national organization’s website.
An Omaha, Nebraska chapter arrived this week to provide five days of service to the community, primarily small yard cleanup and debris removal.
To trace the passion that fueled their weekend trip from Nebraska to Port St. Joe, one need only look at the roster of fathers and sons participating in the program.
One last name stands out: Belin.
Phil Belin, grandson of Jake Belin, long-time Port St. Joe Mayor as well as president of the St. Joe Company, and Phil’s son, Simon, are among the six Trail Life scouts and their fathers who made the trip.
“I had the idea pretty much right after (Hurricane Michael) and pitched it to the guys and there was no hesitation at all,” Phil Belin said. “We typically have a summer adventure.
“We figured we would make it a winter adventure this year. Part of our emphasis is service. We thought this was a good opportunity.”
They diverted funds earmarked for their summer adventure as well as camp-outs in January and February to the effort.
A 15-passenger van was donated and St. James Episcopal Church was lined up to put the group up while in Port St. Joe.
The group undertook raising money in earnest, establishing a GoFundMe campaign among other efforts.
“My son just walked up and down the neighborhood seeking donations,” Phil Belin said.
And, finally, the group was connected to Diana Burkett and the Christian Community Development Fund for home projects they could accomplish during the week.
Burkett, of course, had plenty of work and the Trail Life team is only the latest to step up and assist.
Forty Auburn University students just left after a week of projects around the community and this weekend Burkett and CCDF have 40 students from Georgia Tech and 10 from Florida State University coming down.
“It’s a blessing to have these guys come around,” said James Kennedy, whose yard was getting the cleanup from the Trail Life team on Monday.
“God is still good. He is providing help from so many sources you would not imagine. We are strong in Port St. Joe. We are all working together. We’ll be back on our feet.”
As for those boys from Nebraska, they are enjoying, however briefly, a respite from the wintry, snowy cold back home.
Some of them have never seen the beach or an ocean and time is set aside later this week to pay a visit to the coast.
David Rose figured when they return home there will just be more snow to play in, but the “heat” isn’t so bad for a few days, though he will be glad to go home at the end of the week.
And, Rose added, this campaign to help Port St. Joe would boost his traveling portfolio while allowing him to do good works.
“I like that I can travel to other states,” Rose said. “This is probably the only chance I may get to come to Florida.
“I think it will be a great time and I get to do Kingdom work.”
Phil Belin added that the group hopes to inspire others, inside and outside the community, to provide fuel for recovery.
“We hope is it a shot in the arm to the people in this community,” he said. “As much as anything, we hope it is encouragement, inspiration for others.”
Funds for travel expenses are still needed and 100 percent of all donations go toward the work they will do in Port St. Joe.
“Please pray we will be a blessing for others as we show Jesus’ love for them,” said Jonathan Milligan in the video introduction to the fundraising page.