Gregory for column sig

Spring means rebirth. A blooming vision of hope for the future after the bleakness of winter.

That hope and rebirth can show itself in multiple ways. Flowers sprout into every color imaginable, while trees which were once bare become laden with leaves.

That bloom of new life also is showing itself in Portland in the area that was devastated by last month’s storms that wreaked havoc on many lives.

Mere moments after the winds had subsided, homeowners in the Cook Road area were rushing to check on the safety of their neighbors. Thankfully, no major injuries were reported.

Cleanup efforts soon began as well. Neighbors got to work helping to clear debris from barns that were torn to pieces and homes that were damaged, helping cut up trees that were uprooted, helping provide solace to those affected.

They were soon joined by volunteers from outside the immediate area. The city of Portland sent work crews, and the Portland Chamber of Commerce helped organize relief efforts that remain ongoing today.

As Mayor Mike Callis said in a Facebook video, “I’m so very thankful for the outgoing of support that this farming community has received.”

More volunteers have come in the days since, with people arriving from Westmoreland and Gallatin to help out. Volunteers have been hard at work, from the young man named Silas I saw helping carry small branches, to teenagers helping carry cut-up pieces of trees into piles, to grown men and women doing whatever was needed at the moment.

The recovery process will likely be a long one. Callis also said via video that the area probably will not qualify to be declared as a FEMA disaster zone, which would bring greater federal help to those whose lives have been just as uprooted as many of the trees in the area.

Hopefully, our elected leaders in Congress can work to make it easier for rural areas to qualify as disaster zones. It might not help this time, but if it helps the next time storms do a number on Middle Tennessee, it would certainly be worth it.

There is still a strong need for volunteers to help in the affected areas, and I would encourage anyone reading this who is willing to reach out to the mayor’s office or the Portland Chamber of Commerce to ask what they can do.

In visiting the devastated neighborhood and speaking with some of those impacted, one resident’s son pointed out the various people — each doing their own part to help where needed — and said to me, “These are the real heroes.”

That says it all.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or

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