By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
When Jerry “Chainsaw” Bryant and his mother Flo lost their home in March, they weren’t sure what they were going to do.
It’s a position no one ever wants to find themselves in, but it’s also a situation where you find out who your friends are. Chainsaw, as luck would have it, had some pretty good friends who decided to take the talents and resources they had and use them to benefit the Bryants.
His colleague and friend in the Hayes Crossing – Haldeman Fire Department, Jerry Bowen, had a home in Morehead that was available. He’s been putting them up there during this transitional period; but the Bryants have been eager to return to their land on Trumbo Hill, as any of us would.
That’s where Chain’s other friends, the ones from Poppy Mountain and Rudy Fest, came into the picture.
Tom Carper, one of the organizers of Rudy Fest and the recent SawGrass benefit concert, said they’ve been friends with the Bryants since shortly after moving their festival to the Poppy Mountain campground.
Carper explained that he and the other Rudy Fest organizers – Rudy Burchett, Leroy Walker, and Vic Adams – met the family back in 2017.
“He was up there working (at Poppy Mountain), and we just took to him… and his mom,” Carper said.
“When (the fire) happened, we got a phone call,” he continued.
Bowen had a place that could meet their immediate needs as far as a place to lay their heads, but the family lost everything. Their friends wanted to help, but building a new home from scratch isn’t a cheap or easy endeavor. It wasn’t the kind of thing any one person, or even a small group of people, could be expected to do. But it was something that a community could do, Carper explained, and organizing a community is what the folks at Poppy Mountain and Rudy Fest know how to do. So, they started organizing.
After the immediate needs were met, he said, the Rudy Fest crew, “got with Marty (Stevens, of Poppy Mountain) and he allowed use of the property.”
From there they started making calls. Some of the acts donated their time. Others had to recoup some travel and other minor costs, but all the performers came out with the understanding that this was a benefit and not a regular paying gig.
Their hope at the time was they would make enough to help the Bryants rebuild.
“We had it in mind we would like to replace their home,” Carper said. “And we have enough to replace his home… but the more the better, and the nicer home to put them in.”
Between ticket sales and direct donations – at the event and through the associated GoFundMe page (https://gofund.me/7b59614d) – they’ve raised nearly $30,000 Carper said. Almost $7,000 so far has been raised through the GoFundMe page, with the remainder coming from tickets and donations at the event.
He said some folks brought items and services to auction off at the event, and others just came up to organizers and handed up cash directly for the cause.
Now, thanks to the efforts of the Poppy Mountain and Rudy Fest crews, and the donations of the community, they can begin making those plans to rebuild. But they aren’t done yet. The GoFundMe page will continue to fundraise though Rudy Fest, where the organizers plan another big push for donations and support.
Whatever they raise, he said, will go directly toward the replacement and furnishing of the Bryant home.
It’s something, he said, they were all happy to do for the family.
“Our whole Rudy Fest crew helped put this together,” Carper said. “It’s a team effort. It took everybody as a whole to make it work.”
Those who wish to contribute, but aren’t comfortable contributing online, can make donations through any of the Rudy Fest organizers, or by donating to the “Jerry and Flo Fund” at Citizen’s Bank in Morehead.
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