The local chapter of the American Red Cross’ loss ultimately may be a huge gain for the city of Portsmouth.
Formerly in charge of disaster relief among other duties for the local American Red Cross, longtime Portsmouth resident Bryan Smith on Sept. 4 became assistant director of the community group Friends of Portsmouth.
While Smith said he undoubtedly will undertake fundraising and other roles for Friends of Portsmouth (FOP,) he may be most visible as the man essentially running the FOP headquarters on Second Street. That storefront was closed for about six weeks, Smith said, as FOP leadership looked for a new director, the initial director having left for another position.
As he’s just basically begun his duties, the headquarters and Smith’s vision for it, are probably understandably, works in progress. Eventually, Smith sees the headquarters partly serving as a sort of FOP gift shop, featuring T-shirts from various local events, most notably currently including River Days.
On Monday, Smith was putting together racks to hold what he said was a closet full of Portsmouth-themed T-shirts left over from the 2018 Winterfest. And even though the headquarters has not been open much over the past month or so, Smith noted being pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors he’s received, persons asking questions about not just FOP and their events but about Portsmouth in general.
Ultimately, as has been discussed in the past, Smith hopes the FOP headquarters can do such things as rent out bicycles for use around the city. They may also get into renting equipment for use at the future Portsmouth skate park.
In addition to serving as FOP’s headquarters, the Second Street storefront also is home base for FOP’s nascent Portsmouth Ambassador program.
In the past, FOP leadership described the idea of the Ambassador program as pretty much what it sounds like: knowledgeable locals strolling downtown and Boneyfiddle helping visitors, guiding them to local attractions and welcoming them to the city. Naturally, Smith is on the hunt for Portsmouth Ambassadors, but also looking for volunteer help to run the headquarters gift shop. He did note he’s recruited a few folks for that task already.
Sought out by FOP for the assistant director’s position, Smith hopes and believes recruiting volunteers will prove to be one of his strengths. FOP actually is the third nonprofit for which he has worked. Among other duties, he previously wrangled volunteers for the Red Cross and prior to that the Appalachian Partnership for Economic Growth. He also spent many years working as a local sports coach, with the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Shawnee State University, along with several local high schools. Smith hopes that experience will help him bring in some younger age volunteers. And while he said FOP does need volunteers, and plenty of them, for the Ambassador program, the group also needs lots of volunteers in general.
Smith noted the recent River Days required a small army of volunteers, as did other FOP events such as Plant Portsmouth and Winterfest. However, in addition to volunteers, Smith readily admitted FOP events also cost a lot of money to put together. FOP had a big hand in this year’s River Days and will also play an important role in that festival moving forward. Those musical acts which appear on the riverbank every year don’t play for free, even though there is no cost to watch and listen.
“It takes a lot of money to do some of the things we do,” Smith said of FOP events in general.
With all that in mind, fundraising for FOP is high on Smith’s new agenda. Again, Smith filled that same function for both the local Red Cross and the Appalachian Partnership.
“This is right up my alley,” Smith said. “I have a whole lot of connections in town.”
There are plenty of rumors about the local Red Cross shutting down. That is not the case, according to what an American Red Cross spokesperson told the Daily Times last month. Smith’s wife Debbie was the director of the local Red Cross, but both decided it was time to move on. Bryan Smith said handling disaster relief was a 24/7 job and at 48 he wanted to look for something a little less demanding. But there also seems no doubt he has a genuine fondness for Portsmouth and is proud to be a part of the FOP.
“There’s so many things that are happening with this organization… And it’s all fun. Everyone connected with it is upbeat, very positive.”
If you are looking for clues as to future FOP events, Smith provided a few. He hinted at a newer larger Winterfest for 2019, but said it wasn’t his place to let the coming gifts out of the bag at this point.
As noted, FOP, including Smith, will have a hand in putting together future River Days. Although nothing is determined at this point, Smith talked about possibly having multiple venues for the already mentioned free concerts. Smith noted FOP and the River Days Committee, which actually runs River Days, plans a 2019 wrap up meeting sometime shortly.
If you don’t want to wait for the 2020 River Days or even this year’s Winterfest, FOP has announced what it’s calling Portsmouth’s Fall Festifall, Oct. 19-20 on Market Street. The first day’s event consists of the River Valley Craft Beer Fest & Chili Cook-Off, which Smith said is a nationally sanctioned event, meaning winners of the chili cook-off are eligible to participate in a national cook-off. He added the Portsmouth cook-off is the last local sanctioned event this year.
“Come out to taste some beer, judge the chili, listen to live music and let the kids play on the inflatables,” reads the FOP Facebook page description of the Oct. 19 happening.
Fall Festifall continues the following day with the return of Glocktoberfest, a free event sponsored by the Glockner family of auto dealerships and which last year featured the opening of the Glockner Museum.
“MORE great food, good beer, live music and entertainment for the kids,” reads the FOP announcement of the 2019 Glocktoberfest.
For more details on either event, or about how to volunteer for any FOP undertaking, go to the Friends of Portsmouth Facebook page.
Reach Tom Corrigan at (740) 370-0715. © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.