Phil’d with a yearning to help others
from Australia, and a lady named Phyl Campbell from Schoolcraft, Mich., have a service project scheduled to rehabilitate a trail that has collapsed and is covered with brush and trees by the tornado that struck five years earlier.
Though the namesakes hadn’t met yet, they coordinate and stay in contact via social media and email. “Going to Phil [Campbell, Ala.] will be like a reunion, not a first meeting,” said Campbell.
One might only imagine how awkward the introductions will be. “Hi, Phil, I’m Phil.” Not so, according to organizer Phil Campbell of Brooklyn, N.Y. To avoid confusion, each Phil Camp- bell is referred to by his or her town first then followed by first name. So, he is Brooklyn Phil and the local is Chesapeake Beach Phil.
Brooklyn Phil said he started a convention of the Phil Campbells back in 1995 after learning there was a town with his name. The original convention was well-attended by 22 men named Phil Campbell and one woman named Phyllis Campbell.
Brooklyn Phil has organized the return of the Phils in ‘96, ‘97, 2011 and 2016. The group even has its own website, ImWithPhil.com, used to raise awareness and profile the numerous Phil Campbells who participate.
“Our gathering of Phils kind of inspired their efforts to have a town festival,” shared Brooklyn Phil, referring to the town’s annual Phil Campbell HoeDown, which has coincided with the Phils’ convention since 1996.
The convention turned into a humanitarian effort after the tornado hit just six weeks prior to a planned gathering. At the suggestion of Phil Campbell from Nottingham, U.K., Brooklyn Phil used this as an opportunity to help the town, not cancel their event.
“We’ve done quite a lot with the town ... from group fundraising efforts for Habitat for Humanity to individual works such as buying Christmas gifts for needy kids selected by someone in town,” said Brooklyn Phil.
In addition, the greater group of Phils participated in a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a documentary film titled “I’m with Phil,” which details the group’s continuing effort to help the town recover. Chesapeake Beach Phil said the group raised $20,000 through the online crowdfunding platform.
Chesapeake Beach Phil had planned to attend the 2011 event, after connecting with Brooklyn Phil on Facebook. However, he could not because shortly before the scheduled gathering, he and his family moved to Chesapeake Beach from Athens, Greece, and they all became sick from the long journey.
The service-minded Chesapeake Beach Phil said he is really looking forward to attending the post tornado five-year anniversary gathering and pitching in this year in aiding the town.
“This is a punctuation on my career,” said Chesapeake Beach Phil, who retired from the Navy on May 25 after 22 years of service. “I look forward to servicing the citizens of Phil Campbell, [Ala.].”
To get there, he will have to fly into Birmingham, Ala., get a rental car and drive one hour and 40 minutes to Russellville, Ala., because Phil Campbell, Ala., does not have a hotel. Then he will drive another 20 minutes to the gathering. For Chesapeake Beach Phil, the journey to fellowship with 15 new friends and assist the inhabitants at 34°21°05°N, 87°42°27°W, will be well worth the trip.
Phil Campbell, a.k.a. “Chesapeake Beach Phil,” working in the Prince Frederick Rotary Food Trailer. Recently retired from the U.S. Navy, Campbell will travel to Phil Campbell, Ala., in June to assist the town in recovering from a tornado that hit five years ago. He will be joined by others also named Phil Campbell.