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Big day in Portal
Christmas parade, fundraiser, special grill set for Dec. 5
Tendai Haggins
Tendai Haggins, right, and his wife Jan show off the new grill given to him by the Portal community for his dedication to service.

Never mind a mundane holiday kick-off. The town of Portal is planning to fill a day of celebration with fun and fundraising before ending with a Christmas parade and tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 5.

A unique spin is that one of the cooks for the fundraiser — Tendai Haggins — will not only be parade grand marshal, but he will be using a new grill received as a gift of gratitude from the community for years of giving to others. Haggins is known for helping with countless other fundraising events.

Two Portal residents facing serious medical issues will benefit from a small carnival and fundraiser that morning, said organizer Brandi Lane Donaldson. Local art teacher Autumn West Horton was diagnosed recently with ovarian cancer, and Royce Cartee has undergone extensive colon surgery.

The day — Dec. 5 — will begin at 10 a.m. at the E.C. Carter Turpentine Still site in the heart of Portal. There will be food, music, bouncy houses, face painting,  inflatable slides, a cake walk and barbecue plates for sale, Donaldson said. 

Plates will be $8 and Boston butts will be $25. Tickets for the butts are available by calling Donaldson at (912) 687-2658.

Cartee "has had a lot going on medically since March," Donaldson said. His wife has been unable to work because she must care for him and their small son. Cartee just completed one surgery and expects another soon, she said.

Horton, "one of my long-time best friends … just found out she has ovarian cancer," Donaldson said. She also faces upcoming surgery.

Taking care of others

One of the men who will be cooking for the fundraiser is Haggins, a Portal Middle/High School coach who has a long history of helping others.

Haggins was on the receiving end of community compassion a few years ago when he suffered a serious illness. He is known as someone who always volunteers every time someone in the community needs help, Donaldson said. 

He will be cooking barbecue for the fundraiser on a brand new grill that was a recent gift from Portal residents.

"I was cooking (for a family who suffered a recent loss) and was joking about my raggedy grill, the 'Big Ugly," he said, adding that his old grill had a lot of mileage. 

Haggins was stunned a short time later when the town raised $5,000 for a new grill. 

"They also gave me a plaque naming me 'Man of the Decade,'" he said.

He was so touched by the gesture, he was speechless. 

"I want to keep giving back to this community that I love so much," he said.

He is also being honored as the grand marshal of the 4th annual Portal Christmas Parade the evening of Dec. 5, said parade chairperson Delina Woods.

Participants will line up across from Portal Middle/High School on Old Portal Road at 5 p.m., with the parade stepping out at 5:30 p.m., she said.

Afterward, "we will have the tree lighting at Portal City Hall, with hot chocolate and cookies."

The public is invited, Woods said.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414. 

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