Timely Trump call may fuel Tangier resident's effort to send documentary to Congress

An online fundraiser started by a Tangier resident aims to bring the Chesapeake Bay island's plight to the attention of federal officials.

Anna E. Pruitt-Parks, a Tangier town council member, started a GoFundMe site Monday evening to raise money to purchase 550 copies of a 2014 documentary about the island — and to deliver them to each member of Congress, as well as to President Donald Trump, the vice president and other federal officials.

She initiated the fundraiser the same day Tangier Mayor James "Ooker" Eskridge received a telephone call from Trump after the president viewed a recent CNN news story about the island in which Eskridge expressed his admiration for the president.

MORE: President Trump chats on phone with Tangier mayor

About 87 percent of Tangier voters cast their ballots for Trump in the November 2016 election.

The fundraiser Pruitt-Parks started raised $1,895 of its $3,200 goal in a day, given by 40 donors.

By Wednesday morning the website had been shared nearly 600 times on Facebook.

"I was thrilled," Pruitt-Parks said.

Pocomoke, Maryland native Jenny Roberts created the documentary, Pieces of Tangier, in 2014 as her master’s thesis.

It  is the first long-form documentary made about Tangier’s erosion problem.

Pruitt-Parks decided to do the fundraiser after spending the weekend "really, really, really aggravated over how CNN twisted the story."

Pruitt-Parks’ idea is that the 435 members of the U. S. House of Representatives and the 100 U. S. Senators, along with other federal officials, should view the documentary, which details Tangier’s history and its problem with erosion.

Tangier is receiving unwonted national attention after CNN aired its story last week — and after news spread that Trump had placed a telephone call to Eskridge on Monday afternoon.

Many Tangier residents think the network “didn’t accurately tell our story,” according to the narrative on the gofundme site Pruitt-Parks created.

“We want to move on the momentum that we have and get the ‘real’ story out to the people that will decide our funding of future solutions, some of which could cost millions of dollars,” she went on to say.

The documentary tells the tale Tangier residents would like others to know about.

"She's done a phenomenal job — that tells our story," said Pruitt-Parks.

Plans for CNN to come to Tangier to do a story had been in the works for months, Pruitt-Parks said in an interview Wednesday.

"But I think that maybe they got in a bigger rush or that the story got twisted after they were a little miffed that the President pulled us out of the Paris accord," she said.

Within two days, media outlets were starting to tie news about the Paris climate accord decision to Tangier's erosion problem, she said.

Pruitt-Parks also spoke about the now-famous phone call, saying, "We don't think that the President is going to come in and just save us — we're not that stupid. We're pretty educated, and we don't expect him to. But he knows a lot of highfalutin people, a lot of people with connections — and he knows the people that can save us, and he can have one of his aides...contact them."

Pruitt-Parks said she and others on the island appreciate what Trump did in telephoning Eskridge.

"I thought it was very, very, very impressive....I thought it spoke a lot about him," she said.

She quoted something her husband said as they discussed the phone call Monday night.

"He said, 'At some point today, the President of the United States and his staff discussed our 450 people and our small community in the White House.' We got the eye of the president and the attention of the president."

The attention resulting from Trump's call could help Tangier make the case that it needs help from the government to save the community.

Tuesday alone, Mayor Eskridge got home from work to find he had 40 telephone calls from the media to return, Pruitt-Parks said.

"My hope is that they will tell the real story," she said.

As far as the documentary, Pruitt-Parks hopes members of Congress, or their staffers, will take time to view it to get a clear picture of what Tangier needs to survive.

She mentioned one promising development — an application for funding for a three-year study the Army Corps of Engineers wants to do about the possibility of using dredging spoils to build up the island, similar to the successful Poplar Island restoration project in Maryland.

"At the end of the day, if we approach this from a government standpoint and go to the government for any funds for projects, all that money has got to come through Congress," Pruitt-Parks said.

www.delmarvanow.com


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