Kevin Pyles had never patronized Heavy Seas Beer’s tap room in Halethorpe, but he knew he had to be there Thursday night after seeing on Facebook that there would be a fundraiser to help victims of the devastating May 27 flood in Ellicott City.
The Columbia man wanted to be there to honor his friend, Staff Sgt. Eddison Hermond Jr., a Maryland National Guardsman who was celebrating at an Ellicott City restaurant when a torrential rainfall sent a river of water through the center of the mill town and a woman cried out for help. Hermond ran to help her. He saved the woman, but he was swept away in the raging floodwaters.
Hermond’s body was found in the Patapsco River two days later, the sole fatality from this year’s storm, which also flooded areas of Catonsville and Oella.
Earlier on Thursday, Pyles, a programmer at UMBC’s Hilltop Institute, had tearfully watched a broadcast of Hermond’s funeral online. The two met while working at Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia years ago.
Hermond’s death, Pyles said, “hit home.” So showing up for the fundraiser at Heavy Seas was “an easy decision,” Pyles told a reporter. Pyles wore a homemade button that featured a photo of a smiling Hermond.
Heavy Seas Beer, a regional brand based in Halethorpe, hosted the free-to-enter fundraiser at its tap room from 3 p.m.-10 p.m. By 6 p.m., a large “LOT FULL” sign was sitting outside the tap room’s parking lot as hundreds of people flocked to the grounds, listening to live music, sipping beer and patronizing two food trucks.
Fifty percent of the beer revenue, totaling about $4,000, will be donated to the Ellicott City Partnership, an organization dedicated to preserving the heritage and vitality of historical Ellicott City while promoting and creating economic growth In 2016, the organization disbursed $1.85 million to businesses in the historic district to help with flood recovery efforts.
Amanda Zivkovic, associate brand manager at Heavy Seas, stressed that the $4,000 figure was only a rough estimate.
Hosting the fundraiser was as Heavy Seas brand Manager Tristan Gilbert said, “a no-brainer.” He said the company has a lot of employees who either live or have lived in Ellicott City. Gilbert said the the company did a similar fundraiser two years ago, when Ellicott City flooded in July 2016, and raised around $5,000.
Zivkovic and Gilbert both said the turnout for the fundraiser on June 7 was well above what the tap room would normally see on a Thursday evening. Gilbert had said at the start that the turnout would be “bananas.”
Zivkovic estimated that somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 people visited over the course of the evening.
For the company and employees donating a half a night’s proceeds is about “doing right by the community that supports us,” Gilbert said.
“This is our home. We can’t sit by and not help,” Zivkovic said. “That’s not us.”
Chris Greco, owner of Collective Grounds, a sound and event company, donated his services to the fundraiser, too. He said the damage in Ellicott City “hits close to my heart.”
“It just got washed away, you know? It was the least I could do, produce sound for this,” Greco said.
Normally, working an event like the one at Heavy Seas is something for which he’d charge between $300-$500, Greco said.
Greco said he has a friendly relationship with a lot of the businesses in Ellicott City, which is part of why he wanted to help out.
Heavy Seas has raised money for other causes. In January, the company held a fundraiser to help residents of an apartment complex in Anne Arundel County that was badly damaged.
In April, a fundraising event called “Pups & Pints” netted around $6,000 for the Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter — Heavy Seas donated the proceeds from ticket sales and $1 from each pint sold. On International Women’s Day, in March, the company donated about $105 to House of Ruth Maryland, a nonprofit women and children’s shelter and resource center.
“A lot of tap room events are geared toward giving back,” Zivkovic said. “It’s not just moving us forward, it’s moving others with us. It’s ingrained in everything we do here.”