BEND AREA — Big Bend Beardsmen seems an unlikely name for a group of volunteers, but when you learn they are a newly formed group of facial hair enthusiasts that believe in coming together to improve their communities, the name fits perfectly.
Bringing their own skills and tools, they arrive at agreed sites and begin working. When asked about why and how they volunteer, their answer is “to make an impact in the Bend area, not a long commitment, we are just there to get things done.”
Their first project was landscaping work near the Bridge of Honor in Pomeroy, Ohio in August. This meant pulling weeds, weed eating grass and removing trash along the mural wall. Next, in preparation for the Sternwheel Festival, they tackled the Pomeroy levee along with volunteers from Pomeroy merchants and local government.
But they were only getting started — members installed the James Edwin Campbell historical marker just in time for the dedication on Campbell’s birthday in September of last year, and in October 2020, assisted Pomeroy Mayor Don Anderson, the Meigs County Farmer’s Market Board, and other volunteers in planting the Community Orchard.
Last November the group helped the Meigs County Museum with their move to their new location in Middleport, Ohio.
Perhaps their most adventurous endeavor was the National Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in February, when five members slid into the icy waters of the Ohio River. Their “plunge” raised $1,600 for Special Olympics, money that stayed in the community.
Most recently they helped with the construct of raised beds for the first Meigs County Community Garden.
“We strive to complete a service project in different Bend area communities each month, seven to eight months of the year,” Travis Drenner said. “Our community includes both sides of the Ohio River. Several of our first projects have been in Pomeroy, but we have officers and members on both sides of the river and we try to do things in all the Bend Area communities.”
That includes collecting food at each meeting for a homeless shelter in Point Pleasant, and competing in Beardsmen competitions for charity in five states. The group also did an online competition in Mason, W.Va. earlier this year.
“All the money we get from the competitions goes to charities,” Drenner said. “We are just happy to come home with a plaque or trophy if we win or place, which we have done on numerous occasions.”
Their original plan was to organize early in 2020, but they were prevented from meeting in person by the COVID-19 shutdown. Finally able to meet in May, they decided to call themselves the Big Bend Beardsmen. Drenner who had been reaching out to fellow enthusiasts, was named president. Scottie Riggs became vice president, Ricky Hysell, treasurer, Janson Underhill, secretary, and Rob Day, sergeant at arms.
Their meetings include discussions on beard grooming and maintenance, and planning sessions for ways to volunteer in the community.
Drenner said that since forming the group, “It’s been nothing but a ball, we really enjoy all our activities and doing things together. Most of us didn’t know each other before forming the group, so we have made new friends, including our secretary who had just moved to the area.”
He expressed how great it is to talk with other beard enthusiasts, and it’s important to them to change the perception of men with facial hair.
“Many people lump every man with a beard into one category, and that simply isn’t the case,” Drenner said. “We are a diverse group of regular guys who like beards, and believe in the importance of community service.”
The Beardsmen also includes women who are big fans of beards, and there are competitions for them as well.
According to Jess Reynolds, female members of the group are called Whiskerinas, and create beards that are either realistic, or creative.
“We have just as much fun as the men,” Reynolds said. “We love their beards, and enjoy creating our own. This group is very inclusive, and gives us an opportunity to volunteer alongside our significant others, it is really a family.”
The Beardsmen hope their example of volunteerism and camaraderie will inspire others to give back to their communities.
“We love the Big Bend Area,” Drenner said. “We have come together to help others in need and improve our communities, and hope others will do the same.”
Visitors are welcome when the Big Bend Beardsmen meet at the Cornerstone Barbershop and Outfitters in Mason, the third Saturday of each month. The newly formed group is able to bring together their enthusiasm for facial hair and their desire to give back to their communities and inspire others to volunteer, and maybe to grow a beard.
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Lorna Hart lives in Meigs County, Ohio and is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.