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As a photo goes viral, Coast EPA linemen are going to be on a charity calendar

Coast Electric Power Association linemen work to remove lines downed by trees in water during Hurricane Irma in Florida. When Coast EPA posted this photo, appreciation for the men made it go viral. The electric co-op had already planned to do a charity calendar featuring its linemen, and this photo has spurred more interest in a calendar.
Coast Electric Power Association linemen work to remove lines downed by trees in water during Hurricane Irma in Florida. When Coast EPA posted this photo, appreciation for the men made it go viral. The electric co-op had already planned to do a charity calendar featuring its linemen, and this photo has spurred more interest in a calendar. Courtesy Coast Electric Power Association

Some photogenic police officers in Gainesville, Florida, have been getting a lot of social media attention lately.

Move over, boys in blue. There are some lean linemen from the Mississippi Gulf Coast who are lining up to take your place.

A photo of four linemen from Coast Electric Power Association assisting in Florida’s recovery after Hurricane Irma has captured a lot of attention — and apparently fluttered a lot of hearts — after it was posted on Coast EPA’s Facebook page on Sept. 16.

Since then, it has gotten more than 8,200 likes and 15,392 shares. Among the 1,256 comments, many of which are simple thanks for their hard work, are “REAL Mississippi Men!!! Thank you for helping my family and friends,” “Oh my what a crew! Come fix my wiring!” “Hope someone always is keeping watch for the crocs!!” “Wowza! My linemen don’t look like that!” “Screw the hot cop challenge that’s going around I’d rather look at y’all!! I’ll knock my power out if y’all r coming to fix it” and several echoing “Wow! These guys should do a charity calendar!!”

Funny you say that. Because Coast Electric really is working on a calendar featuring the company’s linemen. In fact, the calendar was in the works even before Irma-threatened Florida.

“We started working on it a couple of weeks before the storm,” said April Lollar, Coast EPA director of communications. “We had already had several photo shoots for the calendar. Coast Electric always has a free calendar for our customers, but we had planned to do one with the linemen and sell it to benefit community service in the counties we serve. With all of these storms that have been happening, and after the response to this photo, we could see this is an opportunity to do something to help the storm victims.”

The photo shows the four men in water in a swampy-looking area. Lollar said the Coast EPA employees who were dispatched to Florida helped Clay Electric, a large electric co-op on the eastern side of Florida.

“They have about 170,000 members and at the height of the storm, 152,000 of them were without power,” she said. “Our guys just got back Wednesday. There were 29 of our guys there.”

Several people have asked why electric linemen were in the water. It really was work related, Lollar said.

“They were just working. They jumped in the water because trees had fallen down on top of lines and all of it was in the water,” she said. “They weren’t sure how deep it was, so for the first two who jumped in, it was over their heads. Someone said that, if you didn’t bring a change of clothes along, you might want to at least take off your shirt. Well, one of the guys hadn’t brought extra clothes, so he took his shirt off.”

The linemen also hadn’t planned to “pose,” she said.

“They were just there working and one of the guys who wasn’t in the water snapped the picture,” Lollar said. “We ask them to take pictures when they go out on a job so we can post them and let people know help is there, working to get their power restored. That’s what this picture was intended for. ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing.’ Then we started getting all these admiration comments! It’s been crazy. They’ve been having fun reading the comments, too.”

The calendar photos do feature Coast Electric’s linemen, but they’re dressed in their regular workclothes, Lollar said.

“We thought a lot of them would be bashful or shy and balk at doing it, but they were enthusiastic and saying ‘Sign me up’ and telling us what month they wanted to be,” she said.

Lollar said the calendars should be available within a month.

“The photos are all done, and we’re working on it now,” she said. “We’ll still have the free regular calendars for our customers, but the money we raise from the linemen calendar will go to storm recovery efforts. This calendar will be available at all our offices.”

The price likely will be between $10 and $15, she said, “and we’re likely to have some folks in Florida who want it, too.”

As for the photo that stirred the hearts of thousands, Lollar said she and others working on the project will have to check its resolution to see if it can be part of the calendar.

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