TH Port-A-Johns Focuses on Customer Service and Mission Work

There are at least two things the close-knit Hugill family of Mahaffey, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, share: their commitment to their customers and a similar commitment and devotion to the missionary work that builds churches and schools and brings medical care, food and other assistance to poor communities around the globe.

In fact, the family businesses and the family’s church and mission work are interwoven. Talk to Tony Hugill, who owns TH Port-A-Johns, about his company, and inevitably his experiences in the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Japan—and, most recently, Haiti—find a place in the conversation.

Tony shares, “I was off on my third mission in Haiti when my dad, Ed, and brother, Matt, set up the first port-a-john” for his new company. That was in 2007. In the few short years since then, TH Port-A-Johns has grown from fifteen units to 300 or more, with restroom trailers, hand-washing stations and sanitizer stands. TH provides mobile personal sanitation equipment for projects within a 100-mile radius of Mahaffey, in central Pennsylvania.

“I want to be able to supply the services that my customers need and take care of you the best I can,” Tony explains, “so I won’t go any farther [than that radius].”

The family’s work and service ethic
Tony worked for years for Hugill Sanitation, the trash company that was established by his grandfather some six decades back and is now owned by his father and his uncle, Bill. Matt Hugill’s trucking company hauls coal.

“We’re all little entrepreneurs,” Tony says. “But we’re all involved in the mission work, too.”

Not surprising, when you learn that Tony and Matt’s grandfather was pastor at Calvary Chapel Church and Campgrounds for the Mount Calvary Evangelistic Association in Mahaffey. For his mission efforts in Haiti, Tony connected with a pastor he knows in New York and with Miller’s Evangelistic Association in Smethport, Pennsylvania.

Tony explains his continuing commitment to his missionary work: “The hardest time I ever had was when I started this business on my own. The fuel prices went really high, but my dad and granddad helped me. I got to the point where I was really putting my heart into my business, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But once I got involved in the mission work, [my business] just took off—my dad’s and mine; it’s doubled in the last few years.
“I’ve been fortunate. We had a big boom in our area with the gas drilling, and now I’m busier in the winter than the summer.”

But what about Haiti?
“In any ordinary trip, when we go down, we might have a Haitian building crew building schools, or send the preachers to a school in the Dominican Republic to learn to teach the children. We have funds and a budget, and we buy seed, megaphones for churches, musical instruments. And, we reach out to the Haitians and help them reach out to each other so they don’t rely on us [exclusively]. We build maybe six or seven houses and one or two churches a year.”

But when the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck on January 12—its epicenter just ten miles west of Port-au-Prince with its two million inhabitants—no “ordinary” measures would suffice to grapple with the catastrophe to this unbelievably impoverished nation.

“After the quake, our church in Port-au-Prince actually stood,” Tony says. “We hired a doctor and ran a free hospital out of our church. We feed up to sixty a day with our budget, and we’re trying to open an orphanage now. We build outhouses—it doesn’t sound like a whole lot, but they don’t have any sanitary facilities; [they didn’t] even before the earthquake.

“If I had the money, I would [bring] port-a-johns to Haiti—I wouldn’t make anything, just give back. I’ve been to the Dominican Republic, Philippines and Japan, but there’s nothing like Haiti. This is why I started my business. My heart goes out to those people.”

Tony’s ready to go back, where he and others like him are sorely needed, to provide succor and hope. He recalls a scene amid the tent cities of homeless survivors: knots of survivors and relief workers gathered for church services. And he knows that’s where he’s meant to be.


TH Port-A-Johns is at 358 Front Street, Mahaffey, PA 15757. Phone: 814.592.8719.



Story by Anne Biggs


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