A donation wasn't quite enough, so a St. Petersburg man rounds up 340,000 bottles of water and trucks it to the hurricane victims.
By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
Published September 3, 2005
Sean Scott couldn't look at the images of devastation coming out of the Gulf Coast anymore, so like thousands of others in the Tampa Bay area, he decided to do something.
Only in his case, it was on a grand scale.
Between Wednesday afternoon and Friday morning, the 40-year-old St. Petersburg lawyer rounded up 340,000 bottles of water to take to victims of Hurricane Katrina. He also found three semitrailer trucks and drivers willing to haul the load. In the meantime, he contacted relief and emergency operations officials to let them know he was coming and to get instructions on where to go.
"I just went out and started looking," he said before leaving Friday afternoon. "It's wonderful to give money, but I was compelled to do something more."
He wasn't alone. Throughout the Tampa Bay area, residents offered their homes to those displaced by the storm, and religious, business and professional organizations offered prayers, money and services.
To many, writing a check didn't seem like quite enough.
Donna Smith of St. Petersburg lost her job recently. But Friday morning, the 61-year-old single mother was busy trying to coordinate efforts to charter a bus to take 30 people out of New Orleans.
She was calling churches, charities and local government officials.
"So far I'm a committee of one," she said. "I can't throw money at it. But if we can get somebody to donate a bus, pick out 30 people and place them with host families for one month to six weeks, maybe we give these people a chance to take a deep breath and figure out where to go next."
She asked that her e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) be published, and said she was willing to take two people in her home. Her house isn't big, she said. "But I can handle it.
"I just need someone to help me coordinate it. I'm old and tired and certainly can't do it on my own."
Scott was having more luck. Through business contacts, a network of friends and his Web site (virtuallawoffice.com/getgoin.html
), he found a truck owner who donated his rig. Then Roadmaster driving school in Tampa called to donate two more.
So far, Scott has collected more than $14,000 to buy the water. Most of the donations came from the Tampa Bay area, but some were from as far away as Great Britain and Malaysia.
The trucks were scheduled to leave Tampa on Friday afternoon, pick up the water in Lake City on Friday night, and then head west for the Stennis Space Center on the Mississippi-Louisiana border.
Scott will go with them, something that makes his wife uncomfortable. But relief officials assured him he'll have security going in and out.
"I don't have to do this," he said. "I absolutely must."
When they've dropped off the water, Scott said, they'll come back and try to do it again.
Jane Augram, a 68-year-old cancer survivor, also felt the need to do more. She lives with two cats and two dogs in a two-bedroom house north of Tampa. But she's willing to share it with up to three storm victims.
"I didn't notice anybody knocking themselves out to help up there in Louisiana," she said. "So I offered."
A retired University of South Florida computer operations supervisor, Augram said her house withstood hurricanes Donna and Elaina. But they were small compared to Katrina, she said, and she was thankful she was spared.
"The next time," she said, "it may be me."
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