Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Outpouring of support and aid leaves Alafia flood victims surprised, emotional

VALRICO — When the floodwaters came at 3 a.m. Tuesday, high ground for Amber Horton was the Shell gas station on Lithia Pinecrest Road.

After escaping through waist-high water, she waited out the night lying on a concrete floor with some of her neighbors. Others slept in the carwash.

She was back at the gas station Wednesday, but this time bacon and eggs were sizzling on a huge outdoor grill, and cases of water, bagels and cans of food were stacked on folding tables.

Shocked at the devastating flooding that has left dozens of residents with virtually uninhabitable homes, volunteers and local groups have turned the gas station at the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest and Rose Street into a staging area for a community-led relief effort.

The scene is akin to a mini-FEMA operation. Along one side, a line of tables is stacked with free food, water, soda and coolers. Around the rear of the gas station are piles of donated clothing. Trucks stacked with donations from food pantries are parked nearby to refill supplies.

Throughout the day, people who are still without power were ferried to CrossFit for Glory, a Fishhawk Ranch gym that had agreed to open its doors so people could get their first shower in days using donated towels, shampoo and soap.

A spaghetti dinner was planned for Wednesday evening with 100 hungry people expected.

The outpouring of support from affluent planned neighborhoods like Fishhawk Ranch has shocked and surprised residents of the flood-prone area around the Alafia River, who are used to relying only on one another.

"We feel so much better," said Horton, 34, who had just showered for the first time since her trailer was flooded. "It was hellish to see people you've grown up with sleeping on concrete and all huddled up together."

Much of the operation was put together by Seeds of Hope, a Lithia nonprofit run by volunteers. Some flood victims teared up as they tried to express their gratitude for the unexpected aid.

"These people are used to looking after themselves and each other," said Leda Eaton, Seeds of Hope president. "They have never had other people look them in the eye, tell them that they are sorry and ask how can we help."

Manna on Wheels, a Dover-based food ministry, has also been supplying food and other necessities. Many helping out are high school students, who don't return to school until Monday.

Newsome High School senior Maddie McAneny was on food duty, giving out supplies and unloading them from trucks.

"It's been great how the community has come together and donated so much," she said.

Many donations are from Seeds of Hope's food bank at the Presbyterian Church of Bloomingdale, on Bloomingdale Avenue.

On Wednesday, volunteers sorted through cans of green beans, tuna and soup to see what can be sent to Lithia. The church may move its Sunday service outdoors to accommodate the effort, said Jennefier Patterson, the food bank director.

"This started out with two or three people and turned into a full relief effort," Patterson said.

For Wednesday night, Eaton is planning to provide tents for residents still unable to return home. She is looking for someone to provide a portable toilet.

She is aware, however, that the toughest days may still be ahead for flood victims whose homes may need rebuilding.

Amy Malcom visited the aid site Wednesday. The RV that the 45-year-old lives in with her boyfriend and two sons is water-damaged. A tarp is the only thing keeping one wall intact, she said.

Her family stayed Tuesday night in a friend's room but they need a long-term solution.

"I don't know what to do,'' she said."

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at codonnell@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times.

Outpouring of support and aid leaves Alafia flood victims surprised, emotional 09/13/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 10:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 102-year-old Holocaust survivor reunites with newly discovered nephew

    World

    KFAR SABA, Israel — Eliahu Pietruszka shuffled his 102-year-old body through the lobby of his retirement home toward a stranger and collapsed into him in a teary embrace. Then he kissed both cheeks of his visitor and in a frail, squeaky voice began blurting out greetings in Russian, a language he hadn't spoken in …

    Eliahu Pietruszka, right, embraces nephew Alexandre Pietruszka as they meet for the first time in Kfar Saba, Israel.
  2. As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

    National

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move that would fundamentally reshape the effort in the Senate.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the “biggest mistake” in the Senate plan was including the individual mandate repeal.
  3. Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

    Local

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan has successfully lobbied his fellow commissioners to petition the Florida Commission on Ethics to rule on whether the county should be reimbursed for legal expenses related to an unsuccessful ethics complaint against Hagan. DIRK SHADD   |   Times  
  4. Figures from FSU case enter latest allegation against Jameis Winston

    Bucs

    MIAMI GARDENS — The case of Jameis Winston and a female Uber driver in Arizona took more twists Sunday, with Winston getting some level of corroboration, and his unnamed accuser retaining a familiar, high-profile attorney.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston gives words of encouragement to teammates during the first half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama's Roy Moore

    Elections

    BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama's Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn't fit the evangelical mold.