Restaurants, charter captains provide hurricane relief

Hurricane supplies
Volunteers helped sort and organize the donated items later loaded onto trailers. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

CORTEZ – Last week the Swordfish Grill parking lot became the Cortez staging area for relief efforts to assist Texans impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

The management and employees of Ed Chiles’ Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key conducted a similar donation drive that filled the company’s box truck.

Hurricane planners
Local charter Captains Nate Weissman and John Leiter and restaurant manager Adam Sears spearheaded the Swordfish Grill’s hurricane relief efforts. – Joe Hendricks | Sun

Swordfish takes action

On Monday, Aug. 28, Swordfish Grill manager Adam Sears and local charter captains John Leiter and Nate Weissman discussed a relief effort that would include supplies and local boats being trailered to Texas.

“When Adam called, I said ‘Let’s do it.’ In a fishing village like this, people think about helping their neighbors and this is an extension of that,” General Manager Bob Slicker said.

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, Slicker posted a video on Facebook asking folks to bring supplies to the Swordfish Grill parking lot.

By 5 p.m., the staging area was nearly filled with donated water, food, clothing, diapers, baby supplies, children’s toys, disinfectant wipes, bug spray, dog food, cat food and kitty litter, mouthwash, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, flashlights, batteries, gas cans and more. Cash and gas cards were also donated to help with travel expenses, and to fuel the boats while in Texas.

“We’ve got lots of skilled captains and we’re going to show up and see what we can do,” Leiter said Tuesday afternoon.

He expected the Cortez caravan to include airboats, shallow water Go Devils and skiffs.

“You can drive an airboat right up to somebody’s house,” he said.

“Most of us are charter captains and we’re not running a lot of charters right now. This is better than sitting on the couch and watching the news,” Weissman said.

Before the first trailer was fully loaded, charter Capt. Phillip Watson arrived with a second trailer, on loan from the Bonefish Boatworks.

“We’re going to Texas. They need help and I’ve got some free time,” Watson said.

Later in the week, a third trailer was filled and sent to Texas, and a fourth trailer, on loan from Viking boats, was being filled for an anticipated departure on Monday.

John Cadmus from Cortez Watersports and Ryan Seybold also made the trip to Texas, with Sears providing logistical support from Cortez.

“John Cadmus posted video online of people he rescued. He’s getting people out of their homes, and then we have stuff to give them once they get out,” Slicker said on Friday.

“The outpouring has been wonderful; and Roque, from the Monkey Bus, said he’d like to take a busload of stuff in two weeks,” he added.

A second donation drive will take place in the Swordfish Grill parking lot on Saturday, Sept. 16 and Sunday, Sept. 17.

Community support

Bradenton Beach residents Nancy Kim and Steve Schewe were among the many residents from the Island who dropped off supplies Tuesday.

“We figured people would need something to sleep on so we brought sleeping bags, air mattresses, a hand pump to blow them up with, bug spray and citronella candles. I’m blessed and when something like this happens you have to give back,” Schewe said.

Bradenton Beach city employees Gail Garneau and Christine Watson also donated.

The Sun ownership and staff donated $400 worth of supplies and Holmes Beach resident David Zaccagnino contributed an additional $100 to the Sun’s donation.

Chiles Group donates

Last week, the Chiles Group sent notice to its 315 employees asking them to donate to the relief efforts. In two days, the employees donated enough supplies to fill the company truck. Chief Operating Officer Robert Baugh then drove the truck to a redistribution point near the Florida state line after supplementing the donated supplies with 30 cases of disposable diapers, trash bags and other items.

Chiles Group spokesperson Caryn Hodge’s sister lives in Houston, but was spared from the flooding and power outages.

“What they really need now are generators, grills, portable stoves and propane tanks because they have no way to cook. They also need cleaning supplies, trash bags, storage bins, diapers, adult diapers and new underwear,” Hodge said.