CHARLOTTE HARBOR - Surveying the damage two days after Hurricane Charley plowed through this southwest Florida town, Ed Walker met a man who had a simple request.
"Do you have a bag of ice you can spare?" he asked the charter boat captain.
Walker, who spends two months each summer guiding for tarpon at nearby Boca Grande Pass, handed the man whose house had been trashed two bags.
"I have never seen anybody thankful for a little ice," Walker said as he pulled away from the man's dock.
Then the man's wife stuck her head out an empty window frame and yelled: "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you!"
Things that we take for granted, such as ice, food and water, mean a lot when you have gone without them for a while.
The people who live on and around Charlotte Harbor moved there for a reason: the water. Nearly every house that Walker and I passed in the impact zone had a fishing boat in back.
Anglers are a funny breed. They can be competitive and secretive, but when one gets in trouble, most are usually willing to lend a hand.
That's why I wasn't surprised to get a call from the Rod Squad's Corbin Kitzinger.
"A bunch of us are getting together and taking a load of ice down," said Kitzinger, who found out about the relief effort through the Florida Sportsman Web site. "We are going to do whatever we can to help."
A caravan organized by JoAnn Strinka, Tommy Ziesmann, Miles Manno, Phillip Tyler and Lisa Tait along with members of the Old Salts Fishing Club left St. Petersburg Aug. 22.
Speedling Industries of Sun City donated 24 insulated boxes capable of holding 250 pounds of ice each along with 60 insulated boxes in the 50- to 60-quart range.
Lifelike Products of Largo donated 2,700 5-gallon coolers. Tom Bates and John Edmonds of the Bayside Community Church in Safety Harbor filled a Ford Excursion full of clothes and food.
Northside Fish House in Tarpon Springs, Tom McKelvey of ICE in Largo, Madeira Beach Seafood, Hubbards Marina, Nachman's Seafood, Double O Seafood and Triangle Seafood donated ice.
The Aylesworth Bait Company of St. Petersburg provided freezer trucks to haul the ice and warehouse space to store donated goods.
West Marine also donated 100 ice chests. Goodyear, with Strinka's help, acted as a dropoff point for donations.
"We plan to go down there again," said Tait, whose husband, Ben Otto, is a North Pinellas fishing guide.
"We will keep going down as long as people need our help."
"Right now we are looking for cash donations to help in the rebuilding ... plywood, 2 by 4s ... " Manno said. "We are looking for tools for tree removal ... chain saws and cranes ... to make homes habitable again."
Manno said they are also looking for strong backs and skilled hands to help with the rebuilding.
"We can use all the help we can get," he said. "We will be going back there again (today) to distribute what we collected this week and do a little fact finding to see what they need for next time."
Any questions regarding donations please call Tait at (727) 804-2166, Manno at (813) 293-5554 or Strinka at (727) 385-5269.