Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa man helping Iowans recover, rehab from flood

Amilkar Capo left his Gandy area home and headed northwest. For days, TV reports had shown families whose houses floated away in torrential Midwest floods.

"Mel," as his friends call him, raised his hand to go for Construct Corps, the Tampa skilled trade staffing company where he is vice president of sales. In years past, he had gone to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and Key West after Rita.

He hopped a flight with three or four days' worth of clothes stuffed in a carry-on. The plan was to set up an operation in Cedar Rapids, hiring locals for contractors that do rehab work.

That was sometime in late June — Mel's not really sure of the date because things tend to run together now. "When I got here, I found out they were really in need of us," he said this week over the crackling of his cell phone.

Businesses and livelihoods had drifted away with floodwaters. Yet, families still had bills to pay. Proud fathers and mothers were forced to depend on help from FEMA, religious organizations and do-gooders with handouts.

Construct Corps decided to stay longer and Mel and Dave Gurney, the company's recruiting manager, were in for the long haul. They have about 180 consistent locals on payroll for temporary trade jobs. Mel isn't sure when he'll come back home.

He bought some jeans and other essentials at a Wal-Mart. His mom and dad later joined them, helping set up a homesite in an RV where all four live. The parents cook meals and make sure Mel and Dave have clean clothes after 18-hour days that begin at 5 a.m. Into the evening,

the two men interview prospective hires and check workers' conditions at work sites.

They aren't exactly unique. Many companies set up shop in disaster areas where work opportunities are plentiful.

Despite getting bonus pay, Mel said, "It's very tough, it's very draining."

Plus, he misses his girlfriend, his English bulldog and the Florida sunshine. In Cedar Rapids, he can wake up to 50-degree weather that rises throughout the day to 100 degrees. Conditions vary from sunny to thundering to windstorm, he said. He can only imagine taking his boat out to Egmont Key.

Cedar Rapids is beginning to take shape again, but there's still work to be done. Workers are pressure washing sidewalks, clearing basements, tearing out drywall and ripping up soggy carpet at schools, libraries and banks. Everything that was underwater has to be sorted and inventoried, Mel said.

It's hard to describe all that's going on, he said. "This is something that you have to be on the ground to really experience."

Mel said he volunteered for the assignment and stays by choice. "I guess it's just the rush of being out here and helping out."

He draws inspiration from helpers back home in the office and from those he helps.

Take the extended family whose home was nothing more than a memory. They crammed into a 17-foot trailer next to Mel's RV. It was a married couple, a few other adults and a couple of small kids. They had nothing, no place "back home" like him.

Yet, Mel said, they were in good spirits.

Tampa man helping Iowans recover, rehab from flood 07/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 7:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 7 creepy podcasts to get you in the Halloween spirit

    Blogs

    Halloween is all about scary stories. The holiday itself is based on a compilation of creepy tales from history going back thousands of years.

    Television network AMC recently debuted an immersive new podcast, Deadly Manners.
  2. Police: Before a shot was fired after Spencer's UF speech, men gave Nazi salutes and chanted about Hitler

    Crime

    Gainesville police have arrested three men they say are responsible for the shooting after Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida on Thursday.

    Texas men Tyler Tenbrink, 28; William Henry Fears, 30; and Colton Gene Fears, 28 all face attempted homicide charges for a shooting following Richard Spencer's speech at the University of Florida. (Gainesville police)
  3. Koetter: QB Jameis Winston will start Sunday vs. Bills

    Blogs

    After five days of uncertainty, Jameis Winston will be starting at quarterback on Sunday as the Bucs play at Buffalo, coach Dirk Koetter announced Friday afternoon.

    Bucs QB Jameis Winston, shown against the Patriots two weeks ago, will start Sunday at Buffalo after being sidelined with a shoulder injury last week. Dirk Koetter announced that he was starting after watching him throw at practice Friday.
  4. Florida's 'Turtle God' is ailing. What happens to his remarkable collection of specimens?

    Wildlife

    OVIEDO — In a small town about five miles from the University of Central Florida there stands a two-story yellow house built in the 1920s. A modest sign mounted on the wall next to the front door says, "Chelonian Research Institute."

    The main room at the Chelonian Institute in Oviedo Florida. - Peter Pritchard sounds British but he's lived in Florida for five decades, running the Chelonian Institute in Oviedo Florida, which holds the world's largest collection of turtle specimens (some of them bones or shells, some of them live turtles or tortoises). Time magazine has declared him a hero of the planet and other turtle experts say he is to turtles what Dian Fossey was to gorillas. He's been instrumental in helping other species, too, including the Florida panther. He has traveled the world studying turtles.
  5. Photos: Maroon 5's PJ Morton slides into Tampa for an electric set at Crowbar

    Blogs

    While the rest of Tampa was off partying with Bruno Mars at Amalie Arena, a much smaller group of fans were getting down with Maroon 5 at Crowbar.

    PJ Morton performed at Crowbar in Tampa on Oct. 19, 2017.