ZEPHYRHILLS — After a fruitless weeklong search for wood to protect her windows, Tracy Drew made one last trip to the store Saturday before Hurricane Irma hit Florida.
"Back then, we thought Tampa was going to get a lot of the storm and maybe the eye of the hurricane. We had nothing to stop something from coming through our windows," Drew told the Tampa Bay Times.
They pulled in to find their local Home Depot closed but were surprised to discover a truck driver in the parking lot giving away plywood from the back of his flatbed.
The story made international news. Many online called the truck driver a hero and showed their support financially. Others took to Facebook to chastise his employer because of news reports that he had been fired.
Tim McCrory of Massachusetts said he arrived too late to drop the load off at the Home Depot so he gave it away as people arrived, desperate to board up their homes for Irma.
McCrory told 10News Tampa Bay he was raised to help people in need: "Being an American citizen, that's what we do."
He said the store didn't take delivery of the plywood when he pulled in during the weekend because he arrived too late, delayed by the seven hours he spent Friday getting a flat tire changed in South Carolina.
So he took a nap at the store, then learned that plywood was disappearing with the coming of the hurricane so he decided to start handing it out rather than letting it go unused.
Drew said she was able to get 13 sheets to cover her house.
Later, she read McCrory quoted in news accounts saying he had been fired for the act. She never wanted a handout, she said, so she went to work setting up a GoFundMe.com account in McCrory's name.
Once her electricity was restored, that is.
"It was a very unique scene Saturday morning," Drew said. "Knowing how he had helped us, I just felt like I had to do something to help him bridge financially."
With a goal of $2,000, the page had raised nearly more than $7,500 Friday afternoon. Drew was surprised and happy by the outpouring of support.
"It just goes to show you that when it really matters, people are willing to come together for the right cause."
McCrory told news organizations including 10News Tampa Bay he was fired for his kindness by transportation company Western Express. The company denied that, saying McCrory quit.
"We understand what was probably going through his mind during these extraordinary circumstances, which is why we did not fire him, and have no plans to do so," Western Express's CEO Paul Wieck wrote in a statement to the Times.
"Ideally, he would have let us know he was giving away the plywood, but we understand he was trying to do the right thing."
Wieck said he wants to offer McCrory his job back, but has been unable to reach him.
Western Express said the company and the Home Depot would be "writing off the cost of the plywood."
McCrory could not be reached immediately for comment.