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WAREHOUSE PACKED WITH SANDY DONATIONS

Word has gotten out about a businessman's pledge to transport supplies to New York, and all of Florida is taking him up on it.

Gus Guadagnino waved his arms, gesturing to a packed warehouse.

"Lots of blankets, a lot of winter jackets, toaster ovens, diapers, microwave, dishware, chairs," the organizer of a collection of relief supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy said Friday.

Also delivered this week to Guadagnino's Joni Industries manufacturing plant in the Airport Industrial Park: TVs, a top-of-the-line stainless steel grill, coffee and end tables, cases of bottled water, books, boots, rugs, a vacuum cleaner, sheets, towels.

"A lot of these," Guadagnino noted, tapping a box of baby formula.

"It keeps coming in," he added, directing a woman who pulled her car up to the warehouse Friday morning and removed two big plastic bags of goods.

With friend Sal Messina, owner of Global Transport & Logistics, also in the industrial park, Guadagnino hatched the relief plan even as he was in the final days of his campaign for a seat on the Hernando County School Board. (He won his Nov. 6 race, by the way.)

Looking forward to being sworn in Tuesday, he remains focused on the aid drive.

"It's amazing where all this stuff is coming from," he said, mentioning Sarasota and Apollo Beach. He also was awaiting arrival of a truckload of donations from Tampa. What it contained and whether the donors had New York connections, Guadagnino didn't know.

"It's a little crazy," he said.

He fielded a call earlier this week from a woman who inquired if he needed a dining room suite. As Guadagnino answered in the affirmative, he asked the caller, "Where are you?"

When the caller told him Queens, N.Y., he chuckled: "So, I guess the word is getting out."

Global Transport is providing transportation - up to a semitrailer or two, if necessary. Destination: Staten Island, N.Y., still in great need, according to national news reports.

Guadagnino is working on the New York end with Where from Here?, a volunteer organization formed after 9/11.

"They'll get it to where it's all needed," he said.

Kinematics and Controls Corp. answered a call Guadagnino put out to other businesses in the industrial park, requesting packing boxes.

"All my employees, about 11 of us, are pitching in," Guadagnino said, intermittently stopping their work daily to pack and label boxes.

Collection ended Friday, with departure scheduled for Monday.

"Then we'll find out what's still needed," Guadagnino said.

If needs persist, he will oversee another drive.

Guadagnino said he would probably pay to fuel the truck himself, adding, "Gotta do what you gotta do."

Beth Gray can be contacted at graybethn@earthlink.net.

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