1. Clearwater

After an alligator crashed through her window, community members are helping the 'gator lady' rebuild

Mary Wischhusen, a Clearwater resident, poses for a portrait in her kitchen on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 in Clearwater. An alligator broke through the window behind Wischhusen in May, causing damages to the walls, refrigerator and window. The alligator also bit a piece out of the chair on the right and broke several wine bottles. ALLIE GOULDING | Times
Published Jul. 25

CLEARWATER — Mary Wischhusen wasn't bothered when an 11-foot alligator crashed through her window.

She figured the damage the gator caused could be fixed. Then her insurance, Florida Peninsula, denied the claims. It cited state law, which says condominium associations are responsible for covering drywall and sliding doors.

Instead, community members jumped to help Wischhusen, 77. Since the news that she'd have to pay for new windows out-of-pocket spread, the Clearwater woman heard from four different companies offering to help install windows for free or a reduced price.

"It's been a very good response from the community," she said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: First an alligator came crashing through her window. Now what?

She also got to see a familiar face — Brad Allen, one of the Clearwater Police Department officers who responded to her house during the initial gator break-in.

Early May 31, the gator came through her kitchen window and thrashed around, destroying glass cabinets and putting holes in the drywall. It also dented her refrigerator and smashed multiple bottles of wine. Wischhusen lives in a house between two golf courses and a retention pond southwest of the McMullen-Booth and Curlew roads intersection where she said she had seen alligators before.

Police officers and a trapper took the alligator out of the house alive.

Allen said that when he responded to the call that morning, he thought Wischhusen was funny. He went to her house last weekend and explained that he wanted to set up a GoFundMe to help her. Wischhusen didn't know what a GoFundMe was, but agreed.

The page met the goal of $1,500, with 38 donations.

"I just thought it was the right thing to do and I definitely thank everybody who's already donated," Allen said.

Peter Vetere, vice president of Home Performance Alliance, was one of multiple people offering to donate windows. Vetere's company estimated the window to cost about $4,750, which he said they would install for free. After speaking with Wischhusen, he learned both are parishioners at Espiritu Santo Catholic Church and felt even more inclined to help.

"It makes you feel a little bit more special," Vetere said.

Wischhusen said she will go over all the contracts given to her with her lawyer, who is also her friend of 40 years, and decide what the best offer is.

Though she appreciates the generosity, Wischhusen said the issue should have been dealt with by the condominium association long ago.

"It's a shame we had to ask the community to come and help when somebody should have taken care of it in the first place," she said.


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