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Tampa shipping company collects and sends aid to Honduras

Those interested in donating to residents hit by two hurricanes may contact Cargo Honduras or drop off items at La Casa Catracha restaurant.
Cargo Honduras employee Manuel Andrade loads a shipping container at the company in Tampa, Tuesday, November 17, 2020, with relief items for the people of Honduras who were affected by Hurricane Eta. The company is collecting donated items and will send several containers to the area.
Cargo Honduras employee Manuel Andrade loads a shipping container at the company in Tampa, Tuesday, November 17, 2020, with relief items for the people of Honduras who were affected by Hurricane Eta. The company is collecting donated items and will send several containers to the area. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Nov. 19, 2020

Max Starkman and his father, Fredy, who together run a Tampa shipping company that sends large packages to Honduras, were having a meeting two weeks ago when they saw the news: The predicted track for Hurricane Eta was right over Nicaragua and Honduras.

The powerful storm left tens of thousands homeless in Honduras, and the country reported 74 deaths and nearly 57,000 people in shelters, according to the Associated Press.

“We decided that we were a shipping company, so let’s do some shipping,” Starkman said.

They let customers know that if they brought in donations, Cargo Honduras would deliver them for free.

Cargo Honduras employees have collected items that will be loaded on a shipping container at the company in Tampa, Tuesday, November 17, 2020, for the people of Honduras who were affected by Hurricane Eta. The company is collecting donated items and will send several containers to the area.
Cargo Honduras employees have collected items that will be loaded on a shipping container at the company in Tampa, Tuesday, November 17, 2020, for the people of Honduras who were affected by Hurricane Eta. The company is collecting donated items and will send several containers to the area. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]

Within a day, the company had half of its warehouse filled with food, bicycles and other items ready to be shipped abroad, where the company worked with churches and missionaries to distribute the goods, Starkman said.

In Kenner, Louisiana, Cargo Honduras' newest office partnered with a local Telemundo news station, which collected donations that the company later shipped. They’re also working with companies to distribute goods to Nicaragua.

Those interested in contributing have through Friday to contact Cargo Honduras, Starkman said. While Hurricane Iota also recently devastated the region, they are in conversations about how to keep donations moving overseas past the weekend.

Other local donation collection efforts also are underway. La Casa Catracha restaurant at 120 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa is collecting items during store hours to send abroad, said owner Brenda Coto. And on Saturday from 2-6 p.m., thanks to a collaboration with local artisan Denisa Reyes, the restaurant will have a container on site for larger items, such as mattresses.

“In Honduras, everything from spoons to bedding is needed now,” Reyes said.

Giving back to Honduras was a no-brainer for Starkman’s father, a Honduran. He has built up his shipping business since 2003 through connections he formed with the Honduran community in Tampa Bay.

The business caters to customers who send large boxes, weighing 200-300 pounds, directly to a relative’s home in Honduras for about $165. The company typically ships four, 45-foot containers each month.

The company experienced a downturn in March with coronavirus-related lockdowns, when the volume of requests was about half from the same time the year before, Starkman said. Later, they saw a jump after Honduras imposed its own strict lockdown.

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The company saw a 30 percent year-over-year increase in demand over the summer and early fall, as customers sought to send basic necessities to their loved ones, he added.

The holiday season already is a high-demand time for the company, and Starkman said it’s likely to continue that way this year.

“I do anticipate, in light of this hurricane and in light of COVID, that there will continue to be a lot of people that are interested in shipping things home, whether it’s just some Christmas gifts or those kinds of items,” he said.