Rusty Irick was moved by a story of survival in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey's devastation in Texas.
Irick, owner of Lil Zo's Carwash and Automotive Detailing at 2428 Russell St. in Orangeburg, said he could not sit idly by and not do something to help those whose lives had been turned upside down by the storm.
As a result, he collected five tons of drinking water for the Texas hurricane victims after posting a message on Facebook outlining his mission and calling for others to support it.
"I just had it on my heart to be of some sort of assistance. So I thought, 'How can we help?' I kind of figured the simplest way was to maybe just get people to contribute some water. So I put up a Facebook post asking people to help," Irick said.
What started with his initial purchase of 20 cases of water morphed into the donation of tons of water that his small office could no longer hold. Some of the water had to be stored at D&B Fried Fish and Barbecue, the restaurant next door to Irick's business.
"We got like five tons of water. I had to move it out of my office because we had so much water in here that the floor started separating. I just asked the neighbor guy to use his restaurant because we ran out of room," Irick said.
What really moved Irick was the story of a 3-year-old hurricane survivor who was found clinging to her mother's lifeless body in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
"That was touching. Her mother had drowned trying to save her daughter. So I just started reaching out to people. I just had a guy pull up on Tuesday with 80 cases of water," the businessman said.
He said he soon had to figure out how he was going to get the water transported to its destination. He was able to pair the donations he collected with another relief effort that was being spearheaded by the Columbia radio station Hot 103.9.
"A lady that was very instrumental in helping us generate the water came over and referred a name to us. I called the young lady, who is a radio personality for Hot 103.9. She said they had some things going on and that she would be able to get a truck here,” said Irick, noting that he was pleased he found a way to conveniently transport the massive amount of drinking water to where it was needed most.
"What started off to me as something so minute and miniscule became a gigantic deal,” he said.
He said as Hurricane Irma threatens to make its own potential path of destruction in the Southeast, helping others should be first and foremost on everyone's minds.
"I would say, 'Do something.' Doing nothing is not an option. I didn't go to an agency. I just felt like, 'OK, I'm a willing vessel. What can I do? What can I say? How can we help?' I knew two people personally who lost homes last year in the flood,” Irick said, referencing the October 2016 floods that devastated parts of Orangeburg.
“It could have been us; it still can be us," he said. "If we find ourselves in that predicament, we would definitely want an outpouring of help."