Moved by a stranger's story, Frederick woman helps Hurricane Harvey victim track down precious coffee cups

When a Frederick woman sent three coffee cups to a stranger to replace those lost to Hurricane Harvey, her kind act resonated with a nation eager to offer solace to the storm's victims.

Ann Dahms, a 67-year-old technical writer, managed to pull off the near-impossible by restoring a precious memento that Shirley Hines had thought was lost forever — and the Marylander's phone has barely stopped ringing since the story was published Monday in the New York Times.


"There's news about dreadful things happening in the world every day," Dahms said. "But, there's almost always something someone can do to help. Who can't buy a cup?"

Dahms wanted to reach out to Hines after reading New York Times reporter Manny Fernandez' Sept. 5 article in which he interviewed Texas residents about the items they'd salvaged from the massive storm.

Hines, Fernandez reported, had to fight back tears as she examined the six damaged Fitz & Floyd cups striped with red and gold that had been given to her by her late mother. In the past, when Hines had been feeling down, she'd drink coffee from the set and feel as though she was absorbing some of her mother's strength along with the warm brew. Now, even that tiny comfort was denied her.

But Hines was attempting to focus on her good fortune instead of on her sadness. "So many people lost their lives and I didn't," Hines told Fernandez. "So I know I'm blessed."

Dahms was moved by Hines' determination and resilience.

"She was standing in front of the rubble that was her home," Dahms said. "The pile was vast. She was waiting for somebody to haul it away. She looked like a woman who had lost so much and had probably seen difficulties in her life, but she had so much dignity. I just knew I had to replace the cups. She really did not need at this very stressful time in her life to have to deal with one more loss."

Luckily, the article had included a photograph of the damaged ceramics. Over the next three hours, Dahm contacted Fitz & Floyd. A representative researched the pattern, only to discover that the cups hadn't been manufactured since 1979.

But, the Fitz & Floyd representative also wanted to help. She tracked down a site on eBay that had three of the cups for sale, and Dahms bought the set and had them shipped to Fernandez' office. Fernandez delivered Dahms' gift to Hines on Sunday, and then wrote a follow-up article about the experience.

Since then, the local NBC station requested an interview with Dahms. So did the Baltimore Sun. EBay is preparing a video. The cups' manufacturer is planning to send more dishes to Hines. The article has been shared thousands of times and hundreds of people have posted comments online.

"One thing that Shirley Hines has taught me is that we really do live in a community," Dahms said.

"Sometimes the bounds extend farther than we can imagine. I honestly think most people are eager to find opportunities to help, small little services they can perform."

Seasons, a kosher market in Pikesville, collects items for victims of Hurricane Harvey to truck down to Houston. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun video)