$370,000 for storm victims is raised at city's NFL game Fans, owners' groups, others give generously


Mark Pizzi said he was standing between a concession stand and entry ramp in the upper deck of Memorial Stadium, holding a plastic Red Cross bucket for Hurricane Andrew disaster relief, when "a little girl standing in line for popcorn" donated her money to the cause.

"She turned around and looked at her dad and me, and said, 'I don't think I need any popcorn,' and she dropped the money in the bucket.

That'll pump me up for the next week," said Mr. Pizzi, 35, a Nationwide Insurance manager and Anne Arundel County Red Cross board member.

He was one of some 90 volunteers who held out plastic buckets, or passed them row to row like church collection plates last night. He also told of a woman who started talking to him, "expressing empathy for the people" whose homes and lives were devastated by the storm.

"While she was talking to me, she put her purse on her knee and started writing a check -- for one hundred dollars."

The donations in coins, bills and checks from football fans at the preseason National Football League game between the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints were believed to exceed more than $100,000, Central Maryland Red Cross spokeswoman Linda Klein said early today after a preliminary tally.

One of the largest individual fan donations was $1,000, from a woman who simply walked into the stadium office Red Cross workers were using as a command post and wrote a check, Ms. Klein said.

At halftime, stadium announcer Chuck Thompson announced an even bigger donation -- a combined grant from the Baltimore football expansion committee, exhibition game promoter Centre Management, and all three groups that are bidding for ownership of an NFL franchise if Baltimore wins an NFL team.

Centre Group vice chairman Jerry Sachs said the gift amounted to about $70,000, and added to the fans' outpouring of cash would likely more than match the $100,000 grant announced by NFL Charities for the Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund.

The Baltimore-based Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, a private philanthropic organization, added $100,000 in a "challenge grant," according to Ms. Klein.

The acts of generosity, from the popcorn girl to the foundation grants, added up to about $370,000 -- money to help people in the teams' home states of Florida and Louisiana, which were devastated by the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

The Dolphins lost the game, 17-3, but team coach Don Shula took solace in the generosity.

"That's fantastic," Mr. Shula said. "I can't tell you how much that means, but there is so much more to do. I hope we can help in some way.

"It was a tough week for us. Fortunately, the players and the coaches weren't hit [by storm damage]. Football was secondary for us. I've seen a lot of the pictures. People have had their life savings wiped out. They have lost everything."

The Dolphins' owners said they are hoping arrangements can be made for the Red Cross to use the team's Joe Robbie Stadium to collect money at all home games this year, and planned to make "a significant contribution" to the relief effort.

Last night's Memorial Stadium effort was the latest event in a growing disaster-aid effort in Maryland by companies and organizations. Others:

* The Towson-based DeWALT division of Black & Decker sent $40,000 worth of its new line of power tools -- items intended for home construction and remodeling -- to Florida and Louisiana.

Storm victims can call DeWALT's Hampstead distribution center (800) 4-DeWALT for advice on repairs and to request a free loan of the power tools, which are being delivered by sales force members in disaster-stricken communities.

* Baltimore-based USF&G; Insurance, in addition to setting up an emergency claims office and "catastrophe team" in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., took up a collection in Baltimore of goods needed by storm victims, particularly canned goods, manual can openers, baby wipes and diapers.

Items brought to the lobby of its 100 Light St. headquarters or its Mount Washington Center at 5801 Smith Ave. by noon today will be trucked to Louisiana, along with a gift load of bottled water, Sterno and batteries. Another truck left yesterday for Florida with a similar load.

* On Ocean City's Boardwalk, employees at Alaska Stand at Ninth Street replaced counter-top tip cups with cups to collect donations for hurricane victims.

"We've had a pretty good response so far," said owner Bob Givarz. "Everybody is putting in a coin or two. We're not seeing $10 bills but we are seeing some bills." Donations will be turned over to the Red Cross, he said.

"It's pretty neat of these kids to think of other people," he said. "You know how 18-year-old can be."

Relief donations, with checks made out to Red Cross National Disaster Relief Fund, also can be mailed to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box Disaster Relief, Baltimore 21263.

Another collection was taken up by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which said monetary donations will be sent to local society chapters providing relief directly to storm victims. Donations should be sent to Victims of Hurricane Andrew, c/o St. Vincent de Paul Society of Baltimore, 320 Cathedral St., Baltimore 21201.

The Baltimore County Firefighters Association, meanwhile, continued its collection of non-perishable food items and personal goods at its Cockeysville headquarters, at 52 Scott Adam Road, off York Road near the Texas landfill.

About 15 tons of canned goods and other items had arrived by last evening. "We even have pet food," said Roz Laakso, a volunteer.

The first of two trailers donated by Pepsi-Cola is expected to take the first load of donations to the Miami area Sunday night, Ms. Laakso said.

Members of the Laurel Volunteer Rescue Squad, at (410) 792-7561, are already in Louisiana helping with rescue operations.

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