Wayne Ridenour's several attempts to provide flood relief to a tiny hollow-town in eastern Ohio were born out of a moment of confusion that has ended in discouragement and frustration.
Ridenour, of Shady Side, woke up one rainy morning last June to alarming Cable New Network reports that the town of Shadyside had been smashed by the night's storms, leaving 26 dead and scores homeless.
For a fleeting instant the ex-Marine believed that his own South County town had been devastated and his mind began racing to determine what he could do to help his neighbors. When he realized that the images of smashed trailer homes and mourning families were from 300 miles away in Shadyside, Ohio he resolved to help them anyway, as if they were his neighbors.
The result was the "Americans Helping Americans: Shady Side, Md. to Shadyside, Ohio Flood Relief," and for a short time everything seemed to fall in place for Ridenour, who had never been involved in anything like this before.
"People are calling non-stop asking, 'what can we do? How can we help?' " Ridenour said during the first week of his project that raised $13,000 in relief effort from citizens throughout the state. Then he received a call from the Maryland's Secretary of State's office offering the state's assistance. In retrospect, Ridenour said, everything went downhill from then on.
"I'll tell you. It's been an experience. If I had to do it over I would still help, but if I ever do it again I will never ever get involved with the governor's office," Ridenour said.
He blames Secretary of State Winfield Kelly for his trucking fiascoes with the Safeway Corp. and Giant Food Co.
A misunderstanding among Ridenour, Kelly and Safeway resulted in a $10,000 bill sent to the relief effort for food and dry goods that Ridenour thought was a donation. The misunderstanding wiped out the relief fund and is still a source of dispute between Ridenour and Kelly.
"They said I must have been a fool to believe these people were going to give me all those supplies from the heart," Ridenour said.
Next a Giant Food attempt to donate a truckload of food ended in a bigger disaster. Seventy-five percent of a tractor-trailer load had to be thrown away because it was infested with maggots, molds and fruit flies.
Giant officials later explained that its well-publicized donation had been made up of damaged or unsalable items that it normally hands over to homeless shelters. The already-damaged goods had also been left outside in the July heat for three weeks, aggravating the problem.
Four months later, with dozens of Shadyside residents still homeless, Ridenour tried to sell "Americans Helping Americans . . . and Proud" T-shirts and sweat shirts, but ended up selling only 12 and losing $1,200 out of his own pocket.
Ridenour doesn't feel sorry for himself and proudly points to letters of thanks from Shadyside residents.
"We did get supplies out there. It's really a shame it's been a big joke, some of this. It's really a shame for the poor people who lost all they lost and have to put up with all this crap, too."