CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla.- As Governor Rick Scott walked the streets of Deep Creek, surveying the tornado damage, the devastation inspired one local woman to rally the community together to support the storm victims.
Ezequiel Rodriguez is a disabled veteran, and said he lost everything when the tornado went through his home.
"It was like a lion was roaring right next to us. The house started shaking, and my father just took me and dragged me into one of the safest closets," Rodriguez said.
His ceiling collapsed and parts of his roof were blown off.
His home was one of eleven deemed uninhabitable by the county, and one of many Governor Scott stopped to see while touring the affected area.
"Your heart goes out to these families. You hate this happened, but I can tell you the state will do everything they can to be helpful. Help people get back on their feet," Governor Scott said.
Renee Petro, who owns Sam's Subs, also wanted to lend a hand.
When she saw the devastation on TV, she thought of her own personal tragedy.
Petro said she lost her home and Pete in a fire a few years ago, and remembers feeling lost.
"I remember how many friends helped us, and I thought, if these people don't have friends like I did, what are they going to do?" Petro said.
She turned to Facebook, posting on the SW Florida Restaurant review page challenging other businesses to join her in donating gift cards to the 11 families who lost their homes.
More than 30 restaurants and businesses are taking part.
"Within the first five minutes, it was over $500, now thousands, maybe $5,000. It gives you the chills!" Petro said.
From chain restaurants, to local eateries, to food trucks, Petro said her phone was ringing off the hook all day.
"It's a wonderful place we live in. It's good to be a big family," she said.
It's a big family Rodriguez said he can't thank enough.
"It shows you the heart of the people, and how we come together. Any little detail helps because we have nothing," he said.
If you want to get involved, call Sam's Subs in Port Charlotte and ask for Renee Petro: 941-743-4649. They are working to organize a clean up, and are also accepting cleaning supplies.
List of businesses involved:
Gold Rush BBQ, Venice
British Open Pub, Venice
Whiskey Creek Wood Fire Grill
Bull and Tarpon
The Turtle Club
Fat Point Brewing
Dean's South of the Border
Gatorz PC and PG
Cay Cass Restaurant (PG)
Darrell's Restaurant (Venice)
Rhino food truck
Burnt Store Grill
Isabel and Annabelle's
Uncle Nick's Pizza
Luigi's Port Charlotte