Kudos to Anna Maria Island for helping workers at damaged Rod & Reel Pier

October 12, 2013 

Several months without clam chowder and grouper sandwiches from the Rod & Reel Pier will be difficult to stomach for everyone fond of the historic place. One of Anna Maria's grand attractions -- another being the century-old Anna Maria City Pier nearby -- the Rod & Reel suffered quite a bit of damage from an accidental kitchen fire last week.

This story has a silver lining, though. Islanders are rallying to help the 30 Rod & Reel employees thrown out of work -- and a paycheck -- by the pier's closure.

While waiting for a projected $100,000 in repairs over two months or so, those employees can take heart in the generosity of All Island Denominations, a collection of six island churches. The partnership has pledged to provide emergency help for rent, utilities, food and other necessities for out-of-work employees.

The Rev. Gary Batey of Roser Community Church, on Pine Avenue a short distance from the pier, made that vow to Rod & Reel Pier Manager Dave Cochran a day after the fire. The Chiles Restaurant Group, whose three eateries includes Anna Maria's popular Sandbar Restaurant, also offered assistance.

This story even took a humorous turn, too, via T-shirts. Anna Maria's J & J Graphics Screen Printing, which produces Rod & Reel hats, shirts and other goods, created another T-shirt with the pier's logo and this phrase: "Established in 1947. Got smoked 2013."

The shirt's altered menu lists new delicacies: seared crab cake sandwich, extra hot chicken wings, roasted oysters and charred grouper among them.

One other phrase points out the shirt's mission: "Reel help for Friends." All of the money collected from the 100 donated shirts will go to All Island Denominations in support of pier employees.

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. Anna Maria islanders sure know how to unite to help others in a time of trouble. Kudos to one and all.

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