The Krewe Of Kindness
11/14/2017 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
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Youngsville Business Turned Disaster Relief Headquarters
By Patricia Doucet
As Craig Spadoni greets me at the entrance of his Youngsville store, Bead Busters and Float Rentals, he apologizes for the disorder. A few empty palates and boxes are outside the door; inside, a couple of large ice chests, a ‘Flood Relief’ sign leaning against a wall, and an occasional soiled shoe print on the floor are the only evidence that remain of the heavy foot traffic from a very busy September – even though business doesn’t start up until December 1. For the second time in two years, his Mardi Gras supply store had been converted into a flood relief donation center - this time for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
First, rewind to August 2016. The flood left many Youngsville residents vacating their homes for months and Spadoni is asked to render his 3,000 square-feet facility as a donation center. Already two days in the process of helping residents out of their homes and cleaning up, Spadoni says he didn’t hesitate to take his involvement a step further. With the help of neighbors and friends, the warehouse storefront was converted into a grocery store where flood victims could come in and get items for the elderly, cleaning supplies, nonperishable foods, diapers, water and other essentials.
For little over a month people came in and out of the store and it made Spadoni happy to help.“ When they show up with kids, that’s when it gets to you,” Spadoni says shaking his head. “Because you know they have nothing and are living in a hotel - if they’re lucky.” His empathy for the children was the driving force that helped raise $20,000 to purchase new toys at a time when they needed something to make them smile. “At one point, it looked like Toys ‘R’ Us in my building,” he laughs. It was a silver lining moment in a stressful situation that Spadoni never dreamed he’d experience again. But, nature had other plans.
Barely a year later, Hurricane Harvey pounded neighboring Texas with record-shattering rainfall and epic flooding; Spadoni’s reaction to help again was knee-jerk. “When it was confirmed that Harvey would hit Rockport and Houston, I’d already spoken with coordinators from Cajun Navy Relief and by 9:30 that night I posted on Facebook that my warehouse was going to be a donation center once again. I’m not a boater, my forte is organization and getting supplies to where they’re needed. Just before 10 p.m. we received our first donation. The next morning, when I arrived at the store, donations had been placed outside the front door from the night before and from then on the day was wild. Items came from all over country; one woman drove in from Wyoming with her mother to donate supplies.”
Unbelievably, Spadoni estimates that $2- $2.3 million worth of items and groceries were received - which included supplies sent to Beaumont by way of the Cajun Air Force. “I went on one mission to Texas,” says Spadoni “and, I actually broke down because it’s overwhelming to see the mass destruction and the helplessness on the faces of victims. It feels like you’re barely making a dent, but you have to pull it together and know that you are making a difference.”
If there was one memory that reminds Spadoni that his efforts with Cajun Navy Relief are making a difference it’s the story of a friend’s sister who had a baby born terminally ill just before Hurricane Harvey. The mother had gone home for a while just before the hurricane and was stranded with no way to get back to the hospital and her baby boy, Waylon, was soon to die. The woman’s sister posted a desperate call for help on Spadoni’s Facebook and he immediately contacted volunteers with Cajun Navy Relief who were able to rescue the mother from her home, taking her to the hospital to be with her son before he passed away the next morning. Waylon’s name is now part of the Cajun Navy Relief logo.
Fellow Cajun Navy Relief volunteer Saretta Langlinais, who first met Spadoni working the Hurricane Harvey relief, says she saw firsthand how his efforts motivate people. “Because of Craig’s media contacts and use of social media, we had nationwide attention on our efforts for Harvey; donations came in from all over the country. He would work 10 to 12 hours and sleep on a cot in his building so that he’d be there when supply deliveries would arrive at 3 a.m.”
Spadoni says the coordination and dispatching of donations would not have been possible without the volunteers who arrived in droves. There were members of Youngsville’s City Hall, local businesses, community members who had been through the same ordeal last August, high school students who were out of school because of the storm – even members of the Mississippi Wounded Warriors. For Spadoni, the turnout reinforced a saying that he wrote and lives by: “One man can help a few men; many men can help all mankind.”
Since Hurricane Harvey, Spadoni and others with Cajun Navy Relief have been invited by several agencies in Texas to attend sporting and upcoming Christmas events to be recognized for their successful efforts. During the Tracy Lawrence concert in Lafayette on September 22, the relief workers were spotlighted and on October 3 they traveled to Vidor, Texas where the police department thanked members of Cajun Navy and reunited them with a family they saved from an apartment complex.
Originally from New Orleans, Spadoni moved to Lafayette in 1993 and then later to Youngsville, where his businesses, Bead Busters & Float Rentals and Grass Busters, are located.
His Mardi Gras supply store grew from a simple request from his, then, 10-year-old daughter: to be in a Mardi Gras parade. He created a float with a truck and a trailer and fulfilled her wish for two years. Then, he decide to rent and sell floats along with used and new beads and trinkets and by 2014, he was well on his way to making a good living. Married and the father of two daughters, the “Bead King”, as he is called by friends, is proud to say he built the business entirely by word-of-mouth and on Facebook. “The more successful that I am, the more that I can help others,” Spadoni says, “and, I’m very fortunate to be able to help on a grander scale.”
Bead Busters and Float Rentals may bear the purple, green and gold colors symbolic of a season of lavishness, but its success is motivated by the desire to help others.