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Natrona Bottling pitches in to help Harvey's victims in Houston

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, 8:45 p.m.

Vito Gerasole doesn't have any personal ties to Houston, but said he felt compelled to do something to help people that Hurricane Harvey has impacted.

“I saw a couple videos that really hit me,” said Gerasole, who owns Natrona Bottling Co. in Harrison's Natrona neighborhood. “My wife was sitting there watching them, and tears came to our eyes.”

He said one video in particular struck him. It showed a baby trapped in an overturned car.

“(They) got the baby out, the baby was lifeless, and after a couple of minutes of I guess pounding on the baby's chest, it started to breathe,” said Gerasole, of Aspinwall.

“It really makes you think about what you have and what other people don't.”

Gerasole's company produces soft drinks and sparkling water. He said he wanted to send sparkling water bottles to Texas, but there was just one problem — he didn't quite know how.

Fate intervened when Beaver-based Beemac Logistics LLC contacted the soda pop bottler, looking for donations.

“They were getting a truck together to ship whatever donations they could find down there,” Gerasole said. “Perfect timing. As soon as they called, it was game on.”

Entire region pitches in

Michael J. Ceravolo is vice president of supply chain solutions at Beemac Logistics, a sister company of Ambridge-based Beemac Trucking LLC.

Ceravolo said Houston is in dire need of water, so his company reached out to regional businesses that might be able to donate that. Gerasole's company was one of them.

The soda bottler is donating 100 cases of sparkling water, which contain 24 water bottles each.

The cases were scheduled to be picked up Wednesday morning and shipped to the Houston Food Bank on Wednesday night, Ceravolo said.

Gerasole said he decided to donate water as opposed to soda pop because he believes water is something the hurricane victims really need.

“I could send pop all day, but they need water,” Gerasole said. “It's pretty desolate down there.”

The Pittsburgh Shirt Co., based in Coraopolis, also is donating supplies.

The shirt manufacturer reached out to Gerasole through Instagram, a photo-sharing application, after he posted a picture of one of his sparkling water bottles and encouraged others interested in donating to contact him.

The shirt company is donating some of its own inventory as well as items collected by clients, friends and family, according to co-owner Keirstin Townsend.

She estimates 500 to 700 pieces of clothing, such as T-shirts and sweatshirts, were donated; half of it is children's sizes, she said.

The clothing will be on the same truck as Gerasole's sparkling water, Ceravolo said.

Townsend said her company sent clothes to Louisiana when catastrophic flooding hit the state last year.

She and her husband, Robert, met in Baton Rouge and know people there. They also know people in Houston.

“It just kind of has a soft spot in our hearts,” Townsend said. “We always make an effort to contribute whenever we can.”

Ceravolo said several more companies from across the region have donated to the cause. Some of the items donated are medical supplies, clothing, water and food.

“We got such an amazing response from businesses, from private citizens, you name it: everybody wants to help,” Ceravolo said.

He said the reason for that likely has to do with the fact the companies are bringing the donated items to Texas.

“We're providing a way for their efforts to get directly to the people that need it,” Ceravolo said. “We're making it easy for people to contribute, which I think is why we've seen such an overwhelming response.”

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, mczebiniak@tribweb.com, or on Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

Natrona Bottling Co. owner Vito Gerasole, pictured Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 in his Harrison warehouse.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Natrona Bottling Co. owner Vito Gerasole, pictured Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017 in his Harrison warehouse.
Vito Gerasole, owner of Natrona Bottling Co. along River Avenue in Harrison looks over labels on seltzer water being donated to a food bank in Texas. Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Vito Gerasole, owner of Natrona Bottling Co. along River Avenue in Harrison looks over labels on seltzer water being donated to a food bank in Texas. Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.
Exterior of Natrona Bottling Co. along River Avenue in Harrison. Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Exterior of Natrona Bottling Co. along River Avenue in Harrison. Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.
A cold bottle of seltzer water from Natrona Bottling Co. in Harrison. Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
A cold bottle of seltzer water from Natrona Bottling Co. in Harrison. Tuesday, Sept 5, 2017.
Vito Gerasole, talks about his Natrona Bottling Co., along River Avenue in Harrison and donating seltzer water to a food bank in Texas. Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Vito Gerasole, talks about his Natrona Bottling Co., along River Avenue in Harrison and donating seltzer water to a food bank in Texas. Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017.
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