Gigi Stetler may have a lot of reasons not to help those in need. More than 30 years ago, she was stabbed multiple times after trying to help a homeless man. But that desire to reach out to strangers remained a part of her core.
After Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, Stetler sent RVs to the areas impacted to help families and workers keep a roof over their heads until homes could be rebuilt. Stetler, who owns RVs of Broward, was the first woman to break into the RV sales business as an owner.
Sundial spoke with her and Miami Dolphins legend Dan Marino. He was brought in to help raise awareness and gather donations to send to some of the hardest-hit areas in the Bahamas inside half a dozen RVs.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Dan, how did this particular project for getting the RVs to the Bahamas, how did that all get started, how did they bring you in?
Well, first of all, we got to know each other through charity events and doing things together that way. And I bought some RVs, and had some fun stuff that we did in the charity events, and then talked about getting together for the business but also I think getting together for the Bahamas thing. It was really important just because of what has gone on down there. And her idea I think is brilliant, and what Gigi was able to come up with as far as getting RVs, filling them up and sending them over there to help the people that are just, I mean, it's been devastating, so to be able to help them in a way that's not just – i mean it's twofold, right? So you're bringing RVs over, but also you're putting a lot of products and things for them that they can use over there at the same time. So you've got a place for them to live in afterwards, and also all the things like water and food and all the things that they need.
Gigi, you've you've donated RVs in the past. You've helped out the Bahamas, but you've also done it even after Katrina. For you, this is not new. When did it all start for you, and you felt like, you know what, besides sending relief, which is the food and basic supplies, that RVs would be a good thing to send because there's a need?
It started back in Hurricane Andrew when that disaster happened. I lived it. All of the newspeople didn't have any place to stay while they were covering the stories down there because it was just devastated. They had called me, my company, and asked for rentals and I said, 'How many do you need?' They wanted a quote for about 15 or 18 units and I said, 'tell me where to deliver them, I'll get them down there. And they said 'how much?' I said 'nothing.' And so it kind of started. I just always believe in paying it forward and I didn't even think about business or anything at the time, I just knew that they needed it - and brought them down there. But it's just something I've always done.
And then Katrina hit, and same thing, I ended up housing the Coast Guard. Actually, I housed the Pasco Cheyenne Police Department. A friend's cousin lost his house and he was the sheriff and he asked me for an RV. I said sure, I sent one up for him and then he said 'well, the whole sheriff's department is homeless and they're living inside the jail right now, and the prisoners are under a bridge.' And I flew there to deliver them myself.
You guys have been through a lot of storms. I wondered, what you saw from Dorian and the destruction in the Bahamas, if you've ever seen anything like that. I just want to get a sense of what was going through your mind after it passed and then you start to see – because you both have deep connections to the Bahamas.
Well, I mean first of all, it's hard. I was living in Weston at the time, so in a way, we were affected with Andrew, but not really – just to see the devastation. And I remember the Dolphins, we took trucks of water and food and things down to Homestead and in different places in Miami, and it's mind-boggling to see the destruction of what these storms do. It is our home here in South Florida, and we have so many people that were affected back then, that are affected now, and then you understand what the people in the Bahamas are going through. And then you see the pictures and you see the video and you see all the things that are coming over the news.
And I think it's just really, it's like, what can we, what can you do? What's the most important thing to help these people, and how do you do that? I think that's the cool thing that we're doing with the RVs, and bringing over supplies with the RVs – that, I think, is gonna make a difference. And I think people should understand that no matter who you are, in some small way, try to make an effort to help.