Sen. John McCain left his Toledo hotel room yesterday morning and led a motorcade through western Lucas County to visit volunteers in Waterville as they prepared relief supplies for Hurricane Gustav-stricken areas of the Gulf Coast.
The Republican presidential candidate, whose campaign jet arrived Sunday evening at Toledo Express Airport from St. Louis, did not give a formal speech on this leg of his trip, and was in town for little more than 14 hours before departing for Philadelphia.
Mr. McCain and his entourage of staff, security, and reporters arrived at about 9:45 a.m. to the Farnsworth Road warehouse for ISOH/IMPACT, a Waterville-based charity that provides food and disaster supplies to victims of natural disasters, famine, war, and poverty.
He greeted a small crowd gathered outside, then walked inside the warehouse building to meet Linda Greene, the charity's president and chief executive officer.
"This is what's it's all about," said Mr. McCain of Arizona. "This epitomizes the millions of Americans who are serving on behalf of causes greater than their own self-interest and putting their country first."
Neither Mr. McCain's wife, Cindy, nor his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, accompanied him on the visit to the Toledo area. The candidate did not take questions from the media.
Mr. McCain spent Sunday night at the Hilton Toledo on the University of Toledo Health Science Campus. Escorted by the Ohio Highway Patrol, the "Maverick Motorcade" of more than a dozen vehicles set out onto Glendale Avenue. Local police departments stopped traffic as it made its way into Maumee, and later Waterville.
Inside ISOH/IMPACT, Mr. McCain met and shook hands with the nearly 40 charity workers who stood assembly-line style over long tables, packing toiletries into plastic bags and moving cleaning supplies into plastic buckets.
"How are you?" he asked, maneuvering through the room. "It's good to see you all. Thanks for being here."
Mr. McCain momentarily worked the volunteer table himself, helping pack detergent, sponges, and other cleaning supplies into the white buckets.
He grinned and gripped a bucket with both hands as Ms. Greene told him about her organization, which dates to 1958 and distributed $10 million worth of supplies in 2005 to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Asia.
"I just wanted to tell you that this is a wonderful community. When we put out a call [for help], everybody comes to our aid," said Ms. Greene, who thanked the senator and the Republican Party for its focus on hurricane relief.
The warehouse volunteers included Lori Kazmierczak, of Holland, and her two children, Shaston, 14, and Shayla, 10.. The youngsters didn't know they would see a presidential candidate until earlier that morning, their mother explained.
"They were very surprised to have an up-front seat to one of the candidates," said Ms. Kazmierczak, who is unsure whether Mr. McCain or Sen. Barack Obama will get her vote in November.
Standing outside the warehouse before a row of reporters, many representing national media, Mr. McCain read a Bible verse from Ms. Greene's business card. The verse, he said, "epitomizes all of America."
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms," Mr. McCain read, then added his own words.
"As the hurricane strikes Louisiana as we speak, all Americans I know will be motivated by those words of serving others with whatever gifts we have to help our fellow Americans."
Mr. McCain shook hands with those in the crowd outside the warehouse, which had grown to more than 30 people, including Waterville Mayor Derek Merrin.
Jammie Vollmar of Whitehouse said she appreciated how Mr. McCain made time on the campaign trail "to see what regular Americans are doing for each other."
After several rounds of applause from onlookers, the senator's motorcade traveled northwest from Waterville, passing cornfields, rural neighborhoods, and Anthony Wayne junior high and high schools as it traveled to its next to last stop: the Tim Hortons on Airport Highway.
The candidate stayed inside the SUV as his staff made a coffee run before heading to Toledo Express Airport.
He was greeted on the tarmac by a group of six Lucas County Republicans, including Jon Stainbrook, the party's chairman, and James Seney, regional chairman of Ohio Veterans for McCain and a former Sylvania mayor.
Mr. McCain shook hands and posed for photos, then ducked inside his 737 campaign jet.
Back on the ground, Mr. Stainbrook praised Mr. McCain for shifting gears on the campaign trail as the hurricane made landfall.
"It's not all about campaigning and pomp and circumstance," Mr. Stainbrook said. "It's more about what he will be like as a leader, and he's already showing what he will be like as a leader."
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