FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Food and charity were the main ingredients at the Fort Pierce Big Apple Pizza and Pasta Wednesday night, where owner Scott Van Duzer held the Van Duzer Foundation fundraiser for Herman and Karen Summerlin.
Pizza purchases, donations, even waitress tips all went to help the Fort Pierce couple get back on their feet after their 100-year-old St. Lucie Village house burned in late February.
"I'm actually here to help the family that has been burdened by a tragedy," said Erika Rinelli, who the Van Duzer Foundation helped years ago after a serious car accident.
The restaurant across the street from Indian River State College was packed. The kitchen was in a flurry. In the dining area and out front, people munched on pizza, subs and wings.
Herman Summerlin was overwhelmed by the good turnout and the community's kindness. His wife Karen couldn't make it. She was resting at their temporary home, healing from burn wounds on her hands. Herman was bringing a pepperoni pizza to her.
"She's healing up every day. Got some skin grafts on the back of her hands, but they're doing well," Herman said.
With the help of the fundraiser, the couple said they'll rebuild a bigger and better house on the same property.
"We're trying to put a set of plans together to start the house as soon as possible," said Herman, who was born in the house that burned.
Hundreds attended the fundraiser, giving back to a couple who has helped many others in need. Herman has hosted hundreds of fish fries and raised thousands of dollars to benefit local organizations and schools.
"They've been doing benefits for years, years and years, for other people in the same position, and now it's coming back," said Lee Vusbin, Karen's brother, with pride.