The Red Cross begged people wanting to help their neighbors arriving from Louisiana not to bring blankets, food, clothes or anything else to the Astrodome. The relief workers didn't want to be more deluged than they already are.

So the Astrodome came to the volunteers, who set up camp in the parking lot of a strip mall across the street on Kirby Drive. Under a giant sign for Sally Beauty Supply and PetsMart, Randolph Mooring and his wife, LaShon, served up homemade pork chops over rice on paper plates. The trunk of their Nissan Maxima was their makeshift pantry. They came at 8 a.m. Within two hours, the stew was gone, said Mooring, a truck driver.

Open car trunks turned into a bazaar of free goods -- diapers, baby formula, clothes, bottled water, cheese and bologna sandwiches, towels, soap -- all brought from one stranger's home into the arms of another grateful stranger.

"We raided our closet and went to the grocery store, and here we are," said Betty Greer, a shuttle-bus driver in an orange tank top, as she put cheese sandwiches into a cooler in the trunk of her 1988 Volvo. "We had to do something," added Wanda Smith, her daughter. "I just said, 'Ma, let's go.' "

Lisa Alexander, a home health aide who said she took a day off from work to help, had soda and chips in her car trunk a few parking spaces away. "My heart is flooded with pain for these people" she said, and started to cry. "If I could, I would just take them and hold them all tight."

-- Lisa Rein