CHICAGO -- People are still dealing with serious issues in Puerto Rico, following Hurricane Maria.
There is no doubt that as soon as people in the Chicago area learned about the devastation in Puerto Rico, the donations started pouring in. But now, many of those collecting those donations are running into a major obstacle: How to get these thousands of items to the island and into the hands of those who need them the most.
Paloma Vasquez and her Chicago firefighter husband took it upon themselves to collect a truck full of donations for Puerto Rico and now they can't find anyone to ship it to the island.
Julian Seda, one of the founders of Puerto Rico Rising, an organization formed right after Hurricane Maria destroyed the U.S. territory, said they called upon private moving companies with business in Illinois and Puerto Rico who agreed to take the 49,000 items donated in two drives held in Chicago and ship them to five specific towns on the island.
“The reason we did that is because we knew the government has its hand full and we also didn`t want help stuck in the ports,” Seda said.
Julian who was doing inventory on everything donated, hopes the first shipment from Puerto Rico Rising leaves Chicago by the end of this week.
Another organization taking a different approach to getting supplies down to Puerto Rico as quickly as possible is the Puerto Rican Agenda. They started a fundraising campaign called planes and pallets.
So far, they have sent two planes full of donations to Puerto Rico.
Cristina Pacione Zayas from the Puerto Rican Agenda has a piece of advice for people with donations.
“Until you’ve identified a place that has a very clear plan of how to deliver and distribute once on the island, you need to hold onto those supplies,” she said.
Another option for donations is to think forward about the thousands of people leaving Puerto Rico looking for a better future in places like Chicago. They will certainly need help when they arrive at the windy city.
“There’s going to be a need for different types of clothing that they don’t typically have in Puerto Rico. Think about it we have all four seasons and the polar vortex. They had to leave everything behind. They are starting over in many ways.
The bottom line is that it’s important to find a place that is receiving the donations and already has contacts to send them to Puerto Rico.