NH woman puts out call for Puerto Rico donations

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 26. 2017 10:30PM
Yaritza Rodriguez, left, from Manchester, with Nico Daneault, from Manchester, as they stand by one of three piles of supplies they hope to send to Puerto Rico temporarily stored at Central Little League in Manchester on Tuesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Watching from afar as hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated her native Puerto Rico with a deadly one-two punch, Manchester resident Yaritza Rodriguez was shocked by the images of destruction scrolling across her television screen.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Rodriguez. “My mother is there, my family is there. I am from Puerto Rico — and so much was gone.”

Rodriguez, whose family moved to Manchester from Puerto Rico in 1989, put out a request for donations last week on social media, after finding a shipping company out of Worcester, Mass., who advertised they were accepting donation shipments to the island free of charge.

With the help of her friend, Nico Daneault, also of Manchester, the pair collected cases and cases of bottled water, cleaning supplies and nonperishable goods.

“I heard from a man from Portsmouth on Monday, who said he had a generator he wanted to donate and ship there,” said Rodriguez, who volunteers with Central Little League. “I was excited, because that’s exactly what they need.”

She lined up a box truck to transport the donated items to Massachusetts. Rodriguez said she called the shipping company to make sure she could ship the generator along with her other donations — and her heart broke. Rodriguez said a representative from the shipping company told her their shipping containers were full and could no longer send the items for free — but could ship them at a cost of $165 for every three boxes sent.

“I cried so much,” said Rodriguez. “I cried and cried and cried. I felt like I failed — what am I going to do with all this stuff? But we are going to get it there.”

Rodriguez is determined to find a way to ship the needed supplies, in part because her mother, Mildred Lugo, of Manchester is there, staying with family in the barrio of Quebradas, in the town of Yauco. She left the U.S. on Sept. 3, just ahead of Hurricane Irma, for her annual trip to spend time with relatives.

“The town is completely destroyed,” said Rodriguez. “My sister called my cousin’s stepfather around 3 a.m. (Tuesday), and they were able to reach his cellphone. They are all okay, but the town is gone.”

Rodriguez said she thought about trying to arrange for her mother to be flown back home. The only problem with that is, she doesn’t want to leave.

“She goes every year, to spend Christmas with her parents,” said Rodriguez. “Now she wants to stay and help them. She wants to be there.”

Almost a week after Hurricane Maria pounded its way across Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 155 mph, FEMA reported Tuesday that only 11 of 69 hospitals had power.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello said only about 5 percent of the nation’s power grid was operational. Less than half the population had drinkable water. Cell service was out in 95 percent of the island, FEMA said. More than 11,000 people remained in shelters.

Everything must be sent by boat or plane. Ports have recently reopened, but airports are struggling to regain full operations.

Rodriguez said the donations keep coming.

“I had someone message me today saying they had 35 cases of water they want to donate,” said Rodriguez.

She is storing all the donated items in a shed near the Central Little League fields. Now she is hoping to hear from someone connected with a cargo vessel or shipping freighter.

“We have diapers, water, all things Puerto Rico needs,” said Rodriguez. “People have been so generous, but we are running out of room. We need to get these items to them.”

Anyone who can help is asked to contact Rodriguez at 341-0817, or through the Central Little League Facebook page.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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