Helping Hands for an Island in Need

Sandra Nunez and her husband Joel Mendez look forward to reuniting with family in Puerto Rico and bringing supplies to their hometown.

It’s been over a month since Hurricane Maria hit the already devastated island of Puerto Rico. Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria rolled through the islands causing flooding, destruction and mass power outages.

Many in Puerto Rico are still without power, making living conditions extreme. It is difficult to obtain food and clean water, let alone cook or maintain basic hygiene.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and families in College Park are helping others in Puerto Rico get to the end of that tunnel quicker.

“I tried to prepare myself for the shock of what I would see in the morning, knowing how lush and verdant the island was before the hurricane,” said Jorge Borrelli, a resident of College Park who traveled to provide aid to Puerto Rico. “Daylight revealed the true force of mother nature and what the hurricane did to the island …”

Borrelli, who has friends and family in Puerto Rico, decided it was the right choice to fly there and provide aid.

“My good friend Ken Bryan and I reached out to our friends and family to see if we could offer support in any way,” Borrelli said. “Most said they didn’t need anything, but that other people were suffering and needed much more help than what was arriving and being distributed.”

Residents on the island needed chainsaws to cut down trees, not to mention the food, medical supplies and hygiene products that were all hard to get.

Borrelli and Bryan took seven stuffed suitcases and duffel bags, all filled with those products, along with batteries, water purification tablets and lanterns. They also took two chainsaws, goggles, gloves, and extra chains for the saws.

Jorge Borrelli organizes supplies he brought to San Juan.

“We gave most of the supplies to the Pediatric Hospital in San Juan, which had set up a supply distribution center,” Borrelli said. “We spent the rest of the day driving around the outskirts of San Juan taking supplies to anyone we saw in need.”

Borrelli and Bryan only stayed in Puerto Rico for 17.5 hours — to make sure they were able to give out the supplies yet avoid being two extra mouths to feed and take care of from those limited resources.

“The trip reinforced my belief that if we all simply take action toward something we really care about, we can change the world around us,” Borelli said. “While our trip was a mere drop in the bucket, we would have never known that by the appreciation we were shown by the people of Puerto Rico.”

Sandra Nunez and her husband, also residents in College Park, are heading to Puerto Rico November 3 to help their families. Nunez will be there for 10 days to hand out clothing and toiletries; her husband will stay a month aiding in road cleanup.

“The storm was not the worst part,” Nunez said. “The devastation to the island and seeing it in this state is the worst part of this storm for our family and friends.”

Some of those known to Nunez had flooding in their homes; others lost their homes and belongings completely.

“From what family and friends have told me, and the few videos they have sent to us, the winds were so strong concrete houses were shaking,” Nunez said.

Nunez and her friend Samadhi Artemisa, owner of InJoy Healthcare in College Park, set up donation boxes around College Park and neighboring areas. Nunez said that around 50 percent of the clothing and toiletries she will be bringing came from these boxes.

“I am grateful to everyone who has donated and continues to donate to our cause, whether it be monetary donations, clothing, toiletries, batteries or their time,” said Nunez.

Donations will continue to be collected for the J & S United for Humanity Fundraiser at youcaring.com/familiesaffectedbyhuricainemaria-961428.

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