TAMPA,Fla. (WTSP) – The fear of not knowing if loved ones in Puerto Rico are safe and secure did not stop hundreds of people in Tampa from donating thousands of food and personal items to be shipped off to the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“When you don’t hear from your family in four days, it’s hard. It’s hard. When you see the videos, it’s hard,” said Jose Aviles.
Aviles, a native of Puerto Rico, came to a large donation drive at Walmart on Dale Mabry near Waters Ave. on Saturday to volunteer. He eagerly loaded cases of water and supplies onto semi-trucks to help fight the negative thoughts of how his family might have been impacted by the storm.
“I think this is a good way to help from over here. I wish I could be there to help them with my own hands,” he said. “I just want to give a little bit, help out a little bit."
The drive was sponsored by 92.5 Maxima, which broadcasts mostly Spanish programming.
Organizers said they were overwhelmed by the support of the community. After only a few hours, crews were already starting to load a second truck.
“We’re going to be doing this continuously, as much as we can,” said Milton Pena Cruz, who stopped by the event to donate. “As soon as the post office starts opening up for delivery…we’re going to be doing the same thing. I’m going to start sending stuff to my parents, that way they can distribute to the rest of my family.”
Like Aviles and Pena Cruz, many who came out to donate or volunteer had family they had not heard from since the storm.
“It's really hard. [You] wake up in the morning, and have food in your house and don't know if your family have food,” said Yaridza Figueroa. “It’s really hard right now.”
Yet, people like Figueroa still found it in their hearts to give.
“Whatever we bring here today is for everybody. I know it’s not only for my family. It’s for everybody over there,” she said. “That’s the only way we can start feeling comfortable.”
More supplies will be collected on Sunday from 12-7 p.m. at the Walmart on 1505 N. Dale Mabry in Tampa. For more information on what supplies are needed most, click here.
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