Locals hope donations will help family members in Puerto Rico

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It has been days since people in the Youngstown area have heard from their loved ones in Puerto Rico. They’re unsure if their families are OK, and now they’re doing what they can to get Puerto Ricans the help that they need.

Jeanette Morales’ phone hasn’t left her side in a week.

“Every time the phone rings, the first thing I do is look to see where the area code the phone call is coming from,” she said.

Morales’ mother and brother sent videos three days ago letting her know they’re OK. Her brother had to go to three different towns just to get cell service to send the videos.

She hasn’t heard from them since.

“No human being should be going through anything like that,” Morales said.

When Hurricane Maria hit land earlier this month, it knocked out power to most of the island. Puerto Ricans are also dealing with shortages of food, drinking water, electricity and various forms of communication.

She and her family own Papa’s Puerto Rican Cuisine in Campbell. They’ve started collecting items to send the Puerto Rico, and they’ll be hosting a fundraiser this Friday and Saturday.

Items being collected are bottled water, diapers and wipes, baby formula, canned food and solar lights.

People are already dropping off items at The Outreach Center Thrift Store in the Wedgewood Plaza.

The center, along with the Second Harvest Food Bank in Youngstown, offered Juan Rivera and his friend, Isabel Villaplana, a spot to take donations for the next 30 days.

Loving Touch Ministries in Youngstown also has a tent set up to help out. They’re asking for food, children’s items and toiletries.

Elizabeth Rodriguez Nieves was operating the tent on Tuesday, she said she has family all over the island, half of which she has yet to hear from.

“We are very worried,” she said. “I haven’t slept too much, trying to think are they alive or how they are doing, if they lost everything or where they’re getting food.”

Her goal is to fill an entire truck with supplies.

There will also be a fundraiser Sunday at 1547 Oak Street, with Puerto Rican food and music.

Juan Rivera, of the Ohio Commission for Hispanic Latino Affairs, said it’s important to help the people living in Puerto Rico.

“Everything is shut down, so it’s not like they can go to the local grocery store and find something to eat or to replenish what they had, and the concern is that if help doesn’t get there immediately that people will take drastic measures just to survive,” Rivera said.

You can help out by donating to the following locations:

  • The Outreach Center, 1733 South Raccoon Rd., Austintown (donations accepted for the next 30 days)
  • Papa’s Puerto Rican Cuisine: 284 12th St., Campbell
  • Second Harvest Food Bank: 2805 Salt Springs Rd., Youngstown (for the next 30 days)
  • Loving Touch Ministries: 1547 Oak St., Youngstown (10 a.m to 6 p.m. every day, through the end of October)

If you just want to give money, Rivera asks that you donate to Convoy of Hope.