Buffalo’s donation drive for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico off to strong start

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Since the city of Buffalo announced a local campaign to collect donations to send to the people of Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria, community members have been giving big to the campaign.

“It’s just been ongoing nonstop. From 9 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock at night, people have been donating and we so much appreciate it,” said Lucy Candelario, Executive Director of The Belle Center, one of two major collection sites designated for the city’s Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief campaign.

Items being collected include bottled water, batteries, flashlights, candles, dry foods like crackers and protein bars, canned foods, manual can openers, diapers, baby formula, pet food, paper products and hygiene products and feminine hygiene supplies. Clothing is not being accepted at this time.

MORE | Click here for full details about what to give and where you can drop your donations off.

“Water is probably our main resource that we’re looking to get out to our people out there,” said Wilmer Olivencia Jr, a Buffalo City employee who is helping organize the campaign. “Something that came out yesterday was solar lights, something we haven’t asked for, but we’re going to ask today. If anyone would like to donate solar lights, I think that would be something great because you don’t have to get batteries and it’s 90 degrees and the sun is beating out there.”

“They could use those lights for the next couple months,” Olivencia added. “They’re anticipating that parts of the island may be without electricity for a months.”

Hurricane Maria hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 as a catastrophic category 4 hurricane, leaving devastation in its wake.

The situation hits particularly close to home for Buffalo’s large Puerto Rican community.

Olivencia, who says he has a lot of family and friends in Puerto Rico, points out that he has been able to get word that his loved ones are okay, but many other people here have not been able to get any communication from or about their loved ones.

“You watch social media and you see the news and you see the devastation that happened on the island and to not know whether your loved ones are okay or not – you see roofs that have been torn down, houses that have just been blown away,” Olivencia said, “It’s a feeling that can’t be described.”

It’s clear, the road to recovery in Puerto Rico will be very long and very hard, and Puerto Ricans need your help.

Donations are being collected at the Belle Center and at St. Anthony’s Church in Lackawanna through at least October 6th, but longer if needed.

“We’re looking to then take all of this down to the Connecticut Street Armory so hopefully we can have the National Guard take it down to the island of Puerto Rico,” Olivencia explained.

MORE | Click here to learn more about the statewide donation drive the National Guard is helping facilitate.

“Everybody can donate. It doesn’t matter how little or how small, it’s very much appreciated and needed,” Candelario said.

The Belle Center is also administering a fund to collect monetary donations for relief efforts. Click here for more information about how you can give.

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