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Local donations on their way to Puerto Rico

WBFO's Mike Desmond

The City of Good Neighbors is proving it again. Cash, water and food are making the long trip to Puerto Rico to help the island devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Local supporters say friends and relatives on the island need everything, as the American territory has little electricity or water, almost no cell phone coverage and no landline phones. Belle Center Executive Director Lucy Candelario says the local drive is shipping everything needed for families to get by as they rebuild.

"Over 5,000 pounds of food, canned food," Candelario says. "That doesn't include all the other items that we have donated, toothbrushes, hygiene products, backpacks, school supplies. Buffalo Public Schools have also given us donations and, as the mayor said, we have collected over $15,000 in monetary donations."

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

"Puerto Rico is America. That the folks that live in Puerto Rico, are American citizens," said Mayor Byron Brown. "They are our loved ones. They are our friends. They are our neighbors. And in the aftermath of the devastating storm, Hurricane Maria, they still have many pressing needs."

Local cash and supplies were flowing Monday from the Belle Center to the Connecticut Street Armory to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and then onto a big bird to the Caribbean island to help people clean up and restart their lives.

Activist Chito Olivencia says word is slowly coming out of the island as to who survived the storm, where they are and how they are doing. Olivencia says those needs will not go away, since it will take years and billions of dollars to rebuild the devastated island.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

"We need donations, people. We need the money. We need the checks. That's not going to stop," Olivencia says. "Okay, we might stop here Friday, but we'll be taking items somewhere else. This is not going to stop. This going to take longer than Georges. You remember Georges. I know. I was there also, doing the same thing we're doing today."

Hurricane George in 1998 wreaked major damages on Puerto Rico, as it also stormed the length of the island, with wind and water causing billions of dollars in damage and needing rebuilding help from this area and many others.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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