Local Puerto Ricans sending thoughts, prayers, donations to hurricane-ravaged island

Sep 25, 2017

For many local Puerto Ricans, the concern of the day is what may have happened to their relatives on the Caribbean island.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

On Sunday, at Hope and Restoration Ministry on Richmond Avenue in Buffalo, congregants prayed for those friends and relatives savaged by Hurricane Maria - relatives lost behind the communications cloud of no power, no cell phones, no landlines.

It is not clear when the power grid can be restored enough to let the the communications services come back on line. Desiree said she and her family just cannot find out what is going on.

"One of the my biggest concerns is my dad's side of the family, because I have two grandparents that are very ill," she said. "My grandfather has osteoparalysis in both of his knees and he's a survivor from skin cancer."

Emelyn Rivera said she has relatives across the island and she knows little about how they are doing.

"My one aunt, the only way they were able to communicate was they ended up using the car," Rivera said. "They put juice into the cell phone. They turned on the car, plugged up the cell phone to get power because the cell phone was dead. So then they were able to get through."

The congregation donated the total offering to the American Red Cross for disaster relief, a donation that will be delivered Monday.

Buffalo Common Council Majority Leader David Rivera is the church's pastor. Rivera said prayer is wonderful, but action is what is needed now.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

"Our thoughts and prayers - and certainly we're moved by our thoughts and prayers to actually do something, we can feel compassion - but the key is: What do you do? What can we do to help people?" Rivera asked. "We can pray, we can say nice things, but what can we do to help serve and deal with some of the things that they're going through?"

Rivera said members of his church have gone through Puerto Rico's weather-based problems before. A few years ago, they donated generators that were shipped to the island when the power grid was also down and electricity was needed.

The pastor said a high percentage of his membership has family there and they cannot find out how they are doing.