Food, water and generators, but no way to get it all to Puerto Rico

Yahaira Espada shows photos of her donation shipments to Channel 2.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Yahaira Espada watched the problems unfold in Puerto Rico, from her television at Fort Richardson. Her husband has been stationed in Alaska for seven years, but the couple is originally from Puerto Rico. The more she watched the news, the more upset she got and the more determined she became to help her family back home. Initially, she started buying canned food and water, but then her stash grew to three generators and a mini fridge.

"I want to be able to do something," Espada said. "That's my friends, my family. It's my people."

Two weeks after Hurricane Maria split apart Puerto Rico, basic aid is still arriving; furthermore, being able to reach the more remote towns and barrios is difficult. Some families say that they are still receiving only meager portions, and that they are ill-equipped to deal with the devastation.

"My mom is down there. She has a lot of medical conditions," Espada said. "I have uncles, I have aunts that are very ill too – that have no water."

Espada says she's trying to figure out how to get her donations down to Puerto Rico, but the costs are massive. Plus, the time it takes to get to Puerto Rico is longer than Espada wants to wait.

"The clock is ticking," Espada said. "People are dying – friends, family. You know, it's frustrating. I'm getting frustrated."

Non-profits, like Red Cross Alaska, say it's easiest to donate money – not things. But they say the money cannot be donated to specific people.

"The cost for shipping from Alaska is not efficient," said Lisa Miller with the Alaska Red Cross. "And then once you would get the supplies there, you're also pulling people away from our mission to them get the supplies – sort it, clean it, organize it, store it and then deliver it."

If someone wants to donate a specific item to a designated place, Miller suggested turning to the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster program.

Espada says she's trying to find someone, or an organization, to take her donations to Puerto Rico. If she cannot, she says she'll fly there in a few weeks with her bags stuffed with supplies. She says she is hesitant to send money, because some news reports are claiming that banks are running out of cash.

"Banks in Puerto Rico right now are chaos," Espada said. "There's huge lines of people waiting just to get money out of the ATM. Some of the banks are running out of money. Apparently, even if you send it to Walmart, they running out of supplies. There's not much they can get."

If you would like to make a donation to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, follow this link.

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