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Locals gather supplies for Puerto Rico relief efforts

A photo depicting Lourdes Rivera, 19th Airlift Wing Child Development Center employee at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

Lourdes Rivera, 19th Airlift Wing Child Development Center employee at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. helped gather supplies for Puerto Rico relief efforts after Hurricane Maria. Rivera, a native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, moved to the United States 22 years ago when her husband, Ramon, enlisted in the U.S. Army. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Grace Nichols)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Hurricane Maria was the 13th named storm, 7th consecutive hurricane, fourth major hurricane and the second category five hurricane of 2017.

Among those affected by Hurricane Maria, the residents of U.S. Territory Puerto Rico was one group who experienced the devastation. The destruction left the inhabitants in need of shelter, food, water, medical care and other essentials.

Lourdes Rivera, 19th Airlift Wing Child Development Center employee at Little Rock Air Force Base, wanted to do her part to help. Rivera, a native of Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, moved to the United States 22 years ago when her husband, Ramon, enlisted in the U.S. Army.

The Rivera’s families remained in Puerto Rico and were there when hurricane Maria hit.

“When I heard the news about the hurricane, I told my husband ‘I need to go help,’” Rivera said. “But I realized that without electricity and water, I was just going to make it harder on them by being there.”

Knowing she couldn’t be there in person, but still wanting to help in any way she could, Rivera team up with a local group, Puerto Ricans in Arkansas, to ask the community for donations of water, hygiene supplies and other basic necessities.

“We asked for donations on a Friday and by that Monday we had three collection boxes,” said Izzy Santiago, Puerto Ricans of Arkansas administrator. “We passed the information about it on to anyone and everyone we could.”

With the help of local news agencies and the community, the group collected more than 40,000 pounds of donations.

“We couldn’t do anything here, we were helpless,” Santiago said. “That was the drive to get donations and do what we could to send items back home.”

The supplies will be sent to Puerto Rico in less than a month, and Rivera will fly out to help aid the community and distribute supplies.

“As Puerto Ricans, from the time we’re born we’re taught that family is the most important thing,” Santiago said. “We have a strong sense of community and family; we would give the shirt off our backs for someone who needed it.”

While there are multiple ways to assist with relief efforts in Puerto Rico; the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, has been responsible for much of the aid    to Puerto Rico and other areas affected by the recent hurricanes.

USAID operations are subject to the foreign policy guidance of the President, Secretary of State and the National Security Council. USAID operates in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

For those interested in financially contributing to the relief efforts through USAID, contact (703) 601-3854.