Collection day at Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance. Courtesy photo: Alicia Saldierna

Local residents, businesses and organizations, moved by the plight of so many in the face of so much destruction in Puerto Rico, are ramping up their efforts this week to help the island in any way they can. Recovery efforts continue on the island after hurricane Maria nearly destroyed it three weeks ago, leaving millions of people without basic necessities such as clean water, food, medicine, fuel and electricity.

“The situation is desperate. Puerto Rico has been destroyed and they need help now,” said Riverhead resident and native Puerto Rican Jessica Ruiz.

Peconic Bay Medical Center joined hospitals across Northwell Health and collected “donated goods and supplies that are of the most critical need to Puerto Rico” and that will be delivered to the U.S. territory as soon as this week.

“Northwell is taking steps as a health system to assist and provide relief efforts given the horrendous conditions in Puerto Rico. We are mobilizing our support in partnership with the government and the healthcare industry,” PBMC’s manager of public relations and community outreach Olivia Basaly said.

A group of local women, businesses and organizations called “Voluntariado Mexicano de Long Island” or Mexican Volunteers of Long Island has collected hundreds of items during the last few weeks at the Flanders-Northampton Volunteer Ambulance located at Flanders Road. The donated goods will go towards both earthquake and hurricane relief efforts.

“We are shipping dozens of pallets that will go to Mexico and Puerto Rico. We are very proud of the support of the community and we will continue to do everything we can,” said Paola Zuniga-Tellez, a Flanders resident.

Pulaski Street sixth-graders have collected nonperishable goods that are being shipped to Texas Through the Helping Makes You Happy Foundation. Courtesy photo: Riverhead Central School District

In the Riverhead School District, students at Pulaski Street, Roanoke Elementary, Aquebogue Elementary and Riley Avenue Elementary Schools are working on different projects to assist victims of the natural disasters, including Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida, where hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma hit. In Pulaski Street for example, they are collecting goods such as bottled water, aspirin, diapers, Clorox wipes, baby wipes,bug spray and other items and non-perishable food throughout Oct. 13. All items may be sent to Mr. Estrada’s classroom – Room 181.

The Greenport School District is also collecting goods for the victims of Hurricane Maria. The idea came about after Lena Wolf, a senior high school student and president of the Interact Club, joined forces with other officers and advisors from the National Honor Society, UN Club and Student Council to organize a water, diaper and wet wipe drive, said Interact Club co-advisor Rebecca Lillis.

“It was important for students to reach out and help others in need,” Lillis said.

Donations will be collected outside the district office in the main lobby through Oct. 13, although Lillis said they will probably extend the drive for an extra week to finish collecting items.

North Fork Roasting Company in Southold has set up a donation basket for donations of dry goods, blankets, water, batteries, flashlights and any other items, including monetary donations, that can be helpful to the hurricane relief efforts. They will collect all donated items every Friday during the month of October and transport it to the Red Cross.

“It’s important to help out other places when the are in need, it’s the least we can do,” North Fork Roasting Company owner Jess Dunne said.

“If there’s something we can do, from a little coffe shop in the North Fork, we’ll do it,” she said.

Dunne explained they had already sent out clothes and flashlights to the Red Cross collection center in Florida and they expect to send more items later this week.

Stony Brook Medicine is also responding to the crisis and they said they will send physicians, nurses, staff and supplies to Puerto Rico.

“We need to ensure that much-needed financial and humanitarian support is provided to Puerto Rico in the wake of this devastating event,” Stony Brook Dean of Medicine Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky said in a statement.

The Greater New York Hospital Association has teamed up with the Healthcare Association of New York State to establish the New York Healthcare Puerto Rico Relief Fund to assist hospitals and healthcare workers in Puerto Rico that were impacted by Hurricane Maria, Kaushansky said.

As of last week, only 5 percent of the electrical grid had been restored, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They also said it may take as long as six months to restore power to the ravaged island.

“Basic necessities are almost non-existent. It is a very difficult situation,” Ruiz said.

Clean drinking water is also scarce, Ruiz said. Where tap water is available, FEMA is recommending boiling it before use. Ruiz said that is difficult due to the lack of fuel and gas.

In many areas cell phone and internet signal are still spotty and many Puerto Ricans still haven’t been able to communicate with family and friends to let them know they are safe.

“Puerto Ricans are strong and I know they will overcome this tragedy, but now they need all the help we can give them,” Ruiz said.

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