Support the news
Outside a streetside restaurant in the town of Pinones not far from San Juan, four volunteers stand behind their truck, discussing their next steps on the devastated island.
Sporting a Red Sox hat is Arnoldo Ortiz, who lives in Everett but who’s native to Patillas, Puerto Rico. Ortiz says he couldn’t stand the uncertainty of not knowing if his people were OK.
"Our families, we didn’t know what was going on with them," he says. "We decided to create a crew, to bring stuff down. We put papers around the office, emails, phone numbers, everything to collect as much donations as we could.”
Then Ortiz headed for the island with three other Puerto Ricans who work at Logan Airport: one from Everett, one from Danvers, one from Worcester, and one from Revere. They’re all employees of American Airlines, and they say the company has supported them not only with airfare, but also car rental and travel expenses.
Ortiz was last in Puerto Rico in July, and arriving early this week, he says he was blown away by the contrast with what the island looks like now.
The group came with 17 boxes full, and each of them carried two bags weighing about 50 pounds each. They brought batteries, canned food, rice, beans, baby formula, shampoo and other essential items.
The traveler from Worcester is Humberto Rivera. Being in the United States when Hurricane Maria hit, he says the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming.
The group plans to stay until Friday, but they have more supplies coming into the airport in San Juan that they will pick up before heading out again to make more deliveries.
Dericka Acevedo of Danvers says that after the hurricane, she feels like she doesn’t have a home anymore. But she had to be with her family.
“I was not in touch with my family," she says. "I have my mom down here, and it was a whole week without knowing anything. I was stressed, and I decided to join the group and come down and bring her what she needed.”
Acevedo says she posted to Facebook to see if anybody in her network needs help. And with two days left on the island, the group is still taking requests.
This segment aired on October 12, 2017.