Pallets of supplies intended for Puerto Rico stuck in Cleveland

Shot of pallets in the IX Center waiting to go to Puerto Rico
Shot of pallets in the IX Center waiting to go to Puerto Rico

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - After being contacted by Cleveland 19, state and federal officials said they will reach out to a local group who collected hundreds of thousands of pounds of supplies for Puerto Rico, that they can't deliver to the island.

"Basically what we told people was think about you being camping for a long time that's what we need and that's what they gave us," said Irvin Maldonado.

Maldonado said he has many family members in Puerto Rico, lived there for several years, and is heartbroken to see the devastation there now.

He said he and a small group decided to do something by collecting supplies for the island.

He admits, they thought a lot about collecting the supplies, but not as much about how they would get there.

"You haven't seen something like this in years where a storm would come in and just are tore your whole island apart, at that moment in time, we weren't thinking about how to get it there or what we could do to get it there, we were just thinking about helping our people because of the devastation," said Maldonado.

The group has quickly collected about 500,000 pounds of supplies including water, non-perishable food, bug spray, clothes and other necessities, which they're storing – for free – at the I-X Center.

"Right now a blessing would be a plane to pull up and we take something we get it there to them," said Maldonado.

Cleveland 19 tried to help Tuesday, by reaching out to both of Ohio's U.S. Senators and to Governor John Kasich's office.

Kasich's staff contacted to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, who reached out to Cleveland 19 about the situation.

Jay Carey, the External Affairs Chief for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, explained why the logistics of getting physical supplies to Puerto Rico is so difficult.

"With the transportation system on the island, and even some of the ports being damaged by the storm, getting goods to the island has become a problem from time to time, so that's one of the reasons we recommend that people give financial contributions. That's the most efficient method of donations especially early on in a disaster," said Carey.

He, and members of Senator Sherrod Brown's office, recommended those who want to help now go through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

Carey also said that even if it's difficult to get material goods to Puerto Rico now, the demand won't go way.

"I would counsel patience, these are commodities that are needed but that need will continue," said Carey.

As far as the goods that Maldonado collected, Carey said his agency would work with the group to try to get the supplies where they're needed.

Members of Governor Kasich's staff echoed that sentiment, as did Senator Rob Portman's staff.

"Rob believes we must do everything we can for our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. Our office has been in touch with several groups in the Cleveland area organizing aid for Puerto Rico and we would be happy to provide recommendations based on what we have learned from FEMA to this group as well."

For more information, visit NVOAD.org 

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