Donations for Maria victims in Puerto Rico in limbo

Thousands of pounds of donations collected

MIAMI – There were signs of generosity Tuesday inside Mana Wynwood, where hundreds of boxes were filled to the brim with goods eventually headed for Puerto Rico. 

"I came to donate food, hygiene products, aid and medicines for Puerto Rico, and also pallets because they need pallets," Viviana Martir said.

Throughout South Florida organizers have managed to fill warehouses with donations, but most of the donations aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

"There are tons of donations right behind you. Why is all of this still here?" asked Mario Catalino, of Puerto Rican Leadership Council. "It's a logistical nightmare."

Catalino said government red tape has become their biggest challenge.

"A lot of this has to go all the way up to Jacksonville before it ships to Puerto Rico and I wish our president would stop talking about football and then pick up the phone and mobilize the Army. If we had an Army plane, a cargo plane in Homestead, we could fill it up with six trailers today and the aid would be in Puerto Rico tomorrow," he said.

Martir has family on the island, so for her donating is personal. 

"I haven't talked with a lot of them, only my father and sister. There’s a lot of family that I still don’t know how they are. I hope they're OK and safe," she said.

Eleazar Melendez, a volunteer with the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida, echoed that feeling.

"My family is there and we know that we just need to do this as a way to show them that they’re not alone and that we’re with them," he said.

Melendez said more than 144,000 pounds of donations have been  brought to the location and he estimates that about 85 percent of them were brought by average people.  

"You had dozens and dozens of the people coming since and just loads and loads just constantly streaming in," he said.

Organizers said they need more volunteers to help sort through all the donations, as they will be changing locations soon.

"We need more volunteers. We need more hands, to help right now. We have to move locations so we need to pack all the stuff and get to the next location," Sandra Madjdi, of the Chamber of Commerce of Puerto Rico, said.

They also need space on planes and cargo containers on ships to move these items to the island.

Michael Feldenkrais said they hope to fill up a warehouse in Hialeah and ship out the goods by the end of the week.

"We just got this warehouse donated today, and so we’re hoping to fill her up. A truck is coming with 10 pallets filled, and we hope to put it on a plane by Friday," he said.  

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has been urging Congress to move faster to get the donations to people on the island who need them.

"For many people, it's life and death. Imagine in an area outside of San Juan where someone is a diabetic and depends on insulin and  (the insulin) has to be refrigerated. That medicine's gone bad by now if they haven't run out," Rubio said.

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he will visit the island on Oct.3. 

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