South Bay nonprofit aids Puerto Rican hurricane relief effort

In Puerto Rico, residents are still struggling to survive without electric power, after the latest hurricane caused wide-spread damage.

"It’s getting worse day-by-day. We still have no power in most of the island. And without power, there is no water either," said Richard Lee, a relief work with the San Jose non-profit Puerto Rican Civic Club.

He had retired two years ago from disaster relief, but three days ago, Hurricane Fiona forced him back into service.The Category-3 hurricane has left five people dead, and displaced over 12,000.

In its wake, millions of Puerto Ricans are without electricity, as the nation’s rickety power grid is down.

"This is not going to be an easy task. This is not something they’re going to be able to fix in a day or two," said Lee, via a Zoom call.

He emailed pictures that show long lines have formed at most gasoline filling stations, as people rush to find fuel for portable generators. This, as the island-nation of 3 million braces for another dark night.

"Loss of power in Puerto Rico…you know that we live on an electrical planet, and that everything runs with electricity. And going back to a long period of time with no electricity, it’s going to start (causing people to die)," he said.

In response, the 20 members of the Puerto Rican Civic Club are raising funds, and collecting donated good. They said the most pressing need is solar power banks and generators.

"We understand the needs of the people. When that grid goes down, they’re looking for energy," said Katheryn Ramos, the club’s president.

South Bay drop-off sites are being established, in Gilroy and in San Jose. Some staffers said in addition to power, messages of hope can go a long way to easing suffering.

"This will all be posted on our page and also when we go we like to just pass them around for random. And we have kids and the elderly, we read the messages to let people know we care and that we are here for them," said Maria Acevedo, the civic club’s president.

In the immediate future, club officials said gift cards and monetary donations carry more weight. That way, what’s needed can be shipped directly to Puerto Rico, and aid in the effort to return life to normal.

"We have lost so much. And for us it is so painful to deal with this again," said Lee.

The civic club’s website has a list of needed items, and information on several ways to send monetary donations, or you can have items shipped directly to the island.

In the 24 hours since they started taking donations they’ve raised $2,300.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv