BUFFALO, N.Y. - Western New York families are beginning to hear from loved ones who endured the devastation of Hurricane Maria.
Maritza Feliciano has been in tears with a phone in her hand since the hurricane. Tuesday morning she was finally able to connect with her mother by phone in Comerio, Puerto Rico.
"She just got in contact with me, she's saying over there in Puerto Rico there's no water, no food," in her city.
It's a relief since the last word she got on her mom was that she screamed and ran into a closet as the storm hit. "Mama don't cry, just tell them what you need. what's going on over there, are they giving you guys what you need in Puerto Rico," she asked and her mother said "nothing, no help yet."
The need for water is so bad that her mother was planning to go to a local river.
As for damage, there are blown out windows and their chickens and rooster died in the hurricane.
"Almost a week without hearing about your mother, father, or brother and all of a sudden you're reaching out and getting the communication, that is a big relief," said Feliciano.
Esther Montes and her niece Zoraida Reyes learned their family in Villalba is safe after the storm.
Henry Soto is still waiting to learn if his dear grandmother in Moca, Puerto Rico is OK.
Because of the flattened infrastructure in Puerto Rico, the power could be out for weeks, months or longer. Roads are still impassable in some areas. And while there is gasoline they can't pump it without power.
So here in Western New York, Latino leaders and concerned residents are still planning and coordinating on how they can fly down and help when they actually able to get access the island. They will wait for now as many people are finding it difficult to leave the airport.
In the meantime they are of course collecting much needed supplies like water, flashlights, manual can openers, non - lithium batteries, and personal care items. Geno Russi of Hispanics United of Buffalo says "Once it opens up and they're able to get those roads open and they're able to get gasoline...those supplies are gonna go very quickly. And we have to have the next round to come in and continue to feed that island...it may be for years."
And Buffalo Schools are preparing to take in new students from Puerto Rico that may come here to stay with relatives. Assistant Superintendent for Bilingual Education Nadia Nashir says "We're currently holding a meeting with Central Registraton, with our leaders..school leaders, district leaders to ensure that we are prepared to meet the needs of our students that are coming from Puerto Rico."
It's expected the eight new bilingual teachers from Puerto Rico hired recently by Buffalo schools could help in the adjustment for these new students. Nashir says three to four families have contacted the district recently and many more are expected to do so for placement in Buffalo schools.
Several donation centers have been set up to collect items for emergency relief from Sept. 25 to Oct. 6.
Buffalo City Hall
All county buildings
Belle Center, 104 Maryland St. (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
St. Anthony's Church, 306 Ingham Ave., Lackawanna (10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.)
Items being collected include
-regular "D" batteries (no lithium rechargeables)
-old-style can openers
-baby supplies (diapers and wipes)
Tax-deductible checks may be made payable to the Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief Fund. A GoFundMe account has also been set up and can be accessed through the Puerto Rican Hurricane Maria Relief Fund Facebook page.