Sept. 20 marked the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, when the Category 5 storm devastated the island of Puerto Rico, killing nearly 3,000 people
Soon after, many people were left without homes, with estimates over 160,000. Supplies and power ceased to operate. One year later, most people still do not have those necessities, despite billions being allocated to government relief funds. But there are humans of SWFL that are behind the scenes, working effortlessly to make a difference.
Many people all over America sympathized with the tragedy Puerto Ricans were going through after the natural disaster. Among that scrupulous population, many sent them water, clothes, medicine, food and more. One of those people in SWFL was Marilyn Santiago.
“I remember this day last year and I could not disconnect from social media looking at all of the devastation that was happening,” Santiago said. “Looking at the things that happened throughout the day I couldn’t stop crying. My heart was broken. My island was being hurt.”
Santiago, 52, was so hurt she had to do something to help her home. So she went to social media and launched a Facebook group called, "Puertorriqueños En SWFL."
“We collected close to 300,000 pounds of supplies, water medicine and we were able to send them and deliver them,” Santiago said, the owner of Latin Entertainment Consultants, a lifestyle marketing company.
Santiago says they had their own group of volunteers and worked with non-profit organizations in Puerto Rico to make sure the supplies got delivered. They even received a little blessing, “we were also blessed to have found a company in Puerto Rico that sponsored the shipping for us.”
“They paid over $200,000 so that they could send those things to Puerto Rico," Santiago said, "and we will always be grateful to them.”
The island is still recovering from the devestation of Hurricane Maria. There is a lot of work to be done, but Santiago said they will be able to make it happen. She said as they come together and try to continue to move forward, the anniversary is a very special day for her.
"We see the growth, we see the evolution and we see that there’s still a lot to be done," Santiago said. "But at the same time, we see that we’re strong, we’re resilient, we’re powerful, we’re cool and we will make this happen."