While the Martinez family and their restaurant may be here in the Poconos, lately their hearts and minds have been back home in Puerto Rico.
They have begun collecting donations to send to Lajas, Puerto Rico to assist those left in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“I’ve been in a hurricane and I know what we craved the most,” said Wilma Martinez, owner of El Rincon Caribe. “We needed water and cans, things you don’t have to heat up and things you don’t have to cook.”
Wilma and her husband, Oscar, were getting ready to remodel and expand their business when Maria made landfall, less than two weeks after Hurricane Irma had ripped through the island. The remodel meant unused storefront, so the Martinez’s knew what they had to do.
“We did it with Hurricane George and we’ve always done things like that,” said Oscar Martinez. “It’s something we try to do, always help and always keep giving.”
They are collecting household items such as toiletries, batteries, first aid kits and baby supplies. Food items being collected include canned foods, prepackaged dry goods and other ready to eat foods like crackers or granola bars.
Estimates for damage could be up to $72 billion, according to AIR Worldwide, a disaster-modeling firm. The National Hurricane Center reported 110 mph winds and rainfall averaging between 15 and 25 inches, with some areas seeing 40 or more.
While many on the island are stuck without power or cell phone service and unable to contact loved ones, the Martinez’s have been able to communicate with family and friends. Both Wilma and Oscar have experienced hurricanes before, they said there is no comparison to what they have been told.
Stories from their friends and loved ones depict an island where fuel is being rationed, food and water are scarce and money is inaccessible.
“They have nothing because there’s so many people. They have no water, they’re only allowed to buy 10 dollars in gas and they have to wait like three hours for it,” Wilma said. “It’s just crazy, it’s horrible.”
Even those who can afford what little supplies remain are unable to access funds due to closed financial institutions and powerless ATMs. While the Martinez’s recognize the road to recovery for their beloved island is a long one, they know just how far the smallest bit of aid can go.
“Last time I went I thought, ‘I’m crazy, I don’t know why I did all this. I’m pretty…