Several community, religious and political leaders of Puerto Rican heritage have banded together to form Helping Hands for Puerto Rico.

For State Supreme Court Justice Maria Vazquez-Doles, the conditions on the ravaged island are personal. Her 80-year-old father lives there and she has not been able to reach him. “I don’t know if he is dead or alive,” she said on Thursday.

Barbara Martinez’s elderly grandmother also lives on the island and she has not been able to contact her.

A group of community leaders, including Orange County Health Commissioner Dr. Eli Avila, Ruben Estrada, Middletown School Board Member Kevin Gomez and Pastor Carmito Pabon gathered at Inglasia Pentecostal Ebenezer Church in Middletown to urge community support for the 3.4 million residents of the island.

The island remains without electricity and communications and areas are still flooded, which is a concern of Dr. Avila, who said the waters carry diseases.

The group wants to get solar-powered portable lights and water decontamination equipment to the island ASAP.

While relief supplies are being brought to the island, they are not reaching the people, said Pastor Pabon, who noted roads remain impassable, and truck drivers are needed to bring the supplies to residents.

“We cannot wait. Our goal is to save lives now,” said Justice Vazquez-Doles.

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