South Florida residents are stepping up donations to Puerto Rico to meet desperate need for fresh food and water after Hurricane Maria overwhelmed the island.
Just days after Maria tore through the island as a Category 4 storm, which largely blacked-out Puerto Rico, sympathetic residents in Miami-Dade and Broward have rushed to provide aid.
The shipments of supplies and well-wishes have not gone unnoticed.
"You feel loved. You feel that people love your island and you're trying to do as much as you can to help them as quickly as possible," Ana G. Mendez University student Natacha Otero said.
The university, which is the largest private university in Puerto Rico, held a three-day donation drive over the weekend in its South Florida campus to get food, water and other essential items to the island as soon as possible.
The effort is funded by private donations – everything from the forklifts used to the planes and ships transporting the items to Puerto Rico.
While some people are donating items, others are also staying behind to help sort the supplies for shipment. For many volunteers, the effort is personal.
The university hopes to ship the items to Puerto Rico by the end of the week as there are 40,000 students and their families recovering from Maria's impact. They also want to hold another drive this weekend.
"I'm from P.R. I still haven't heard from my father so it's tough. I think every Puerto Rican here has family there and understands the moment right now," Eleazar Melendez said.
Federal agencies are also ramping up their response to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico as President Donald Trump's administration seeks to blunt criticism its response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts after the storms that hit Texas and Florida, the Associated Press reported.
Many of the more than 3.4 million U.S. citizens in the territory were still doing without adequate supplies of food, water and fuel on Monday, five days after the Category 4 storm made landfall. Democrats are characterizing the federal response as too little and too slow.
Federal Emergency Management Administrator Brock Long appeared Monday with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello in San Juan. Though Rossello had urgently called for more emergency assistance over the weekend, he took the opportunity to express his gratitude for the help received thus far.