LOS LLAMOS, Puerto Rico –
Trucks, contracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, arrived filled with boxes of groceries in the town at a local church today. Gathered together, volunteers from Samaritan’s Purse, volunteers from local churches, and U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers with the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, 350th Brigade, 1st Mission Support Command, waited outside in the hot sun for the first arrival.
There they made lines to move the boxes, check them, and prepare them for distribution. Parishioners arrived with trucks, SUVs, and cars, ready to pick up the groceries and deliver them to the community.
“Today we are here receiving food from FEMA and getting ready to send that food out into neighborhoods, so we’re working in cooperation with local churches,” said Tom Ovington, a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer. “They are sending their people to this spot to receive the food and they will go door to door to distribute it to people in need”
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing aid to people in need throughout the world. They are one of many organizations that have responded in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“Everyone is our neighbor and we’re trying to help everybody, regardless of their beliefs, regardless of anything about their personal life,” said Ovington. “If they have suffered harm as a result of this hurricane we are here to help them.”
Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches to help. They go to different houses to speak with people about their needs and assess their roofs.
“We provide tarps to cover houses, and up to this date we have distributed 55,000 tarps to cover roofless houses or houses with partial roof damage,” said Ovington. “We also have programs for water filtration, very simple, but very effective home water filters that people can have in their kitchens.”
The 402nd CAB works with Samaritan’s Purse, FEMA, and other organizations as a liaison to the local government. The unit is a reserve unit from Puerto Rico and has been on mission since the Hurricane struck.
“It was rough in the beginning because there was no movement from local trucks to the stores, so supplies were low,” said U.S. Army Spc. Johnson Arroyo, assigned to the 402nd CAB. “It was a little desperate at first. There was no communication, no phones, nothing.”
The groceries will feed 1,000 families, and along with diapers will provide some comfort for families. The 402nd will continue to work in the area while FEMA operates, to help Puerto Rico, homeland, recover.
“It’s amazing I would have never thought I’d be doing my MOS in my own community, so it is something special," said Arroyo. “We are coordinating all the FEMA help to the communities and making sure everybody gets what they need."