Hurricane relief supplies headed to Puerto Rico from Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A plane loaded with supplies took off from Chicago Monday for Puerto Rico to help with the recovery from Hurricane Maria.

The plane has thousands of dollars of food, supplies and water to help the hurricane-ravaged island.

In just a matter of days, one local organization raised money, secured a plane, and managed to fill it with supplies for people in desperate need.

"This is a completely volunteer and grassroots process and it's proof positive that when you come together collectively great things can happen," said Cristina Pacione-Zayas of the Puerto Rican Agenda.

After a quick fundraiser this weekend, part of the Puerto Rican community managed to raise $67,000. The Puerto Rican Agenda then coordinated with local lawmakers to get supplies where they were needed most.

"We synced up with Congressman Luis Gutierrez who had gotten off the phone with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then spoke to the CEO of United to donate a cargo plane for us to get some supplies to Puerto Rico," said Pacione-Zayas.

The plan arrived in San Juan Monday morning and the supplies being picked up by San Juan's mayor and dispersed to those that need it most, people will get clean water, baby food, batteries, flashlights and more.

"We definitely know that she is competent and capable of getting this out to the hardest hit areas. Specifically we have concerns over our vulnerable populations, folks in the hospitals, the elderly, very young children. We want to make sure it goes directly to people," said Pacione-Zayas.

And it's not over yet. The Puerto Rican Agenda group is currently working to secure a second plane through Boeing to send more supplies and welcome more donations and help. To donate, click here.

The Puerto Rican House, which is the central office for the organizers of the Puerto Rican Day Parade and Festival, is at complete storage capacity and has been forced to add drop-off locations for donated relief supplies to the Chicago Police 14th and 25th Districts.


Jennifer Lopez says she's donating $1 million from the proceeds of her Las Vegas residency to relief efforts in Puerto Rico, where she has family roots.

The entertainer announced the pledge on Sunday at an event describing New York state efforts to aid the hurricane-devastated island.

She said she and former baseball player Alex Rodriguez, along with singer Marc Anthony and a range of Latino musicians, athletes and business leaders would commit to get resources and aid to Puerto Rico and the wider Caribbean region.

An emotional Lopez spoke first in Spanish, talking about how Hurricane Maria has ravaged the island, and calling on everyone to get involved in helping to rebuild.

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The American Red Cross has helped thousands of storm victims, but many still have a desperate need.

The U.S. has been affected by back-to-back Category 4 storms during a brutal hurricane season and the season is not over yet.

The American Red Cross has helped thousands of storm victims, but many still have a desperate need.

Red Cross President and CEO and Gail McGovern joined ABC7 to talk about efforts to help storm victims.

"At the peak, we actually had 312,000 people in shelters and we've already 3.6 million meals and snacks," she said.

McGovern said they have 5,500 volunteers responding to the hurricanes.

"They are working 12 hours shifts seven days a week just helping people in shelters, fanning out into the communities, distributing hot meals and supplies, she said.
McGovern said they are still assessing the damage in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

"Puerto Rico is completely without power, so just even doing damage assessment is difficult. There are live wires that have fallen onto the roads, roads are flooded, so it's very dangerous to even maneuver around the island. But we still have 450 volunteers in the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico and as the water recedes, we will be able to do some damage assessment," she said.

McGovern said people donating to relief efforts can designate which storm they would like to give to and that 91 percent of all donations go directly to help people impacted by the storms.

To donate to the Red Cross, visit or call 1-800-Red-Cross.

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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