BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Grand Island residents David and Maryann Perez were among those who dropped off donations for the Puerto Rico relief drive at the Belle Center Wednesday afternoon.
"I had this feeling that I had to do something," said David Perez, who has family living on the island.
"We're counting the money, and we were running out. So the lady behind us says, 'What are you doing?' I said we're getting water and going to Father Belle's. And she said, 'Yeah, I saw that on TV.' And she gave us the last $10 for the food," said Maryann Perez about the kindness of a stranger in line with her at the grocery store.
Four rooms at the center are packed with donations that started coming in Friday.
"Because the donations are coming in so fast, we didn't have adequate boxes," said Executive Director Lucy Candelario about the organizing yet to be done.
But collecting the items is just the first step. The next challenge will be actually getting them to Americans in the devastated territory.
The Acacia Network is the largest Puerto Rican-founded organization in the state. CEO Raul Russi says that Wednesday – a week after the storm hit – was the first day they were able to get goods on their way to those in need.
"We tried the airline companies, we tried several shipping companies, we tried the common carriers that typically deliver down there. All those, we were not able to make any connect," said Russi.
Candelario says logistics are still being worked out, but they're in talks with the governor's office to work with the National Guard to help ship local donations.
Buffalo Common Councilman David Rivera says the real challenge may come once they get there.
"That is the biggest problem right now, is infrastructure. Trees are on the roads that have been fallen down, the roads that have been swept away, the bridges that have come down," said Rivera.
Casimiro Rodriguez, president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of WNY, Inc. says another concern is the Jones Act, which restricts shipping to Puerto Rico.
"I made a call out to our federal elected officials to please do everything they can in Congress to lift the ban on shipping aid into Puerto Rico. That's a big issue,” said Rodriguez.
While this may be just the beginning of a long road to recovery, officials say it's still an important step.
Anyone who wishes to help with relief efforts can visit the following websites: