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Local Bay Area nonprofit works to get aid to Puerto Rico in wake of hurricane

Bay Area Puerto Rico Civic Club delivering relief to hurricane-devastated island
Bay Area Puerto Rico Civic Club delivering relief to hurricane-devastated island 03:33

SAN JOSE -- It's been almost a month since Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico. Challenges are ongoing, including power outages.

Just last week, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors moved forward with a $100,000 grant to help with relief on the island. It's headed for a final vote on Tuesday, and they have yet to decide which organization the money will be distributed to.

Locally, people are trying to make a difference.

María Acevedo Campbell is the president of the Puerto Rican Civic Club, a nonprofit organization in the Bay Area helping get aid to Puerto Rico.

For María, this hits home.

"It's where I come from. It's where my ancestors come from. And no matter what, it will always be home. I have to give what I can," she said.

She took us into the organization's offices in Gilroy. She got on the phone with Ari, their representative in Puerto Rico.

"What we need to do is make sure that they have gas because if we give them the generator, and they don't have gas, then we're not helping," María told Ari on the phone.

They were trying to get a generator to a family who desperately needs one.

"She needs it to keep her bed moving to help with circulation. Her legs are having ulcers right now," María said.

All of this isn't easy though. The organization is lacking funds.

On the phone, Ari tells María she wishes she could do more. And Ari begins to cry. María gets off the phone because she doesn't want to start crying too.

"She's upset because our hands are tied right now, and there's a lot of need," María said.

She then gets on the phone with Richard Lee-Cuevas, who lives in Puerto Rico. He helps inform and ensure donations go to people who need them.

She updates him on the phone call she just had with Ari. María has a house in Puerto Rico and tells Richard she will have someone get one of her generators she has there and bring it to the family who needs it.

She then asks Richard what the update is with the ongoing power outages.

"This week in my house I had four, that lasted 12 hours. The other lasted 16. One for five, one for two hours. It's random. You never know how long the power is going to be out," Richard said.

At one point, María puts her face in her hands. There's frustration, but they work as a team.

Money donated is being used for things like generators, solar lights, solar panels, water filters, food and water.

"I just want people to know that one person can make a difference," María said.

It's even the little things like notes. They're putting care packages together to send to the island. They include toys that help with anxiety and stress for kids, and cards that read "Be strong."

"We want to make sure that these kinds of messages are sent to them. They know that they're not forgotten," María said.

This keeps them going. They're not giving up. They're taking donations on their website and working every week to find ways to fundraise.

"I was privileged enough to make a life here. I've been blessed with the life that I've formed in the Bay Area. And it's only right to give back," she said.

KPIX 5 also spoke with Bianca Graulau, an independent journalist in Puerto Rico. She was recently in Bad Bunny's music video for "El Apagón," where she told the stories of Puerto Ricans facing a number of challenges, including power outages.

Interview: Puerto Rico journalist updates hurricane recovery efforts; Areas still without power 03:22

Since Hurricane Fiona hit, she's been updating her followers on social media on those ongoing challenges.

"There's still people without power. We're talking now more than three weeks after the hurricane," she said. "As you can imagine, three weeks without electricity is really hard for people to be living without the basics."

This isn't the first time the island has faced devastation. There have been earthquakes, and there was Hurricane María.

"They have a lot of community leaders. They're in touch with their communities and neighborhoods to make sure that they know what they need. There's a lot of grassroot organizations and community groups that are doing just that," she said. "They're the ones really bringing in aid and helping meet the needs of the people in their neighborhoods."

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