ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - A Pine Belt Pastor is turning to the community to help him collect supplies and send them to the storm-ravaged island he calls home, Puerto Rico.
"We are talking about, now, people that are in need and desperately in need," said Pastor Roberto Velez.
Velez and his wife, Maria, are pastors at Iglesia Cristiana Peniel in Ellisville. The couple is working to collect generators, water and other supplies to send to the island. There is one shipping container at the church on Highway 29, but Velez hopes to get two more to fill as well.
"We are at a point that we need to come together," Velez said. "We need to unify ourselves and our efforts to what we want to do to help other people."
Velez was born in San Tuce, not far from the country's capitol of San Juan. He says his two sisters, cousins and friends are spread out around the island with no electricity, nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria swallowed Puerto Rico.
"We need the help of the community. We need them to come, to open their hearts, to send the contributions to buy generators, buy water, we need to get this thing moving," Velez said.
Velez said this is his first time organizing an effort like this, so he is turning to other churches in the area for guidance. He said he is in contact with Senator Thad Cochran's office, who is helping coordinate efforts through the Mississippi National Guard for relief efforts.
"And, how many pounds, I don't know, but I will do my best," Velez said. "I'm trying, I'm new at this, I welcome anyone who's already done this to help me."
Velez said he hopes to coordinate the efforts with the MS National Guard and have the supplies on the way to Puerto Rico in the next two weeks, a trip Velez said he will also be taking to do whatever he can once getting to the area.
"We can say many things, but when you see it, actually see it, it's a whole different story," Velez said. "You can see the hope, for hope to come to hopeless eyes, it's something amazing.... it's something wonderful."
If you would like to help, you can contact Pastor Roberto Velez at (321) 662-6632.
Donation drop-off locations:
Iglesia Cristiana Peniel
1676 HWY 29 North
Ellisville, MS 39437
Koinonia Missionary Baptist Church
603 Chippewah Drive
Laurel, MS 39440