FEMA supplies originally meant for Puerto Rico, Caribbean islands

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Christmas may be over but the gifts continued to pour into a Kissimmee church Wednesday afternoon for people displaced after Hurricane Maria.

Two trailers, filled with 50,000 pounds of food in boxes, arrived at the Episcopal Church of St. John. Each box contained a day’s worth of food for one person.

The food was sitting in a Federal Emergency Management Agency warehouse in Jacksonville and was originally intended to be distributed to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands, but was never shipped to the U.S. territories.

FEMA spokesperson Daniel Llargues said the decision to redistribute the food was made because there was more of a need in Central Florida, where thousands of Puerto Ricans have temporarily and permanently relocated after Hurricane Maria.

Llargues said 50 million meals and more than 58 million liters of water have been delivered to Puerto Rico.

“It felt like a Christmas present for us to actually to be able to give away,” said Bishop Greg Brewer, of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida.

In Kissimmee, volunteers formed a line that went from from the truck to inside the parish building. Boxes were stacked several feet, high almost filling an entire room, with more boxes to come. 

“We have a lot of need with all the Puerto Rican families that have arrived and all of our food stocks have been dwindled down to their lowest we’ve seen. So, this came just in time for the right people,” said Rev. Jose Rodriguez, of Iglesia Episcopal Jesus de Nazaret.

Thousands of families have relocated to Osceola County, and 2,400 students are enrolled in the county’s public school system.

The food will be distributed throughout Episcopalian parishes in Central Florida.
“This happened in a matter of about four days over the Christmas holiday,” said the Rev. John Clark, of St. Gabriel’s Church, in Titusville. “It’s a gift from God. It truly is.”