ORLANDO, Florida — Father Jose Rodriguez leads a local church in Azalea Park and has helped hundreds of Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria.

“After Maria, people land and they go find a church; they call a church,” Rodriguez remembered.

He’s been serving God and his community for years, learning right after college that becoming a religious leader was his calling.  

“It was shorty after I finished my MBA,” he said, “I knew this is what I was meant to do.”

His ability to give to others came earlier, though, thanks to his mother.

“When we had little, she always taught us we had more than most, and even in what little we had, we have a lot to give,” he said.

Father Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico, but moved to Hartford, Connecticut in the 1980’s with a huge exodus of Puerto Ricans to the northeast. A few years later, his family decided to call Orlando home.

“I was the only Hispanic child on my block,” he laughed as he explained how much that’s changed since.

Orlando has become a very diverse community, most recently with thousands of Puerto Rican families arriving after Hurricane Maria.

Many of these families have been stopping by at the Iglesia Episcopal of Jesus de Nazaret, where Father Rodriguez is the lead priest.

“Our church is 15 minutes from the airport,” said Father Rodriguez.

It was after the storm that the community learned how Father Rodriguez and his church stepped up to help thousands of families.

“You know we have that shared experience of a community who knows what it means to migrate, a community that knows what is it to build once life up again from scratch,” he commented.

The church at first was donating food. Later during the winter, they donated coats, hats and scarves.

“People think that winters in Florida are not that serious, but if you only have shorts and flip flops, anything below 70 degrees is cold from someone who came from the Caribbean,” said Rodriguez.

Shortly after, Rodriguez became involved with local organizations fighting for justice for these families.

“We’ve also expanded into advocacy. We advocate for housing, we advocate to equal education, bilingual education, resources for parents with our partnership with Vamos Puerto Rico, and we also advocate for immigrants,” he said.

He’s very thankful of his culture that’s shaped him into the leader he is today.

“I have spice of life, you know the sazón, and I’m here to make things better for everybody,” said Rodriguez.