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Church packs supplies for Puerto Rico

Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 at 10:51 am

By Rachel Christian
Staff Writer
About half of the 850-member congregation at Casa Cristiana Jesus Worship Center in Kissimmee have family or friends in Puerto Rico who were impacted by Hurricane Maria.
Jacquie Rohena, a minister at the church, is one of them.
She said that hearing first-hand accounts from her father and other relatives

News-Gazette Photo/martin maddock
A truck driver and Ted Hartz (right), a volunteer from the Good Will Fire Company in West Chester, Pa., help load donated goods onto a truck bound for Puerto Rico on Oct. 20 in the parking lot of Casa Cristiana Jesus Worship Center in Kissimmee.

about extensive damage, prolonged power outages and limited amounts of clean drinking water brought the natural disaster very closer to home.
“You hate hearing that your parent is going through something like that, especially when you are far away,” she said. “A lot of us here felt like that. We wanted to help.”
The collaborative effort of delivering needed supplies to Puerto Rico began shortly after Maria hit the island.
Rohena was contacted by a West Chester, Pa. fire captain named Ron Giacinto, who was traveling back from delivering Hurricane Irma donations in Key West. The sheriff’s department there said it no longer needed bottled water donations, leaving Giacinto with 10 pallets full of the items and nowhere to store them back home.
Rohena told Giacinto that the church would be happy to accept the water. The pastor at Casa Cristiana, Henry Patino, worked directly with another pastor in Lajas, Puerto Rico to make sure the items reached residents in need.
“It was such a blessing,” Rohena said. “We were so happy he contacted us and we were able to help.”
Still, both parties wanted to do more.
As soon as Giacinto arrived back home in Pennsylvania, he set to work with others in the Good Will Fire Company to fill another 53 foot long tractor-trailer with donations, this time for Hurricane Maria victims. Meanwhile, the Casa Cristiana congregation did the same. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office and the sheriff’s department in West Chester assisted with coordination efforts between the two parties.
On Oct. 20, the truck arrived back at the Kissimmee church filled with items like paper towels, batteries, diapers and nonperishable food. It was met by another truck of donated goods, and volunteers worked throughout the afternoon to consolidate the inventory into a single tractor-trailer bound for Miami.
Giacinto said the truck weighed around 40,000 pounds when they were done.
“We wanted to get it as full as possible,” he said. “It’s pretty close now.”
Pastor Patino said once the truck arrives at port, pallets would be off loaded onto a cargo boat headed for Puerto Rico. Practitioners at Iglesia Cristiana El Alfarero church will then help distribute the items to others in the community after the items arrive.
“We just want to make sure these things get to the people who need them,” Rohena said. “We wanted to do our part.”