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I-4 for Puerto Rico gets creative bringing supplies to the island

Grass groups movement working with churches, AmeriCorps, Senior Corps

ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Floridians continued to donate items to Puerto Rico relief efforts Tuesday, but the problem is how will it get there. 

Some local groups are finding ways around the transportation difficulty to make sure steady aid continues to the island.

The group I-4 to Puerto Rico is a grass-roots effort started after Hurricane Harvey. Randy Ross is one of the organizers. 

Next Tuesday, Ross and a crew of volunteers with the organization will take more than a hundred pallets of donations to Puerto Rico via a donated cargo barge.

"By working with Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and the Army National Guard, we have been able to get into spaces quicker than the average folks" who are trying to help, Ross said. 

His connections with those groups and the White House are allowing him and his group of volunteers to get into the storm-wrecked island.

To make sure aid is getting to rural areas, he has teamed up with faith-based organizations who have sister churches in Puerto Rico. 

"We are coordinating with the group that is in Puerto Rico to receive the items that are being sent, where they're going to center it and from then, distribute," said Pastor Juan Ruiz with the Pentecostal Church of God International Movement, South Region. 

Ruiz works with hundreds of churches across the nation. His organization is in communication with congregation members in Puerto Rico and making sure aid reaches everyone. 

In the meantime, local leaders including Orange County Commissioner Pete Clark are working to make donations and delivery to Puerto Rico easier. 

"I was trying to see if I can get our emergency folks involved so we can have a central place for groups who really have the capacity ... once we get it on the ground in Puerto Rico," Clark said.

News 6 called and emailed FEMA's national headquarters to get more information about private citizens who want to deliver donations to Puerto Rico. By the time this story was published, they had not responded.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that officials are working on the problem of getting in and out of Puerto Rico.

"I think we need to re-evaluate how we are logistically pursuing this," Rubio said. "You can't drive it in. You've got to barge it in, it takes seven days. You gotta fly it in, there's a limited number of flights that can come in every day. We're going to have to rethink this."

Rubio said he would be discussing the transpiration logistics with Vice President Mike Pence later Tuesday.

Anyone who would like to donate locally can do so through I-4 for Puerto Rico until 5 p.m. Sunday.

Donations can be dropped off at 4045 Forrestal Ave. Bay #7 in Orlando.