Local church leading effort to help those impacted by Hurricane Maria

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Hundreds of parishioners and the priest at St. Francis of Assisi Church have families in Puerto Rico.

The U.S territory is where Hurricane Maria hit Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm. It destroyed homes and knocked out power across the island.

Father Juan Antonio says he last communicated with his sister around 8 a.m. and hasn’t heard from her since.

“My heart is with them. There is tension in me, but I’m also confident that once this passes, I know people will respond like they always do,” Antonio said.

Between Maria and the recent earthquake in Mexico, families at St. Francis are desperate to hear from loved ones. Leaders at the Harrisburg church are now working to organize a recovery effort.

“I come from a military background,” said Virginia Pereira, a longtime parishioner. “Maybe perhaps we can try to do a big major drive, whether it be for water, batteries, blankets.”

Pereira says she already contacted FEMA and is waiting for a return call. She hopes the church can work with other local organizations to collect donations to fly to Puerto Rico.

“We already have a coordinator that’s going to be coordinating the efforts here,” Pereira said. “They already have boxes to package the things together.”

St. Francis is accepting donations at its community center behind the church on Market Street. Water, blankets, batteries, and portable phone charges are suggested donations.

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