"It is the most significant gesture to take care of another person."
Charlie Negron, a technology teacher at Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, moved to Florida from Puerto Rico in 2001. Like so many others, when he saw the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria he knew he needed to help, and not just because his two sons and mother still live there, but because it’s the right thing to do.
After hitting a few dead ends—and with help from FEMA and the office of the First Lady of Puerto Rico—Negron and a few friends arranged to charter a private plane to deliver much-needed supplies to the country. There was just one more problem: they needed supplies.
So Negron turned to Lake Brantley High School and the volleyball team he coaches for donations. Even though many in the community still didn’t didn’t have power due to Hurricane Irma, word spread quickly. With help from students and their families, Today reports that Negron was able to collect more than 25 pallets of emergency supplies, including drinking water, disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, soap, toothpaste, baby formula, and blankets.
Negron was humbled by the response. "My principal said, 'We are more than happy to help you out,'" he recalled to Today. "It started as a small thing and just became bigger and bigger. It just went through all the local networks."
Negron told Today that he was able to speak to his oldest son, 23-year-old Jancarlos, just a few days ago. Jancarlos waited in a four-hour line just to buy gas to make the trip to San Juan in order to call his father and let him know they were all OK.
"The material things they lost are not important," Negron added. "It's just important that they are okay." Negron added that his Florida community's overwhelming response has made been a huge help. "It has meant a lot," he said. "It's a sacrifice of self. It is the most significant gesture to take care of another person.”
WATCH: How Hurricane Harvey Brought Two Heroic Strangers Together in Texas
For people looking to provide assistance to the people in Puerto Rico, there are plenty of ways to help, though Negron recommends starting with FEMA. Their website provides information on how to contact those in affected areas as well as updates on how to help. Donations may be made to United for Puerto Rico or any member of the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).