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Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing sends aid to Puerto Rico in Fiona's aftermath

Hundreds of people in Puerto Rico are cleaning up what's left after Hurricane Fiona, including a Virginia Beach native who moved there in 2016.

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — After deciding to retire and move around in 2016, Alan Adair now lives in Las Marias, Puerto Rico, where he lost power for a while from the strong winds of Hurricane Fiona.

A former veterinarian from Virginia Beach, Adair said he lived through Hurricane Maria and can now say he lived through Hurricane Fiona. 

Adair said the people living on the island of Puerto Rico are no strangers to hurricanes.

"It was a stressful situation, there's no doubt about it," said Adair. "I learned a lot from Maria, as I think the whole island did."

RELATED: Hampton Roads residents concerned for family members in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona

Ripping winds and heavy rain left behind a big mess for everyone to clean up. Thousands of people across the island are still left in the dark, which Adair said is common with the country's weak power grid.

"Yeah, and we expect it to. I lose power almost weekly, to be honest. It's just life here and it's just taken as an accepted fact that the power grid is not good," he explained.

Adair said he relies on solar energy, so he was able to get his power back up soon after the hurricane hit. A friend who lives with him is on dialysis and relies on electricity overnight. Adair said he's grateful to have had the backup energy, but he knows so many others across the island are not that lucky.

 

This is where volunteers with Virginia Beach-based Operation Blessing came in to help the people there. 

Senior Director, Anthony Lloyd, said a group of four people landed in Puerto Rico and are going into remote areas heavily impacted on the southern side of the island. He said these volunteers are giving out safety and lantern kits to anyone who needs it.

"We knew we were going to provide some solar lamps for families or individuals experiencing prolonged outages," said Lloyd. "So, at night, they have something they can use, but it brings a big splash of hope inside their home when it is dark."

The lantern kit includes a bright light for high visibility, a lower red glow to help during the night, and even a charger for your phone. Lloyd said it's a small thing that goes a long way for the people, thanks to support from the community that allowed Operation Blessing to provide these lanterns.

"Those that have supported us through the years, we're positioned to help people in need after a storm or crisis like what happened there," said Lloyd. "It's a blessing to be a blessing to others, and they empower us to do that."

In addition to the help from volunteers, Adair said the community is helping each other get through the aftermath by sharing food, helping clear roads, and checking in on people in their homes.

"People are just sharing and cleaning and there's just this community spirit that's phenomenal," said Adair.

While Hurricane Fiona created a few challenges for Adair specifically, he said it didn't compare to the damage Hurricane Maria left behind in 2017.

Lloyd said his team will determine in the next two weeks if they need to send more volunteers down to help the people in Puerto Rico, while the current group on the island will be there for about two weeks unless directors determine they are needed for a longer period of time.

To learn how you can help Operation Blessing, click here.

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