Lakeland trucker uses vacation time to join Puerto Rico relief effort
LAKELAND (FOX 13) - Julio De La Rosa has been a trucker for years, but he has never had a run like this.
He used his three weeks of vacation time from Cheney Brothers Incorporated to deliver food and water to people living in remote areas of Puerto Rico that were devastated by Hurricane Maria.
"As soon as they saw me, they started crying," he told FOX 13. "We were the first ones getting there, and they were so happy."
De La Rosa brought supplies from the American Red Cross to many areas that were cut off from the outside world because they are located in the mountains with roads washed out by the storm.
Five weeks after Maria hit, living conditions, he says, are still deplorable. Much of the island still has no electricity. Even if you have money, gasoline to get to a store is scarce.
So are water and food, if you eventually can get to a supermarket.
His days began sunrise and ended long after the sunset. He stayed with 120 other relief workers at a local church.
"We only had three showers, but only one was working" he recounted. "So you had to make a long line to take a shower."
De La Rosa is Dominican. His wife is Puerto Rican. Four of her relatives are now living with them in Lakeland until things back home improve. That, they say, will probably be months.
Carmen Morales, De La Rosa's sister-in-law, says there is no tourism which means many people are unemployed, kids are out of school for the foreseeable future, and it is nearly impossible to sleep at night because of the smell and constant din of generators.
"Every [thing], todo, is broken," she said. "The trees, the fruit, everything is gone. It's hard. It's hard."