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Puerto Rico relief efforts both rewarding and frustrating

WATERBURY --  There's been both frustration and joy over relief efforts for residents of the devastated island nation of Puerto Rico.

Several natives of Puerto Rico, who work for Waterbury Hospital, rather quickly put together a shipment of medical supplies and medications last week.

However, after a commercial airline denied them cargo space, they were sent scrambling for transportation. That is, until a famous Hollywood actor stepped up.

"Tyler Perry was kind enough to donate his private plane and we were able to ship the supplies that way," said Yarixa Lopez, an administrative assistant at Waterbury Hospital.

The hospital was able to make the connection with Perry, who has largely become famous through the "Madea" movies, through working closely with the Hispanic Coalition of Greater Waterbury and Dr. Cesar Sierra, an ophthalmologist with Yale New Haven Health.

"There is a company called Sky Hope and they connect with people who own private planes and usually celebrities tend to donate from time to time," Lopez noted.

They've confirmed their shipment has made it to a hospital in Puerto Rico, but many supplies are still not able to get to most of the country because of blocked roads.

State Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven), a native of Puerto Rico, who says half of his family still lives there, expressed his frustration Monday morning.

"They're running out of water. They're running out of medication. They're running out of food. So now you see an increase in desperation because they don't know what to do," he said.

Candelaria, who says he learned within the past few days an aunt died during the hurricane, can't understand why, with 4,000 U.S. troops on the ground, roads have not been cleared.

"We are looked at as second-class citizens," he says. "It's not a priority. I think the NFL is more of a priority than this humanitarian crisis that we're having on the island of Puerto Rico."

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D - Connecticut) told parishioners at a New Haven church Monday she will be speaking to Sikorsky Aircraft about potential helicopter support and Columbia University told her they have an idea.

"They're looking at the potential for drones, but that's a system that takes a while to put in to place," she said.

A fundraiser on Saturday, at a New Haven park, raised $63,000 for Puerto Rico relief. Waterbury Hospital is planning to hold other fundraisers, including bracelet sales this week.