About 1,300 boxes of hygiene products bound for the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico sailed out of Port Tampa Bay on Sunday.
The supplies — items like shampoo, toilet paper and toothpaste — were donated by Tampa's DeMert Brands with all porting fees waived for the 142-foot crew boat called Glory, operated by Port St. Lucie-based nonprofit Good Samaritan Shipping Ministries.
"There is still so much damage and devastation in Puerto Rico," said Shawna Downs, who lives on Glory with her husband, James Downs, and their three children. "Their resiliency and spirit are incredible and beautiful, but they still have a tremendous weight."
More than six months after Hurricane Maria, Downs said, recent estimates indicate that about 200,000 families and businesses remain without power "and that is being conservative, and maybe half as much are without water."
From Tampa, Glory will sail to Houston to pick up 80 pallets of donated building supplies, then go on to Mayaguez, a municipality on Puerto Rico's west coast.
"Most supplies others bring go to San Juan on the eastern side," Downs said. "They take longer to get to the western side because roads are still damaged. So we go directly to the western side to speed up distribution."
Founded in January 2016 to assist victims of natural disasters in the continental United States, Good Samaritan Shipping Ministries purchased Glory in November 2017 to help Puerto Rico.
This voyage marks the vessel's fourth trip to Mayaguez, but the first with assistance from this area. Tampa's Port Logistics Refrigerated Services provided a crane, A.R. Savage & Son coordinated the arrival, loading and shipping of supplies free of charge, and Rafael Gaztambide volunteered to serve as a point person for the local assistance.
After the hurricane, Gaztambide founded JJ's Lyon Guard Foundation, which has flown 20 loads of supplies to Puerto Rico and transported medical patients from the island to Florida, via a jet flying out of Zephyrhills.
"Puerto Rico still needs our help," Gaztambide said. "Do not forget them."
Contact Paul Guzzo at email@example.com. Follow @PGuzzoTimes.