Woman donates lights to help Puerto Rican families affected by hurricane

DENVER -- Six months after a powerful hurricane ripped through Puerto Rico, the storm’s impacts are still being felt.

After Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, Evelyn Cartagena-Meyer quickly understood how dire the situation was.

Cartagena-Meyer lives in Denver but grew up on the island. Her parents made it through the storm with little damage to their home.

But they, like thousands of others, were stuck without power and without a clear sense when it would be restored.

Cartagena-Meyer didn’t hear from her mom until 10 days after the storm.

“It was my mom (on the phone) and I just started balling. She was in the line to get gas and was in the line for 8 hours. A lady there let her use the phone, so she can call me because my mom didn’t have signal,” Cartagena-Meyer said.

Cartagena-Meyer and several of her fellow Puerto Ricans in Colorado had a strong desire to send help.

In October, they held a fundraiser at Senor Bear in Denver. She also launched a You Caring page.

Together with the help of her friends, they raised enough money to donate close to 750 solar power lanterns.

Cartagena-Meyer traveled to the island in December to deliver the lanterns.

“And I would say ‘Here. I bought you this, so you can have light.’ And they would look at me and say ‘I don’t have the money.’ And I’m like ‘It’s OK. I’m giving it to you.'" Cartagena-Meyer said.

"And they would just start crying, because you know, because I haven’t forgotten about them. I’m there."

She made another trip to donate more lights in February.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy by the local utility, there are still nearly 156,000 people without power. Cartagena-Meyer said what she saw last month is still a very sad situation.

“When you fly over Puerto Rico you see houses with blue tarps. A wave of blue tarps," she said.

"And it’s just very sad because hurricane season is coming on June first and people don’t have the resources, the money to fix their home. To fix their roof."

She wants to turn her attention to those people. She plans to create a nonprofit that will help with home repairs on the island and don’t have the money.