Expecting Puerto Rico will need many months or longer to recover from Hurricane Maria, a coalition of Central Florida groups announced a long-term relief effort that’s immediately gathering food and supplies for islanders.

The effort, led by CASA, or Coordinadora de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Ayuda [coordinated support of solidarity and help], opened long-term drop-off centers accepting food, water, clothing, tools and supplies at the Acacia Center for Puerto Ricans in Orlando and the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Florida office in Kissimmee. More drop off sites are planned, including one at First Baptist Church in Orlando

CASA is joined by, among other organizations, the Hispanic Federation, the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce of Central Florida, Acacia Network of Florida, the Puerto Rico Bar Association of Florida and the I-4 for Puerto Rico group.

On Friday officials from those groups, volunteers and community leaders made impassioned pleas for help for a storm-ravaged, darkened American commonwealth.

The islanders, they said, are in need of everything from diapers to generators, non-perishable food to roof tarps, and that all is being collected.

Communications are slim, and the extent of the damage is not clear.

“We don’t know yet the amount of damages that the people of Puerto Rico have suffered,” said Jimmy Torres, one of the founders of CASA. “We’re building unity, and we’re building support for the people of Puerto Rico.”

Collections are being taken, sorted, and prepared for shipment to the island at Acacia, 1865 N. Econlockhatchee Trail, and at the Puerto Rico federal office, 16 S. Orlando Ave., Kissimmee, every day from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Goods also will be collected 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church of Orlando, 3000 S. John Young Parkway.

Their goal is to get the first shipment of 40,000 or more pounds of goods out Monday.

“This is going to be a long process. It’s not going to happen over night,” said Peter Vivaldi.

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