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Troy Piggly Wiggly stores collecting items for Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico

Amid news reports that hysteria is beginning to spread in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria that pounded the island of Puerto Rico six days ago, a Troy business is spearheading local collection efforts for the victims of the devastating storm.

Friends of Piggly Wiggly-Troy owners Steve and Jennifer C. Garrett have relatives on the island and expressed their concern for the creature comforts of their families.

“We were seeing the devastation on television and knowing that families of people in our community were among the victims really brought it close to home,” Jennifer Garrett said. “So many people are out of power, water, food and other resources. We wanted to do something to help.”

The Garretts have offered both Piggly Wiggly stores, on Highway 231 and North Three Notch Street, as drop-off points for non-perishable food items, first aid supplies, personal hygiene items and other needed resources. Confetti Crate and Alabama Real Estate Connection are also on board as drop-off points for item donations in support of the relief efforts to Puerto Rico.

Garrett said the relief items that are dropped off at these Troy locations will be delivered first to a Birmingham church drop-off point and then to distribution points in Puerto Rico. Donations will be collected through October 5.

Nellie Robledo of Troy said her husband, Dr. Adolfo Robledo, has relatives in Puerto Rico and thankfully they are all safe.

“My husband has two sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins in Puerto Rico. They were not harmed,” Robledo said. “They have no power, no running water and are starting to run low of food. The supermarkets are not open for business so they sent a text asking us to buy food and send it to them. I have already put food in the mail but we have no idea when the post office service will begin. And, when it does, will packages go where they are supposed to go.”

Robledo said their family members were as prepared as they thought they needed to be to ride out the storm.

“But there had never been a hurricane like this before,” she said. “Luckily, their home had minor damage but there is devastation everywhere around them. But everyone is reaching out to others. There is a spirit of unity. They are helping each other.”

For those in the local community who want to donate items to the people of Puerto Rico, Robledo suggested non-perishable foods and personal hygiene items.

“Some areas could be without power for months so there will be many needs,” she said. “Making donations to collection points would probably be the best and quickest way to get help where it is needed most.”

Aileen Gardiner of the Hamilton Crossroads community is the youngest of 11 children. She has a sister and five brothers in Puerto Rico.

“I heard from my sister over the weekend,” Gardiner said. “She and four of my brothers are okay. One brother lives about 30 minutes out in the country and no one has heard from him. But it’s hard to get to where he lives so we are hoping that it’s just that he has not been able to get a message to us.”

Gardiner said talking via a cell phone is difficult at best.

“To get a signal, people have to get on the highway where they have temporary power for cell phones but there is a long line of people wanting to use their cell phones to let their relatives know they are all right,” Gardiner said. “My sister lives in the southeast part of the island. The houses that were made from concrete withstood the storm better than the wood houses. They were blown away.

Gardiner said the island had never seen a hurricane like Maria and “hopefully, never will again.”

“I came to Alabama in 2001. My husband was in the military at Fort Rucker,” she said. “People here are concerned about others and they do good things. I know they will help those people whose lives have been devastated.”

For those who want to be a part of the relief efforts for the people of Puerto Rico, donations of perishable food items, personal hygiene products and first aid products may be dropped off the Piggly Wiggly stores in Troy, Confetti Crate and Alabama Real Estate Connection through October 5.