Multiple disasters strain relief efforts for volunteers and donations

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Before President Trump lifted the Jones Act, it was impossible for foreign ships to deliver aid directly to Puerto Rico.

Complicating relief efforts even further are the three back-to-back hurricanes which struck Texas, Florida, and then Puerto Rico.

It's put the ability for some organizations to recruit volunteers or collect donations to the test.

The American Red Cross sent 569 volunteers to Puerto Rico, but officials said we haven't seen anything like this before, and more help is needed.

The aftermath of Hurricane Maria has Lancaster restaurant manager Louis Pagan concerned for loved ones in Puerto Rico.

Catalina's on Orange general manager Louis Pagan said "I wonder if, you know, what's going on. If they're ok, if they're not ok. If they got help, if they didn't get help, but I'm sure that something is working. It's getting there, at least that's what I want to think. I want to keep it positive."

Pagan is doing his part by donating sales from his restaurant to help relief efforts, but some may say more could be done.

Central PA Red Cross CEO Jeri Sims said "if you're not seeing images on the TV, or or if you're not hearing about it, the needs are greater than ever. So, it is very, very important that people support us financially, and with manpower. We need help."

"The Red Cross and FEMA, they're always the first ones in there, and then something else comes up and then they have to go over here now. So, everybody's struggling right now, because it was not just one, not two, but three areas that are getting hit," Pagan said.

The stress of responding to three subsequent disasters could leave some volunteers burnt out.

"We have volunteers who deploy for two weeks, and they come home for two days and they go right back out. It's in their blood. Others come back and say 'you know, that was a great experience, but I need to catch my breath,'" Sims said.

While some people who don't have the time to give, but are able to give money, may be tapped out.

"If they dont have the financial wherewithal, but want to help, they can volunteer. It can be anything from virtually deploying to actually deploying, and helping with case work," Sims said.

The desire to help is what inspired many to answer the call for volunteers or give financial donations.

"If you can give your money or your time, we will welcome you into our family of givers," Sims said.

"We're getting people from all over, we really are. Old San Juan jumped in, Himalayan jumped in. I think it's going in the right direction. Slow start, but definitely progress," Pagan said.

Sims said big disasters like Hurricane Maria inspire more people to volunteer their time.

The American Red Cross has a locator service in English and Spanish to help those trying to contact loved ones to find out if they're OK.