Spring Lake man helping relief efforts in Puerto Rico

Joseph Van Harken is trying to organize relief efforts focused on solar power.

SPRING LAKE, MICH. - Hurricane Maria has been especially tough for a Spring Lake man whose Mother lives in Puerto Rico. It took Joseph Van Harken days to finally reach his mother because power on the island is knocked out.

"Once the communications went down, typically in a storm situation, they come back up in a day or so. But this time was different; it was roughly 4 or 5 days until we heard anything," said Van Harken.

But he finally got in touch with her and immediately started working on getting her off the island. His efforts were successful, and she landed in Grand Rapids this past weekend.

"It was amazing, that moment when you are not sure and there are so many question marks and then you see your mother at the airport--there are no words for it," said Van Harken.

Even with the happy reunion, his mother's home, Puerto Rico, is devastated. Now, only 7 percent of the island has gotten their power back so Van Harken is working with a non-profit called The Coastal Marine Resource Center to try and help.

"They are getting small solar generators up as quickly as possible so they ship and fly the generators over and have experts fly in and train locals to assemble the product," says Van Harken.

The solar generators are critical, as some experts say it could be months until power is fully restored.

"In order to accomplish anything or do anything you need power," says Van Harken.

If you'd like to donate to the non-profit and help their relief efforts in Puerto Rico, here is more information.

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