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'Operation Puerto Rico Strong' continues Saturday, supplies accepted until 4 p.m.

A native Puerto Rican who lives in Asheville teamed up with a popular brewery for a relief effort that's taken on a life of its own. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A native Puerto Rican who lives in Asheville teamed up with a popular brewery for a relief effort that's taken on a life of its own.

It all started with just one Facebook post. On Monday, the word went out to friends and friends of friends, whoever could help the victims of Hurricane Maria.

Then Highland Brewing Company stepped up--and Operation Puerto Rico Strong was born.

Ginolly Rodriguez, who started it all, can't believe the response.

"Is that for water? Es la para agua? Oh my god, that's the water truck," Rodriguez laughed, as an 18-wheeler loaded with pallets of drinking water, donated by Arcadia Beverage in Arden, arrived.

It was tough to get the big rig lined up in the loading dock at Highland.

Already inside the warehouse were stacks of treated, sanitizing bathing towels from Asheville's Avadim, a perfect product to help battle the health crisis in Puerto Rico.

"It fits in with our corporate culture, and the word 'avadim,' to serve," Avadim Technologies' Joseph McGuire said.

From big donations to the little ones, it's all piling up in East Asheville as bag loads of the bare necessities are being brought in by families.

Even the youngest of donors, like Ryker Thomas, knows why he was there Friday.

"So I can donate some food to Puerto Rico," he said.

For island natives who've settled in the mountains, it's personal, something still close to home.

"I do have family in Puerto Rico, and, you know, all these donations could be helping my family over there," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said much of the credit goes to Highland Brewing because that one Facebook post was shared and went viral.

Highland Brewing manager Grant DaSantos was driving a forklift Friday, doing a job that had nothing to do with beer and, working instead on disaster relief supplies, part of a mission of mercy that started here in the mountains.

"We are a very community-driven business, and we don't help each other out, then, there won't be anything else," DaSantos said.

"I never in my life would expect to go this viral and people were going to come together as one to, you know, make an impact and help the community, help the island of Puerto Rico,"" Rodriguez said. "I'm shocked."

Operation Puerto Rico Strong continues Saturday. Supplies will be taken at Highland Brewing from noon until 4 p.m., and financial donations are also appreciated.

Highland Brewing will also donate $1 for every pint of its Gaelic ale poured between noon and 10 p.m. to a no-kill shelter group to help animals rescued from flooding after Maria.

Items needed

  • Water
  • Toilet paper
  • Baby food/formula paper
  • Towels
  • Baby wipes
  • Candles
  • Canned food/snacks
  • Blanket/pillows
  • Insect repellent
  • C & D batteries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Flashlights
  • First aid supplies
  • Pet food
  • Toiletries
  • Disposable plates, silverware & cups
  • Over-the-counter medicines

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