FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A grassroots effort is helping get supplies to Puerto Rico as well as Hurricane Maria survivors to South Florida.
South Florida-based Spirit Airlines has done three relief flights over the last week.
The latest full flight, with 50 wheelchairs onboard, landed in Fort Lauderdale Tuesday evening.
There were so many seniors that Spirit sent doctors with the plane just in case. Thankfully, they made it to South Florida safely.
After 13 days in isolation, it was an emotional reunion with loved ones.
“So many of our own team members have friends and loved ones in Puerto Rico. We felt we wanted to give back to the Caribbean and especially through all they’ve been through,” said Barbara Webster with Spirit Airlines.
Irisida Mendez is grateful.
“It was unachievable and this actually made it happen,” she said.
The relief flight actually started with Chris and Karla Sloan, a South Florida family who couldn’t believe relief supplies were stuck in port cities in Puerto Rico.
“Let’s rent a plane. Let’s pay for gas. Let’s get it down there because we have the direct connection to get it into people’s hands,” Chris Sloan said.
The effort took off.
Spirit employees loading the plane by hand overnight. Then unloading by hand in Puerto Rico.
The Sloans’ pop-up grass roots organization made sure the supplies got to where they needed to go.
“Not languishing in warehouses. Not sitting there in bureaucracy. They are in the hands of people, and that was really our promise,” Chris Sloan said.
Spirit ran the flights with a skeleton crew so they could return with as many evacuees as possible.
Many employees are working despite a very difficult situation.
“My mom is there. My sister. My children. I have a 14-year-old and another 2-year-old. They are with their dad. I have not heard from them in four days,” said Pricilla Lee, a Spirit employee.
But the effort is well worth it and definitely recognized.
There is something to be said for Spirit Airlines. Usually, the low-fare carrier gets a lot of negative attention. This week has been a bit different. The employees are thrilled they could unite and make a difference.