Lake Ozark couple prepares for twelve family members to arrive from Puerto Rico
LAKE OZARK —
Abner and Carmen Martinez thought they would be living the "emptynester" life this fall. Their youngest just went off to college, and they were prepared to live a leisure lifestyle of back and forth from their home in Saint Peters, and their home in Lake Ozark. However, Hurricane Maria changed all of that.
Abner was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He left after college to join the Army. Carmen's parents are both from Puerto Rico, but she was born and raised in New York. Her parents moved her back to the island when she was a senior in high school. She came back to the states to serve in the Army as well.
Both of them ended up staying in Missouri, but to this day, Puerto Rico is the place they call home.
All of their extended family lives there. Aunts, uncles, cousins and their parents. They said they have been blessed, and when Hurricane Maria hit, having their family flee to Missouri was a "no-brainer."
Twelve of their family members will arrive later this month. They will be staying at their house located in Lake Ozark. Carmen's parents are already here, staying with Abner and Carmen in Saint Peters.
Currently, their kitchen is filled with garbage bags that hold donations from people all around the area.
"It's 12 people, and all of them have summer clothes, because in Puerto Rico you don't need winter clothes. So, we're talking little kids that need boots and gloves and coats and jackets," Carmen said.
Their family members haven't had power for 25 days. Abner and Carmen described their family's state as desperate.
"I went to the grocery store the other day and I just broke down crying because I figure I can by all this food, but they can't," Carmen said. "They can't get in the line. They don't have cash. They don't have access to money, because they can't get money. They don't have a job anymore so that limits their money also. You think about it and you think, 'How blessed are we?' Then I just feel like - I feel so guilty."
Carmen said they're hoping to get the kids enrolled in local schools as soon as possible.
"They get here on the 30th, and they're really excited about Halloween," she said. "We're trying to see about making it happy for them because they're so excited to be here, and it's just really hard."
Abner said right now they're minds are in "damage-control mode." They are focused on getting their family here, and providing their basic needs. However, he said at some point, the family may have to consider making their move to Missouri a permanent one.
"The first few months is going to be the challenge," he said. "As we're getting closer to the holiday season, and they're not in the place that they know, for us, we can understand that. We can deal with that. The challenge is to explain that to a little kid that things are not going to be the same as they used to."
Despite the very unfortunate circumstances, Abner said he is excited to have his family under one roof.
"With all the bad I hope we can show them some good and some fun and make that transition a little better," he said.