Families evacuating from Puerto Rico spend first Thanksgiving in Florida

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Many families from Puerto Rico continue to recover after Hurricane Maria.

For thousands, this will be their first Thanksgiving away from the island.

Families that have evacuated from Puerto Rico and relocated to Pinellas County can register for disaster assistance.

This Thanksgiving will look very different for Lipcia Mendez and her family.

They evacuated from Puerto Rico three days after the storm destroyed their home.

“It’s kind of like, new for us, like to spend it like just me and her and my husband and the kids and stuff, so we’re trying to get as much as possible from the experience,” said Mendez.

They’re one of thousands of families who have been displaced and are waiting on assistance.

“I’m at a shelter. It’s called Grace House,” she said.

The Mendez’s are staying positive.

It’s their first holiday away from home, trying traditional fixings like cranberry sauce and green bean casserole.

“I put corn in it because I thought it’d look cute, more color.”

But not all the food is going on the table. Mendez and her sister who lives in Largo are cooking for other families at shelters to pay it forward.

“We’re making turkeys and we’re making all of this food, getting ready to give back,” she said.

Although she’s thankful, Mendez misses home.

“It’s kind of difficult because part of my family is over there and we’re just starting over here and I’m with my sister and so this is new to us, so we’re hoping for the best of it.”

Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas can find additional local resource information online at www.PinellasCounty.org/Maria.

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