Roanoke County sheriff, realtor say Puerto Rico trip was "life-changing"

Two Roanoke men say they will have a lot to be thankful for at the Thanksgiving table this year following a trip to Hurricane Devastated Puerto Rico.

"I can run water to brush my teeth," Todd McKee said after a heavy sigh. "I think it's OK to take things like that for granted but I also don't want to take it for granted anymore."

After hearing a call for volunteers from their church, Sheriff Eric Orange and his friend, local realtor, Todd McKee traveled with the Southern Baptist Convention.

They spent two weeks in a town called Arecibo, west of San Juan.

It's where closed the gaps in broken infrastructure and opened their eyes to the needs that Puerto Ricans still face.

"We saw devastation," Sheriff Eric Orange said. "I mean there were piles of trash from along the street sometimes you would see areas in which the trash would be 30 feet long and four feet high."

They say some might not get power for six more months.
They still are in need of basic supplies and told the sheriff there were infrastructure troubles even before the storm.

But he says locals are doing their best to pick themselves up.

"Their desire is to rise up, they're gonna overcome this, this is not gonna hold them down," he said.

One thing they say the locals are talking about is the mass exodus of Puerto Ricans to places like south Florida. Orange said some are wondering how they'll rebuild while losing many valuable voices.

They helped with tree removal, construction projects and delivering supplies. Both men say they are determined return sometime soon and that their interactions with fellow Americans is something they'll never forget.

"I don't want to put down what they're going through, but I sure do have a new perspective," McKee said. "I don't put that mildly, I mean I'm different after two weeks down there."