AYER -- More than three months after students with special education needs and members of the community collected boxes of supplies to send to Puerto Rico, the donations will be given to Hurricane Maria victims on the island and those resettling in the Leominster area.

Most of the donations, which were collected in October, will go to the Spanish American Center, said Cheryl Boissy, a member of the nonprofit's board of directors. Four crates of essential items have been shipped to Puerto Rico and will be distributed to community health centers by the center's executive director, Neddy Latimer.

"We were all too grateful to be able to help," Boissy said.

Students and staff from the FLACC Educational Collaborative, a nonprofit that offers programs for students with autism or developmental disorders in North Central Massachusetts, started collecting cases of bottled water, canned goods, batteries, first aid kits, and other goods after the Category 5 hurricane struck Puerto Rico.

"The kids wanted to help out," said Richard Murphy, executive director of the group. "We have a lot of staff with families who are from Puerto Rico, so this was important to do."

Donations came from Ayer, Townsend, Fitchburg, and Auburn.

Originally, Jon Sweeney, athletic director of the Ayer Shirley Regional School District, was going to make arrangements to have the goods shipped the week of Oct.


30, 2017, according to the group.

Sweeney's mother, a nurse from New Haven CT Hospital, who was traveling to the island with a medical team and was going to escort the shipment.

The supplies remained at Ayer Shirley High until February.

"It was a shame that they collected all this stuff and it sat there since October," Boissy said. "People were so good about donating, and we wanted to make sure items were distributed appropriately and helped people."

The Spanish American Center got a call from Ayer Shirley last week, Boissy said.

A van picked up the supplies on Feb. 6 and came back a second time because because the van was entirely full the first trip, she said.

She credits the Ayer Shirley's assistant principal, Ed Ramos, for reaching out to the center. He was there during the supply pickup.

"It was a real community effort," Boissy said. "People have really risen to the task."