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Daddy Yankee literally saved Puerto Rico's food bank

CNN logo CNN 10/1/2017 By Patrick Gillespie and Leyla Santiago, CNN
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Eyleen Gonzalez lost everything in her home after Hurricane Maria.

She has no running water. No electricity. Barely any cell service to communicate with family. Her house is "destroyed." Her only valuable possession left is her puppy, Lena.

But for just a moment on Saturday, Gonzalez forgot about life, its worries and Puerto Rico's long road ahead.

"Daddy Yankee! Oh my God!" she said, beaming with a smile. "It's exciting to see and believe that he's helping the people in Puerto Rico because not everyone has a heart like him."

Eyleen Gonzalez with her stepsister, Amathys Santana, and her puppy, Lena, after receiving food from Daddy Yankee in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. © Patrick Gillespie/CNN Eyleen Gonzalez with her stepsister, Amathys Santana, and her puppy, Lena, after receiving food from Daddy Yankee in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.

Daddy Yankee, the Puerto Rican pop star who co-sang the wildly famous song "Despacito," flexed his celebrity power in more ways than one Saturday.

Feeding families by the thousands

The musician, whose real name is Ramon Luis Ayala, donated $100,000 to the Food Bank of Puerto Rico, with that amount confirmed by the food bank and Daddy Yankee's representatives.

The money provided food to roughly 9,000 families in Toa Baja, an impoverished town of 80,000 people near Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan.

Hurricane Maria pummeled Toa Baja. Leafless trees surround the low-lying town. Not a single household has electricity. Only 25% has running water and 50% of gas stations are back up and running. Most of the supermarkets have reopened but are rationing food, according to Toa Baja Mayor Betito Marquez.

Each family on Saturday received 59 pounds of food, not including rations of water too. The box of food included rice, pasta, tuna, beans, beef and milk. Food Bank officials say it's enough to feed a family of four for a week. Many in Toa Baja had been living day to day, waiting in long lines for food and water.

Casandra Rodriguez, 30, after she received food provided by pop star Daddy Yankee. © Patrick Gillespie/CNN Casandra Rodriguez, 30, after she received food provided by pop star Daddy Yankee. The box of food meant the world to Casandra Rodriguez, a housewife and mother of two whose husband is an electrician. Like many in Toa Baja, she's living without basic necessities and says her home was "completely destroyed" by Hurricane Maria.

"Thanks to God, we've received enough support," says Casandra, tearing up with the box in her hands. "I lost everything."

Daddy Yankee pulled off another feat earlier Saturday morning.

Fuel for food

cnnee intvw daddy yankee ayuda a puerto rico a ser reconstruido_00053817.jpg © Provided by CNN cnnee intvw daddy yankee ayuda a puerto rico a ser reconstruido_00053817.jpg

Food Bank Director Ivonne Bernard was worried around 10 a.m. before the pop star arrived.

She only had two hours of diesel gas left to power the generator that was refrigerating 25,000 pounds of food. The Food Bank's frozen food section was choked full of mangoes, pork, lettuce, pineapple and a variety of other items.

Bernard insisted: The Food Bank had the money to pay for diesel. She had also reached out to Puerto Rican government officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. They couldn't tell her when, or if, diesel was coming.

"We have the money, but they're not supplying, they're not bringing it," Bernard lamented around Saturday morning. If the food bank ran out of fuel, "I would feel very sad, because we're not going to be able to continue to provide relief to the Puerto Rican people," she said.

Then, Daddy Yankee arrived. As he toured the food bank, Bernard mentioned the issue. The musician immediately alerted his entourage. They got on the phone right away.

Within minutes, they told her 200 gallons of diesel fuel was on its way to the food bank. Bernard said that would be enough for four days.

"We got the diesel! We got the diesel!" the pop star proclaimed at the Food Bank. "We can't wait for the government."

FEMA did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

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