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Jesse Le Master, the Tree Master, works in the water to clear downed branches at the Living Lands & Waters interstate 80 restoration project in East Moline on Friday, February 24, 2017.

Q. I understand there are few if any NGOs (non-governmental organizations) operating in Puerto Rico. So where can we send a check to help with the relief effort? -- Mike

A. According to an article by PBS NEWSHOUR posted in Sept. 25 titled, "HURRICANE MARIA: How you can help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico," here are some of the organizations you can contact to help:

United for Puerto Rico (spearheaded by the First Lady of Puerto Rico)

Former U.S. presidents have expanded their One America Appeal to include recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Save the Children, which focuses specifically on the needs of families and their children.

Global Giving has a $2 million goal for victims of Hurricane Maria.

GoFundMe has also created a hub that includes all campaigns for Hurricane Maria. You also can find campaigns for individual families seeking help for their loved ones.

Q. Going east on I-80 and getting off at the 1st exit after crossing the river, there has been a massive clean up going on at the exit. Who is cleaning out this area that the tornado had passed over a few years ago and why are they doing it? They have really removed a ton of brush and trees. -- Sharon

A. Living Lands & Waters, East Moline, launched a massive, two-year Interstate 80 gateway restoration project according to a news release posted Feb. 21, 2017. The the 28-acre land restoration kick-off was scheduled to begin Friday, Feb. 24, the news release stated.

The land restoration initiative is one of Illinois' largest in recent history according to the release. "It will encompass a complete restoration of two tracks of land back to a native prairie."

A tornado uprooted trees and caused extensive damage in March of 2016. The land is situated where Interstate 80 crosses the Mississippi River and the Illinois Welcome Center overlooks the area. More than 40,000 motorists pass by the area each day, the release said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation granted Living Lands & Waters permission to work on the state right of way along Interstate 80. The Illinois DOT and Living Lands and Waters share a goal of creating an "inviting area that showcases the natural beauty of the state to visitors of the Illinois Welcome Center and all travelers entering Illinois from the west," the release said.

Chad Pregracke, president and founder of Living Lands & Waters, said 25 local certified local arborists began major restoration during the Feb. 24 kickoff. Hundreds of local volunteers also will be involved over the next two years to "fully restore the area back to its native landscape," the release said.

Living Lands & Waters is appealing to area businesses and groups for financial support of the two-year project. Workday team-building events is a major part of the project for the organizations involved. Sponsor groups will remove invasive species, plant native trees, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers.


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