In America, the best known community organizer ever is Barack Obama.

He took his work helping poor, minority communities on the South Side of Chicago and brought their issues to the nation at large.

In New Bedford right now, perhaps the best-known community organizer is Edwin Cartagena.

Cartagena, in the midst of a fall campaign to become the city’s first Latino city councilor, heard another calling. The people of his native Puerto Rico had been devastated by a hurricane like few in American history.

Cartagena dropped the campaign and immediately threw himself into organizing a relief effort, and along with the New Bedford police, collected some 300,000 pounds of goods to bring to the island. He hopes to go back to Puerto Rico a second time in the near future as the need for basics from food to water to shelter continue, particularly in the rural areas of the mountains.

Puerto Ricans, of course, are American citizens. They fight in our wars and contribute to our economy — both on the mainland and the island. And though they can vote for president on the mainland, they cannot do it on the island. That may be a big part of why so many reports have told us of a government relief effort that has lagged behind those for Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida. Puerto Ricans have little political leverage.

Even now, almost two months after the Sept. 20 storm, roughly 50 percent of Puerto Rico is without power. There is nothing in Texas or Florida to compare with it.

The number of Puerto Ricans who have come to New Bedford from the ravaged island is now close to 100 families, with close to 90 children in the school system. The city expects more before the crisis on the island is finished. Even in San Juan, Cartagena said, the electricity comes and goes as the territory desperately tries to rebuild a power grid that was substandard to begin with.

The greatest problem facing the American citizens who are coming to New Bedford from Puerto Rico is the lack of housing. Everyone knows that is the biggest need but Cartagena reports that much of the effort to find housing has been tied up in red tape.

The bureaucracy wants papers and proof of need, but people fleeing the devastated island do not always have them. There is an effort to use things like boarding passes from their planes or FEMA documentation to qualify. There is talk of temporarily waiving limits on housing occupancy. But what is really needed is emergency housing and quickly, Cartagena explained.

The Community Foundation has taken over the fund-raising for relief efforts both on the island and in New Bedford. You can contact them through the Unidos Para Familias Fund on Facebook and also learn more about the relief efforts of Cartagena’s nonprofit group, United New Bedford, on Facebook. On Dec. 16, Gifts to Give will sponsor a fundraiser from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at its location on 1 Titleist Drive in Acushnet.

Cartagena has not done all this organizing alone. Besides the Community Foundation and Gifts to Give and the New Bedford Police, Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn and Housing Authority Executive Director Steve Beauregard have been involved in the effort from the beginning. The Mitchell administration has mobilized to seek state funding for the additional students.

But this is going to be a long relief and rebuilding effort, both on the island and in New Bedford.

As for himself, Cartagena said he does not think twice about abandoning his campaign for the relief effort. “Maybe it was not the best move for campaigning but at the end of the day, helping people was the reason I ran in the first place,” he said.