By Juli McDonald

DEDHAM (CBS) – Since November, close to 40 Puerto Rican families have been living in two hotels in Dedham. Many have found jobs and their kids are enrolled in local schools. But just as they’re getting back on their feet, they’ve learned their days here are numbered.

“It’s the best part of my day. I just feel relaxed here,” said Kathy Morales who lights up, talking about her new job she loves.

“It keeps my mind busy, keeps me busy,” Morales said. “It keeps me going. I like working.”

She’s a shift manager at Dedham’s newly-opened Blue Ribbon BBQ restaurant.

“They were looking for jobs. Perfect! We had no problem finding help,” said general manager Scott Gubitose.

Kathy Morales and her son work at Blue Ribbon BBQ in Dedham (WBZ-TV)

Morales and six fellow employees, are among the dozens of Puerto Rican families living in Dedham after Hurricane Maria took everything. The single mom wanted her four children to feel safe.

“I was stressed. I was worried. I wanted to come here and make the best of it for them,” Morales said. “They deserve it.”

As the kids settle in to Dedham schools, the parents are helping a new local business bloom.

“The camaraderie is amazing. Their attitude is awesome. Work ethic is great,” said Gubitose. “Exactly the kind of workers you don’t want to lose.”

But he fears he could. In less than three weeks they all lose their hotel home. Behind Kathy’s bright smile, she’s scared.

“The clock is ticking and I’m thinking ‘what can I do?’ If you let the world take your smile away from you, they won,” Morales said. “That’s how I see it. You always have to smile no matter what.”

Their FEMA assistance ends on March 20. The restaurant is trying to help them with any leads on cars and local housing and they hope kindness from their new community might help them land nearby.

Morales has set up a GoFundMe page to help her community settle in a home in Massachusetts.

Juli McDonald


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