NEW BRITAIN – As Olga Perez pulled up with a donation of food, water and first aid supplies Friday afternoon, Common Council member Kristian Rosado unloaded the truck and brought the supplies to boxes that will be sent to Puerto Rico.
“I have my mother, my sister and my cousin in Puerto Rico,” Perez said through an interpreter as she wiped tears away from her eyes. “They are still waiting for help to get to those places.”
Perez, Rosado and volunteers from Community Mental Health Affiliates and the city’s Puerto Rican Society staged a community effort Friday to get much needed supplies to the island that was ravaged by Hurricane Maria a few weeks ago. About 50 percent of the U.S. territory is still without power, said Carmen Vives, a medical assistant with CMHA. “There are places with no roads and they can’t land a helicopter,” she said. “They have to drop items.”
After hearing from staff at CMHA’s 125 Whiting St. location, which has a large Hispanic population that uses behavioral health services, the agency decided to partner with the Puerto Rican Society to have a donation drive, said Tanya Banas, the program director for the location. “We have a lot of Spanish speaking staff and a few days after the hurricane they were talking about how they couldn’t reach their families,” Banas said. “We knew our clients were going through that too.”
Under sunny skies Friday afternoon the DJ playing Latino music was encouraging the volunteers and the donators to dance in the parking lot while hot dogs were roasting on the grill. “Things are going well,” Rosado said. “As people pull up we are going to their cars and getting the items for them.”
The island critically needs flashlights, batteries, water and baby supplies, said Jessica Antunes, of CMHA. “We reached out to the Puerto Rican Society to do this with us,” she said. “We have a lot of families who are impacted.”
The Puerto Rican Society has already packed up two 18-wheelers full of supplies and had them driven to Brooklyn where the military will take over getting the items to the island, said David Saavedra, of the Puerto Rican Society. “The community is working together for this,” said Saavedra who has family in the San German area of the island. “They are struggling, everybody is struggling. Little by little they are getting help from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), the Army and the Puerto Rican government.”
Since Thursday, organizers estimated that about 100 people donated supplies.
Vives promoted the event at the Church of Christ on Ellis Street where she attends. Perez was at the church and received a flyer. She in turn promoted the donation drive at her church Asamblea De Dios.
“It’s nice to see how much the community can come together,” Antunes said. “And it’s nice to see that our families in Puerto Rico are being taken care of.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.