While Puerto Rico recovers from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, several Mid-South residents with ties to the island are initiating relief efforts to help their people get on their feet.
For almost two weeks, millions of citizens of the U.S. protectorate have gone without power and communication. Food and potable water have been scarce. Filling up a car could require an eight-hour wait in line, according to reports.
As news of the third-world conditions on the island trickled to the mainland, Puerto Rico in Memphis, a local Facebook group, decided to get involved in the relief effort.
“This situation with the hurricane is something extraordinary. They are having a hard time right now,” said Maria DelosAngeles Azor, a member of Puerto Rico in Memphis.
A core group of 20 members have organized supply donation sites at Mystic Styles Hair Studio, 5412 Elvis Presley Boulevard; the Germantown Performing Arts Center, 1801 Exeter Road; the Jackson Avenue Flea Market, 4010 Jackson Avenue and at 2203 Vinton Avenue, a Midtown residence.
All four locations will be activated on October 8 for a relief drive, held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Requested supplies include bottled water, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, canned and dry food, baby supplies, first aid kits, blankets, pillow, batteries. A full list can be found on the Puerto Rico in Memphis Facebook page.
Once the drive is finished, the supplies will be dropped off at a warehouse and placed on pallets.
JetBlue has donated an aircraft to drop off supplies at Aquavilla, Puerto Rico, which is on the west side of the island. Supplies must total 12,000 pounds for the airline to follow through with the delivery.
“It will be good to get stuff to that side of the island,” said Joy Padilla-Anderson. “Transporting the supplies is a logistical nightmare. They have had so many landslides. You can’t drive up roads. You can’t even walk up some.”
Padilla-Anderson, operator of the Joy Ride Latin Eats food truck, is heading the Midtown donation efforts.
“I am using my food truck here in front of my house and hope to fill it up as much as we can,” said Padilla-Anderson.
She will also donate a part of her proceeds from the JoyRide to the relief.
Growing up between Florida and Puerto Rico, the small business owner still has close ties to the island. Her grandparents, sister, brother and cousins are scattered across the island.
“I finally heard from my family this week and they are all OK. But I cried every day. I feel better now since I’ve talked with them and know they are getting help,” said Padilla-Anderson.
Other members of Puerto Rico in Memphis haven’t been as fortunate as they have family in towns that didn’t fare as well.
With worst estimates saying the island has been set back 25 to 30 years, relief will be needed on an ongoing basis.
Hoping to continue to provide aid, the local group is organizing a Puerto Rican Festival – although it is still in the planning stage. It will be held at the Blue Moon Event Center on October 22. All proceeds will go to a nonprofit organization in Puerto Rico. More details will be available on the Puerto Rico in Memphis Facebook page as the event draws near.
“We are now working on getting the word out and to make sure people know we can go beyond the Latin community in Memphis. We need everyone in all neighborhoods to know about it,” said Azor.
All photos courtesy of Marlon Mercado.