Aiding Puerto Rico
Collection Drives Underway To Assist Devastated Island
Collections are ongoing all across Chautauqua County to provide relief to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
The Category 4 Hurricane devastated the island last week, but volunteers across the area and even into Pennsylvania are looking to provide some help.
In an effort to do something about his devastated homeland, Videl Colon, a local resident, organized a drive to collect goods including water and nonperishable items to be sent to Puerto Rico. Colon said he grew up on the island and came to the local area at the age of 20. He said he has not been able to get in touch with his loved ones who still reside in there.
“I’ve got brothers and sisters there,” Colon said. “All we can do is try to help. I never saw anything like it before.”
The power has been knocked out and will be for a long time. Colon said it is hard to listen to the news and has been doing his best to help out, though he sometimes feels like his “hands are tied.”
Colon said City Councilwoman Kim Ecklund has been instrumental in helping with the effort and getting the word out about the collection.
After Colon expressed a desire to help, the Morton Club of Jamestown offered him a place to hold the collection. Currently, donations of bottled water, nonperishable foods, baby wipes, diapers, flash lights, batteries and other items are being accepted. Colon said donations will be accepted through today, from 11a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Morton Club on Pratt Avenue.
Colon asked that the Jamestown community to come together and support another community that is in need of help.
At the end of the drive, Brigiotta’s Farm Land Store will use a truck to transport all the items to Dunkirk. From there, it will go to Buffalo and the items will be sent to Puerto Rico.
Likewise, another effort is ongoing in the community to send aid to Puerto Rico. Hispanic Community Council President Max Martin said his organization is also leading an effort in Dunkirk, Jamestown and Russell, Pa. that will continue for two weeks in conjunction with the city of Dunkirk. The donations will be sent straight to Puerto Rico.
Currently, the council is accepting nonperishable foods, hygiene products, diapers, wipes, water, medicines such as pain relievers and other basic necessities. At the moment, Martin said they are not in need of clothes at the moment.
“We’re trying to collect anything a family needs,” he said. “Imagine a regular human being and their basic needs. That’s what we’re collecting.”
Martin said the idea came about due to the number of people concerned with loved ones living in Puerto Rico. He said there is still a large connection between the people in Chautauqua County and those in located on the island nation. At some point, people came to Martin with questions of how to contact their loved ones despite the power outages and lack of communications.
“We started because of the need,” he said. “The need of the people in Puerto Rico, but also the emotional need of the people here.”
The Hispanic Community Council has partnered with the city of Dunkirk, Martin said, who will then make sure the items reach Puerto Rico. Martin said it is important to help fellow countrymen, as the unincorporated U.S. territory is a part of the United States. He said if aid does not get to the island, the people on the island will come here for help.
“It’s a good movement,” Martin said. “We have a lot of volunteers up here, all with a smile. They bring food and drinks for everybody. It’s like a family party. That’s what I love, the connection with the community.”
There are three collection sites, including the Salvation Army in Dunkirk at 704 Central Ave. Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the Iglesia Nueva Vida (housed at First Covenant Church) at 520 Spring St. in Jamestown Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 5-7 p.m. Also, Praise! Fellowship is collecting items at 7451 Market St. in Russell, Pa. Those interested call or email Praise Fellowship at 814-757-5758 or praisefellowship.net/contact.
To contact Iglesia Nueva Vida (New Life Church), call the Rev. Al Pagan at 708-8184. To contact the collection site at the the Dunkirk Salvation Army, call 499-5622 or 281-9732.
For more information, visit www.hispaniccommunitycouncil.org.