Marissa Verdon, Staff Writer
The Office of International Education has teamed up with the Mohawk Valley Latino Association to handle donations coming in for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
The Latino Association has been actively fundraising and collecting donations for local families who were evacuated from Puerto Rico and brought to Utica. On Sept. 20, Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents were devastated by Hurricane Maria — causing a total of $94 billion in damages.
For months, families were left without power, food, clean water and little medicine. Of those 3.4 million, more than 200,000 were evacuated to the United States, per NBC News, some relocating here in Utica, NY.
Senior Adrian Gutierrez, an intern at the International Education Office, spent time with the Latino Association sorting through the donated items.
“They don’t have much space down there,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve been sorting through a lot of winter wear items. People who are coming to the area aren’t used to the cold and don’t have cold weather essentials like hats, gloves, boots and warm jackets. They’re basically starting their lives over from nothing, and we’ve been dividing the items up as they come in.”
Gutierrez and other UC students have been spending a significant amount of time returning phone calls made to the Latino Association with people eager to help the families.
“I’ve been calling people back, making arrangements with them to help unload car loads of things,” he said. “People have been really eager to help those coming from Puerto Rico.”
Although Hurricane Maria occurred months ago, the lives of the victims and the rebuilding of Puerto Rico are far from over.
“There are families who need help, and the City of Utica is known for being a popular place for refugees to come to when they need help,” Gutierrez said. “I’m very happy we’re getting calls, and people really want to help. Whether it’s transportation, helping people get jobs, donating food items, even the smallest thing makes a big difference in the lives of the people who came to Utica with very little.”
The International Education Office has been working with the Latino Association for a few weeks, but hope to continue their efforts.
“This has been really great for students to get involved and help families without contributing financially,” Gutierrez said. “Being students, income is obviously limited and it may feel like sometimes there’s nothing we can do to help. Reaching out and seeing how you can get involved is easy, it’s a quick email or a Facebook message. Helping isn’t always donating money but time can be just as meaningful.”
If you are looking to volunteer or donate, you can contact the Mohawk Valley Latino Association at [email protected] or call at (315) 864-8419. The items being collected are household items including toiletries, any kind of kitchen item, bathroom items, lighting, curtains and living, dining and bedroom furniture. Cash donations are also accepted via PayPal at [email protected]
The Latino Association is also selling t-shirts with proceeds from sales to go directly into the assistance of the families. The shirts are available online at facebook.com/mohawkvalleylatinoassoication.