Locals gather together to spread hope and help to Puerto Rico

After the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico, people all over the nation have stepped up to help. Locally, Phoenix businesses and the public have come together to help collect donations for the citizens of Puerto Rico.                

The moment Jessica Gonzalez heard about the hurricane in Puerto Rico, she said she was immediately concerned for her family and others she knew in Puerto Rico. Knowing people affected by Hurricane Maria prompted Gonzalez to spread awareness of the damage and the people that were affected.

“I reached out to any kind of community I’m involved with and one of those communities is StartingBloc, a fellowship program, for global leaders who are committed to making an impact and change through innovation,” Gonzalez said.

She reached out to that network and asked if any StartingBloc fellows who are in Puerto Rico could respond to whether they were okay or not. Gonzalez said that one of the fellows reached out and said they were okay, but that the island was basically 80 percent destroyed and 100 percent off the grid.

“And that hurt, and I said I wanted to do anything I can to help,” Gonzalez said.

Through her contact with the StartingBloc fellows in Puerto Rico, Gonzalez was connected to the ArribaPR project.  According to 12 News Arizona, ArribaPR was created by Puerto Ricans throughout the United States to assist those in need who were suffering from the hurricane. Through ArribaPR, donation collections were started in various states.

“So I stepped up for Arizona and organized specific donation sites and worked with businesses to see if they could collect donations, and that’s kind of how it started,” Gonzalez said.

While there are six businesses that are participating in the collection of goods to send to Puerto Rico around the Valley, there are four collecting in the Phoenix area.

The Phoenix businesses Puerto Rican Latin Grill, Fair Trade Café, Sweet Land Cake and Azukar Coffee are the four local locations teaming up with ArribaPR.

Jessica Gonzalez, the ArribaPR’s coordinator for Arizona, told 12 News Arizona that the state of Arizona’s ArribaPR group is being backed by the U.S. Global Leadership Council, or USGLC.

The USGLC is in charge of looking after the goods donated by the public to make they are being shipped to Puerto Rico.

For the last month, the businesses and ArribaPR have been collecting goods. The public is still encouraged to do all they can to spread awareness and donate, Gonzalez said.

Arizona’s 12 News reported that ArribaPR is also allowing the chance for those in Arizona who have family in Puerto Rico to directly send any goods to family. 12 News also stated that the Puerto Rican Center of Arizona is collaborating with ArribaPR to collect funds to rent a truck to drive the donated goods to Miami so that the items can be shipped to Puerto Rico.

According to one of the Phoenix businesses, Azukar Coffee, you just drop off your donations at any of the local businesses, however to get more involved one should directly contact Jessica Gonzalez for ArribaPR.

Gonzalez said that she wouldn’t call the collection of donated goods successful, but more of an opportunity to spread awareness and assistance.

“I would just say it’s the impact of connecting Puerto Rican families in a way, here in Arizona giving them an opportunity to give back, especially if we are not able to contact our family members,” Gonzalez said.

She also added how for Puerto Ricans today communication is severely sparse, something that many locals with families hit by Hurricane Maria can attest to.

Matthew Coppola, a freshman at Arizona State University, has an aunt, nephew and grandmother all who live in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t until a week later that he heard back after trying to contact them.

“I was worried about my family, I tried calling and texting but could not get an answer,” said Matthew. His family ended up just losing power, however they are planning on moving to New York to be with some of his family, or to his house in North Carolina.

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