The Puerto Rico Relief Fund-South Central Wisconsin (PRRF-SCW) kicked off its fundraising and mobilization efforts on Sept. 29 at the Latino Chamber of Commerce in Fitchburg with a passionate and emotional appeal for the community to come together and help family, friends, and loved ones back home on the island of Puerto Rico
“My heart is back home as my family resides in Puerto Rico,” said Veronica Figueroa-Velez, executive director of UNIDOS, who is helping to spearhead this effort. “On Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria landed in Puerto Rico causing severe damages to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and vegetation. As a result, the people of Puerto Rico are facing a humanitarian crisis of catastrophic proportions. The Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin (PRRF-SCW) was formed to address the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.
“Our purpose is to organize and coordinate work in south-central Wisconsin aimed at providing disaster recovery assistance to Puerto Rico,” she continued. “In addition, the fund will seek to inform residents, community leaders, businesses, and other organizations on the best ways to help our people – the people of Puerto Rico – recover from this natural disaster. Its charge is also to identify appropriate and effective channels for delivery of disaster relief assistance.”
Figueroa-Velez said that the nearly 5,000 Puerto Ricans residing in south-central Wisconsin remain closely tied to their families on the island.
“Collectively, we will make sure that the funds we raise are delivered to those most impacted communities in Puerto Rico,” Figueroa-Velez said. “Over the weeks, as communication systems are restored on the island our team will identify credible organization doing the groundwork to deliver these funds. I urge you to support the people of Puerto Rico by donating to this fund. Every dollar counts.”
Joe Maldonado, a Madisonian originally from Milwaukee with deep Puerto Rican roots, said that his uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmother, and extended family all call Puerto Rico their home. “Their homes, communities and livelihoods are in limbo but thankfully they are safe. As part of the Puerto Rican diaspora, I’m joining my peers to take action and I implore you to do the same,” he said. “The most urgent need right now is financial. Please go to www.unidosWI.org and follow the link on the page to donate to the Puerto Rican Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin.”
Maldonado said that there will be several fundraising events planned over the next several months to aid the people of Puerto Rico. This past Saturday night, Journey Mental Health Center partnered with the Latino Consortium for Action to host a Vigil in Solidarity for Texas, Florida, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
“The Puerto Rican Relief Fund will work hard to not duplicate efforts that have already been established a reliable system to deliver donated goods to the island,” Maldonado says. “We urge you to contact your federally elected officials – your senators and your representative and urge them to provide immediate relief for the island. Our fundraising efforts do not stand alone and must be supported by our federal government.
“Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens and have fought in every major war since World War I,” he added. “Puerto Rico needs your support.”
Attorney Glorily Lopez, who is part of the Puerto Rico Relief Fund-South Central Wisconsin coalition, said all of her family, except for a brother in Miami, are in Puerto Rico. “It’ very difficult to not know what is going on. We only heard from my uncle yesterday. He is a Vietnam veteran. Both of my uncles have honorably served in the U.S. military,” Lopez says. “They cannot imagine why relief is not coming. They have delivered those services as members of the United States military services and they are not receiving the help that they need.
“Right now, we don’t know about the rest of our family and it’s very nerve-wracking to wake up every day and not know whether they are alive or not,” Lopez added. “There is such a great need. I urge you to support our efforts.”
You can contribute to the Puerto Rico Relief Fund-South Central Wisconsin here.