“I can’t really describe the feeling that this gave us to do this – especially when we were working on packing the boxes and just seeing everything come together,” says Nicole Sandoval, a member of the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin (PRRF-SCWI). “As far as donation-wise, it was just this emotional feeling of being able to finally not just raise funds, but to collect items of necessities to send to the people of Puerto Rico.

“It was just an amazing experience to go through the collaboration of all of these community groups and coming together with community members to put these items together,” she adds. “The people of Puerto Rico are in great need so it was great to see it all come together.”

The Puerto Rico Relief Fund-South Central Wisconsin (PRRF-SCW) kicked off its fundraising and mobilization efforts a little over a month ago 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.

Glorily Lopez, who serves on the executive committee of the the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin, at the kickoff event.

On Saturday, October 28, representatives from the PRFF-SCW’s Collections and Distribution Committee delivered items of first necessity to the Puerto Rican Agenda in Chicago who transported the supplies to the Puerto Rican towns of Aguada, Aguadilla, Anasco, Las Marias, Moca, and San Sebastian.

Lydia Rosario with 2 of 11 pallets the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin collected.

The people of Puerto Rico received 90-plus boxes of medical masks, 18-plus boxes of latex gloves, one electrical generator, 517-plus canned goods, 44 cans of dog and cat food, 112 feminine hygiene products, bags of rice, 360 rolls of paper towels, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, 73 24-packs of bottled water, soap, toilet paper, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers and much, much more.

“The metro area in Puerto Rico has been restored as far as cell phone coverage, but there are still plenty of small towns that are lacking and not getting the help that they need and still don’t have potable water. That’s a big thing,” Sandoval says. “I think we had over 75 cases of water; so that was amazing to get all of that.”

In addition to the 293-plus boxes, 14 pallets of first-necessity items were donated by UW-Madison graduate students that were distributed to many towns throughout the island.

Sandoval’s aunt’s husband is from Puerto Rico and his family lives in Merobees, one of the towns that they had designated the items to go to. “He visited his family there in Puerto Rico recently and he brought pictures from that area and it was terrible and devastating to see the lack of aid that there is right now compared to what the current administration is trying to portray,” Sandoval says. “Here in Madison we felt compelled to do something and we just dove right into it.”

They are 50 percent to their goal. Right now, they have $52,650. “That was raised within a month,” says Sandoval, who serves on PRFF-SCW’s Communications Committee and the Collection and Distribution Committee. “This hasn’t been around for very long. We are excited to raise even more money.”

They are still trying to figure out how they are going to use some of the funds. “There is talk about adopting a town or several towns in Puerto Rico where we could essentially donate the money to or buy goods for,” Sandoval says. “But for now, I think our biggest accomplishment is going to be able to send the items down through our partnership with the Puerto Rican Agenda in Chicago.”

Members of the Collections and Distribution Committee packing items for Puerto Rico.

This relieft effort was made possible through The Puerto Rican Agenda in Chicago, who through their leadership had secured donated cargo space through United Airlines and Boeing.

“Silvia Vargas, another member of our Collections and Distribution Committee, went down to Chicago with two or three trucks full of items,” Sandoval says. “She has been just wonderful. She was very heavily involved in setting up the link to that partnership and I know they worked very closely with Rep. Luis Gutierrez from Chicago to get this all done.”

On top of providing much-needed relief for the people of Puerto Rico, it’s been a great bonding experience for the community members that make up the Puerto Rico Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin.

“We have a great group. They’re not all just Puerto Rican. We have Chicanos. I am Bolivian. It’s a group of Latinos who are coming together to help the Puerto Rican community,” Sandoval says. “These are people that you might not normally interact with outside of some community functions. I’ve met a lot of people through this who are doing a lot in the community but are not necessarily in the spotlight. Seeing those people come together for this has been amazing. It was a great chance to meet new people and build on our community right here in Madison so we can also do things for our people right here at home.”

You can donate to the Puerto Rican Relief Fund of South Central Wisconsin right here.