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Another Voice: WNY steps up to help Puerto Rico

By Casimiro D. Rodriguez Sr.

Once again, the City of Good Neighbors lived up to that name with the recent outpouring of care for those living in Puerto Rico. Western New Yorkers from every corner of the region answered the call to donate what they could, sending in high-needs personal care and nutritional items, as well as contributing monetarily.

The overwhelming contribution of time and resources from so many diverse communities in the Buffalo region shows how this city always comes together in times of need for their neighbors.

Weeks after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, the worst storm in Puerto Rico’s modern history, our parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, grandparents, friends and neighbors continue to struggle with daily living.

The devastation is hard to imagine. With more than $95 billion in damage, a large number of residents are still left without shelter and supplies. Roads and bridges were substantially destroyed. Electricity is limited. Fresh water is scarce. Communication with the outside world is difficult. Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico’s infrastructure has made life nearly unbearable as aid workers struggle to bring essential supplies and support to hard-hit areas. It is virtually impossible to get medical supplies to the most vulnerable citizens. Casualties continue to increase due to the lack of electricity, water and other resources as well as the spread of disease.

Since the hurricane made landfall, the Western New York Hispanic/Latino leadership has partnered with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Dunkirk Mayor Wilfred Rosas in support of a statewide relief effort. To that end, the Belle Center has been instrumental in pulling all of these efforts together, procuring the personal supplies, food, water and medical necessities the people of Puerto Rico desperately need. The overwhelming response has been heartwarming.

National Guard troops at the Connecticut Street Armory have played a major role in the Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico Relief Effort. The Guard’s highly organized collection and transportation of donated goods was one of the largest in New York State. Nearly 500 shipping containers were processed for delivery to Puerto Rico. More than $68,000 was raised during a successful telethon at WKBW-TV, Channel 7, made possible with support from M&T Bank.

Words fall short in describing the heartfelt gratitude and appreciation the Western New York Hispanic/Latino leadership has for our city’s generous support for the victims of Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria.

Of the nearly 46,000 people living in Western New York who identify as Hispanic or Latino, 70 percent come from Puerto Rico. The enduring ties we have with family and friends in Puerto Rico means we must continue to lend a hand, and we hope you will continue to help whenever you can. It is expected to take months – possibly years – before Puerto Rico recovers and life returns to normal.

Casimiro D. Rodriguez Sr. is president of the Hispanic Heritage Council of Western New York Inc. and a member of the Western New York Latino Leaders Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria Relief Effort.

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