Long Beach resident Julie Brodsky had tears in her eyes as she described the conditions of her hometown in Puerto Rico. More than three months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory, and residents of the mountainside village near the southern coast of the island were still without power or running water.
With no timeline set for when the services would be restored and after seeing the destruction the 150 mile-per-hour winds wrought first hand during a visit in October, Brodsky said she was “losing sleep,” over her feeling of helplessness.
That was when the Long Beach Latino Civic Association approached her, looking to embark on a new, more personalized relief effort after teaming up with Oceanside’s Cardona family to help to send money and three shipping containers of supplies to the devastated island in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
“We knew that we needed boots on the ground,” said LBLCA executive director Helen Dorado Alessi of the group’s discussions on what to do next. “We needed to know exactly how the items would get to people.”
Brodsky, whose entire family lives in Puerto Rico, would provide that need. Honing in on the municipality of Arroyo where Brodsky’s village is located, the civic association decided to adopt 109 families in the area, providing them with essential items the residents had requested such as solar-powered lights, gasoline funds, fans and battery chargers.
Among those seeking to contribute was Island Parker Joe Pontecorvo. “I thought, what can I bring to the table to lend a hand,” he said, and approached Chief Executive Officer David Shieren and Marketing Manager Tara Bono of Sunpower by Empower Solar in Island Park to see if they would be willing to help.
Looking to contribute as well, the business donated 20 solar-powered USB battery chargers for Brodsky to deliver to her village this December.
“We were here in Island Park when Sandy hit,” Bono said. “People were sending us supplies, so when we were asked to help we were more than happy to pay it forward.”
With crates of donated supplies in tow and boxes of toys donated by West End resident Mark Espinet, Brodsky returned to Arroyo on Dec. 24 to deliver them by hand, and Alessi said she was heartened to see her group’s efforts pay off in such a tangible way.
While acknowledging the civic association’s limits “We’re no Rockafellers,” Alessi said, the group was looking towards its next relief effort for Puerto Rico. “I think there’s going to be a conversation about what’s next,” she said. “We’re trying not to skip any beats.”
If you would like to contribute to the LBLCA’s Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief fund you can donate at paypal.me/LBLCA or call (516) 889-4912.