York County fundraiser for Puerto Rico starts Friday

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch
FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2017, file photo, debris scatters a destroyed community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. The Senate is pushing ahead on a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package that would give Puerto Rico a much-needed infusion of cash but rejects requests from the powerful Texas and Florida congressional delegations for additional money to rebuild after hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The measure is sure to sail through a Monday, Oct. 23, procedural vote and a final vote is expected no later than Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Struggles in Puerto Rico persist after back-to-back hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated the island last fall, but the issue isn’t lost on several city and county officials, educators and activists.

Starting Friday, Jan. 5, a countywide effort will collect money and supplies as part of a drive campaign called “Puerto Rico Se Levanta,” or “Puerto Rico Rises.”

The effort is spearheaded by officials at Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez, the York City Bureau of Health and the York County School of Technology.

The 21-day drive will collect nonperishable food items, clothes and shoes, non-liquid toiletries, baby items, camping supplies, pet supplies and feminine hygiene products, according to organizers.

So far, more than a dozen York County businesses, churches and organizations have partnered with Puerto Rico Se Levanta to provide products and services for the drive as well as serving as collection sites for residents to drop off items or donate money.

Lou Rivera, a local Hispanic advocate and an official with Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez, mentioned the event during York City Mayor Michael Helfrich’s inauguration on Tuesday, Jan. 2.

He said that as a child of Puerto Rican parents, it is his duty to help the island he loves get back on track.

The campaign will kick off Friday, Jan. 5, at Central Market in downtown York City and last through Thursday, Jan. 25.

All donated items will go directly to Puerto Rican homes, nonprofits and churches.

In addition, all monetary donations will be used to purchase items such as generators and water filters for homes and businesses that are still without electricity, according to Delma Rivera, a Puerto Rico Se Levanta organizer.

“All the things we’re doing is to let (Puerto Ricans know) that they’re not forgotten,” she said.

Dead horses lie on the side of the road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Friday, September 22, 2017. Because of the heavy rains brought by Maria, thousands of people were evacuated from Toa Baja after the municipal government opened the gates of the Rio La Plata Dam. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

Sarah Kovaleski, an administrator at York County School of Technology, said that while most of Puerto Rico has power, nearly 40 percent of the island is still in the dark.

More:Dark, desperate months for Puerto Ricans without power

More:VIDEO: Protest over Perry Puerto Rican aid comments

More:Experts: Puerto Rico might struggle for more than a decade

Generators are the costliest items for Puerto Rico Se Levanta to send, with total costs — including freight — ranging from $800 to $1,000 per generator.

Near the end of the campaign, Delma Rivera will travel to Puerto Rico in time for the arrival of some shipments to ensure the proper delivery to organizations and locals who need it most.

Students to help: A large part of the collection effort involves the tall logistical task of organizing and packing items, and on that front, campaign organizers feel optimistic about involvement.

That’s because while organizers say they will gladly accept any volunteer help, they expect many York Tech students to get involved preparing the items for Puerto Rico.

Larlyn Muller, an English to speakers of other languages (ESOL) specialist at York Tech, was among the initial three organizers, along with Lou Rivera from Centro Hispano and Cary Hollis with the York City Bureau of Health.

She said after the initial hurricanes hit, many of her students of Puerto Rican descent didn’t speak about the impact, but as time went on, students showed signs of sadness and worry for relatives who are still struggling nearly four months after the storms.

“It wears on them,” Muller said.

Now, students can have a direct hand in getting supplies sent to Puerto Rico.

More:York County schools helping Harvey relief effort

Beyond the volunteer effort, one student is playing a “critical” role in the promotion of the event.

Julia Atkins, a senior studying commercial arts at York Tech, created the campaign design that will appear in banners and on postcards and posters at collection sites around the county.

Puerto Rico Se Levanta: 21 Days of Giving, will run during most of January.

Atkins, a co-op intern with York Tech’s public relations department, attended a meeting among Puerto Rico Se Levanta organizers at the school’s Spartan Inn on Wednesday, Jan. 3, to listen in on all of the organizing efforts.

“Julia has been a critical component to this whole thing,” Muller said.

Giving in the new year: The campaign was initially going to run through the holidays to keep up with the spirit of giving, according to Muller.

However, a snowball effect occurred in local businesses wanting to partner with the cause, she said, and the effort jumped into 2018.

“One of us said, ‘Well, I know this person and this person,’” Muller said.

“It just kept expanding, and now it's finally happening.”

Several of the collection sites are listed below. For a full list, visit Puerto Rico Se Levanta on Facebook.

The City of York, Bureau of Health — 435 W. Philadelphia St., York City

Lifepath Christian Ministries — 367 W. Market St., York City

West York Borough — 1381 W. Poplar St.

York County SPCA — 3159 Susquehanna Trail, Manchester Township

Union Lutheran Church — 408 W. Market St., York City

The Parliament Arts Organization — 116 E. King St., York City

Next Level Barber Shop — 203 E. Philadelphia St., York PA 17403

Buchart Horn Inc. — 445 W. Philadelphia St., York City

State Rep. Carol Hill-Evans' Office — 53 E. North St., Suite 3. York City

Mayor Glenn P. Wascovich, Hallam Borough Office — 250 W. Beaver St.