Philadelphia-area nonprofits unite to help Puerto Rico

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Philadelphia’s growing Latino population means a number of local organizations work frequently to meet the needs of the Hispanic community in Philadelphia and beyond.

“Philadelphia has one of the most concentrated populations of Puerto Ricans,” said Nilda Ruiz, CEO of the Association Puertorrinuqeños en Marcha (APM), which is based in North Philadelphia.

APM is one of dozens of local organizations that are part of Unidos Pa Puerto Rico, which means both “United for Puerto Rico” and “Pa” for Pennsylvania.

“We had a meeting just yesterday and will meet today. We have over 40 nonprofits,” Ruiz said.

Unidos Pa Puerto Rico combines the resources of Pennsylvania with the needs of Puerto Rico.

“The southern part of the island was hit really, really hard,” Ruiz said.

SEE ALSO: How to Help People in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Fiona

The damage was left after Hurricane Fiona. It hit Puerto Rico on Sunday with rain, wind and flooding. More than a million people are still without electricity and two thirds of the people without clean water. But water is not what this group wants to collect.

“Everything just gets bottlenecked,” Ruiz said of Unidos Pa PR’s earlier efforts to send supplies after the group formed in response to Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in 2017.

The organization learned that lesson and is now focused on raising money to remember how some potential donors didn’t always know how to donate after Hurricane Maria.

“Although many people had good intentions, they were confused about where to send the money,” said Adonis Banegas, CEO of Concilio, which will assume fiduciary responsibility for overseeing the collection and distribution of the donations. The executive directors of the 40 non-profit organizations that make up Unidos will lead the donation fund.

The group used the same process when raising approximately $400,000 to help people in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria. They didn’t just focus on larger groups to provide assistance.

“We’re literally connecting with fishermen, local churches, and people who just needed the money,” Banegas said.

“100% of the money raised goes to Puerto Rico,” Ruiz said.

Using a finance committee and public reporting for transparency, Unidos will not operate through government. Recognizing that donating items may work better in certain circumstances, Unidos includes organizations like kike Tools 4 Success, which collects specific items that communities are requesting for disaster recovery.

“We need medicine. We need solar energy. All of that will be collected in specific locations,” said Sarah Vanga of Tools 4 Success, adding that the locations will be in Philadelphia and Allentown.

The Greater Philadelphia Salvation Army is also part of Unidos’ efforts. They help locally in Puerto Rico as the organization has an established presence there.

“We were able to ship nearly 1,100 cleaning kits from Philadelphia,” Major Tawny Colleen-Zanders said of Wednesday morning’s broadcast.

Unidos Pa Puerto Rico collects donations via SMS. You can text PRFIONA2022 to 44321 to donate. They will also be raising funds at Sunday’s Puerto Rican Day parade in Philadelphia.

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