On September 20, 2017 category 4 Hurricane Maria made direct landfall on the island of Puerto Rico with sustained winds of 155mph, downing power poles, weather and cell towers, ripping roofs, destroying the agriculture, flooding communities, damaging houses and causing major devastation throughout the island. Floodwaters and heavy rain contributed to bridges collapsing, turned streets into rivers of debris and flooded some residential areas with 4-5 feet of sewage-ridden water. Maria was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the island in 85 years. A few weeks before, Category 4 Hurricane Irma skirted the northern part of Puerto Rico leaving more than 1 million people without power. After Hurricane Maria, 100 percent of the island was without electricity and access to clean water was limited. It took many months to repair the devastated and already fragile electric grid that left some communities without power for over 7 months. The death toll caused by Hurricane Maria in the island is estimated at 2,975. The hurricane’s effect on the lives of the 3.4 million American citizens that live in Puerto Rico and on the island infrastructure, economy and agriculture will be long felt and will take years to repair and heal.
On September 20, 2017 Category 4 Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico. Nearly 3,000 American citizens lost their lives. The damage to the island’s economy, agriculture, infrastructure and people’s lives was vast and will take years to restore. Lexington Unites for Puerto Rico (LUPR), a town wide and interfaith effort led by Hancock Church in Lexington, MA, delivered a 45’ container with humanitarian aid to citizens severely impacted by Hurricane Maria in the communities of Aguadilla, Cabo Rojo and Punta Santiago through our trusted partners in the island.
Our trusted partners, the Third Presbyterian Church in Aguadilla (Tercera) and the Centro Cristiano de Restauracion (CCR) distributed the donations in the container and ensured that the humanitarian aid was used to benefit those with the greatest need in their larger communities. Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Punta Santiago became LUPR’s third partner when LUPR’s representatives visited the island in December 2017 to ensure the container reached our partners.
Punta Santiago, a coastal fishing community in the southeastern side of the island, is located near where the hurricane made landfall. The ocean, river and a failed sewage plant converged, flooded the town and many residents lost all of their belongings after 4-5 feet of contaminated water filled their homes. The community was devastated and endured 7 long months without electricity and very little help from FEMA and the local government.
LUPR partnered with Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish which for 5 months cooked 200-300 hot lunches daily for town residents, and opened a community laundry in its back yard powered by generators. For many residents, this was their only hot meal of the day. LUPR's funds contributed to buy food, buy fuel to power generators, provide emergency assistance to local residents and help the local fishermen.
Union Congregational Church in Montclair, NJ joined the LUPR efforts immediately after the container was sent to PR and has been a faithful partner to the community of Punta Santiago. Their funds made possible the monetary and in-kind donations given to Punta Santiago’s residents through our trusted partners of Nuestra Señora del Carmen and P.E.C.E.S. and made possible the purchase of a boat and two motors for the Fishermen Association.
LUPR’s funds purchased two boats for the Fishermen Association of Aguadilla and one for the Fishermen Association of Punta Santiago. Each Fishermen Association has its own style of boats dictated by the particular ocean conditions where the boats are used. All the boats were made in Puerto Rico to help further stimulate the economy. In partnership with P.E.C.E.S. in Punta Santiago, LUPR purchased two boat motors for the local Fishermen Association which suffered the loss of many of their motors and boats with the hurricane.
Two little league teams in Punta Santiago were outfitted with equipment and uniforms donated by Hancock Church and distributed through LUPR. The children in the community attended school half days during the 7 months they endured without electricity. Baseball provided a welcomed activity for the children that had little to do during the day and limited resources to replace the toys and belongings damaged by the hurricane.
LUPR contributed over $5,000 to a P.E.C.E.S. fundraiser with matching funds from Global Giving to Rebuild 100 homes in Punta Santiago. Rebuilding is currently underway repairing roofs, painting and repairing doors and windows damaged by the hurricane.
In addition to in-kind donations, LUPR raised and distributed nearly $100,000 to victims of hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The funds represented donations from Hancock Church, Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association (LICA), Union Church in New Jersey and residents and friends of Lexington all over the U.S.
While Puerto Rico is slowly recuperating, much work is still ahead. A year and a half later, many houses in Aguadilla, Cabo Rojo y Punta Santiago are still in need of repair. Some have blue tarps and need roofs, others still have damaged windows and doors and others are in need of mold remediation and paint. Many families in the three communities are in need of household furniture and appliances after losing everything during the hurricane. Fishermen in Aguadilla and Punta Santiago are in need of fishing equipment necessary for their livelihood having lost many of their traps and boats during the hurricane.