Money helps relatives hit by hurricane in Puerto Rico
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
The internet still shows the chart of Hurricane Maria unfolding: a sinister red fireball with curving tail. And the scary graphic’s legacy still dogs Puerto Rico.
Holy Family School teacher’s aide Madalyn Figueroa Thomas has quite a few relatives in Puerto Rico. Instead of celebrating her birthday Sept. 20, she worried about them as they got pummeled. Amid the chaos, she waited about two weeks before finding out that all her relatives were uninjured and thankful to be alive. With power still out, they wash their clothes in a little creek, but they do not complain.
“Hurricane Maria has been a terrible disaster for my family, a true hardship for them,” Figueroa Thomas said. “They lost their homes and are struggling to get back on their feet. They have been without power and water since the hurricane and they may not get services back until sometime next year.”
To assist their beloved staffer’s relatives, Holy Family School’s Helping Hands group raised $1,600 with a “Popcorn for Puerto Rico” campaign. That total includes donations beyond the popcorn sale, and one parent donated shoes too.
“I would like to thank Holy Family School, the families, and the staff who have come together with prayers and the financial assistance that helped me to purchase emergency basic needs and food items that are so desperately needed now,” Figueroa Thomas said. A great deal of help came from art teacher Mary Babbles and second-grade teacher Liz Infanti.
About 75 of Holy Family School’s 132 students belong to Helping Hands; they do a service project every month. “So to be able to help someone right at our own school was awesome,” said Infanti, founder of Helping Hands.
The $1,600 check has allowed Figueroa Thomas to buy items like flashlights, “a whole bunch of batteries,” canned food, beef jerky, Pop-Tarts, and apple sauce. The items are urgently needed because costs have zoomed in Puerto Rico. In the early days of the hurricane, she said, people had to wait six or seven hours just to get $10 worth of gas. It didn’t go very far because her relatives have to drive the hills of the east coast, in the municipality of Yabucoa where the hurricane made landfall. A case of water bottles, she said, was going for $15.
It took two and a half weeks for her relatives to receive the first boxes that Figueroa Thomas sent; their post office closed for a while for lack of a functioning generator. She sent out four more boxes Nov. 20, and her relatives have received them. “They were so grateful for what we sent that they wanted me to tell everyone how thankful they are,” she said. She has also sent two money orders so that her relatives can buy what they need.
Her relatives are able to communicate with Figueroa Thomas sporadically. Her Aunt Lizzie Morales sent her photos showing a downed tree, a toppled water tank, rubble inside one home, and a demolished bedroom. In an Oct. 23 story, Catholic News Service said official reliable statistics about hurricane damage, including an accurate death toll, had been scarce and widely debated by experts. CNS reported Nov. 16 that there was still no clear path to recovery in Puerto Rico. The news service quoted Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan: “You go day by day, but it’s overwhelming and traumatic.”