On Sept. 27, Teresa Santiago, a Hispanic media and community consultant for archdiocesan Catholic Charities, gratefully learned that her 99-year-old grandmother was OK in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
The next day, Ms. Santiago, a New York-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents, played a leading role during a relief-effort news conference at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.
The news conference, conducted in English and Spanish, launched the Estoy Con Puerto Rico (I am with Puerto Rico) hurricane relief effort—a multi-agency project designed to bring food, water, clothing, generators and other household essentials to hurricane victims quickly and efficiently.
Along with Catholic Charities, the lead project groups include Comite Noviembre, a consortium of Puerto Rican leaders and organizations, and the New York Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, the National Association of State Latino Chamber of Commerce and the National Supermarket Association.
“When we heard that the hurricane was going to hit, we knew we had to mobilize,” said Ms. Santiago, who is also chairwoman of Comite Noviembre.
“We’re not getting a lot of information, and they’re getting desperate,” said Ms. Santiago, speaking of owners of restaurants and other businesses in Puerto Rico.
Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, also addressed the gathering. “Puerto Rico is part of New York; New York is part of Puerto Rico. There is just a natural relationship, partnership,” Msgr. Sullivan told reporters. “It is necessary that we are here to partner with Puerto Rico, we are in solidarity…We are delighted to work with Comite Noviembre and our other partner organizations to deliver critical funds and essential items to the people suffering in Puerto Rico.”
Msgr. Sullivan noted that Catholic Charities would serve as a fiscal agent, making sure all donations go directly to hurricane victims.
Also speaking were Frank Garcia, outgoing chairman of the New York State Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, and Anthony Peña, a board member of the National Supermarket Association.
Brian Sanchez, 11, made the first donation to the Estoy Con Puerto Rico effort, organizers said. He is president of the New York Kids Chamber of Commerce and a seventh-grader at Immaculate Conception Catholic Academy in Queens. He has led an extensive fund-raising effort among his peers, and his relief efforts through social media are receiving growing support from businesses. Brian was accompanied by his mother, Idalis Bailey.
Brian thanked everyone involved in the relief effort. “And I would also like to thank God, because without him nothing is possible,” he said.
Information: Catholic Charities, (212) 371-1000.