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Recovering Puerto Rico: One Year Later

A little over a year after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, the people of Puerto Rico are just starting to see their first glimpse of a silver lining.  A semblance of normalcy is appearing as children return to school and families return to their daily routines. Last month, Delivering Good brought together partners in philanthropy and recovery to assess the needs of communities as they rebuild, and continue the work of providing needed goods to Puerto Rican families and individuals.

Beginning this past summer, Delivering Good has been privileged to receive a grant from the Countess Moira Charitable Foundation to provide at least $1 million worth of clothing, school supplies, and other needed goods to children and families in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On October 18, as part of the latest stage in this effort, a team of dedicated partners undertook a special trip to Puerto Rico to understand first-hand the needs and realities of the island. Along with Delivering Good President and CEO Lisa Gurwitch, the group included Taylor Gray, Treasurer and Trustee of the Countess Moira Charitable Foundation; Karen Bromley, principal of The Bromley Group; and Rita Polidori O’Brien, VP of marketing and communication at United Legwear & Apparel Co.

Visiting hurricane-struck regions including Villa Palmera and Trujillo Alto, the team met with agency partners working directly with community members, visited with families and individuals working to repair their lives after the disaster, and engaged in discussions around the role in disaster response from all sectors of the philanthropic world. But the most memorable moments from the trip were undoubtedly the interactions with individuals. Progress is being made every day, and Delivering Good has mobilized companies to provide youth with supplies, merchandise, and hope.

“We have heard stories of people who have been facing hardships for a very long time,” says Lisa Gurwitch. “Many of the social workers and volunteers of our community partners in Puerto Rico are also those who have been affected by the hurricane. In fact, the day that we were there, our community partner, ReHace (Rebuilding Communities with Hope), was training a group of previously out-of-work social workers to go into the field and help families in need.”

As children returned to school and normal routines, Delivering Good, in partnership with The Carlos Beltran Foundation, ReHace and the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico, and industry partner Sketchers, held distribution events for children, who received new backpacks, school supplies, and shoes.

Meanwhile, many families are still working with local organizations to rebuild and strengthen the structures of their houses. “The houses that we visited are being strengthened, although many of these families are facing health and other challenges as well,” recalls Gurwitch. “It is not just the effects of the storm. Our community partners, such as ReHace, The Carlos Beltran Foundation, and IsraAID continue to engage in significant recovery work such as case management and psycho-social support, helping children and families in need and providing clean water to communities that never had clean water before. The efforts are quite profound.”

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