‘Not So Despacito, Please:’ Penn State Altoona Joins the Hurricane Relief Effort for Puerto Rico

By Michelle Thompson

Since late August, a series of hurricanes have been tearing through the Atlantic Ocean, affecting southeastern America and the Caribbean. Hurricane Maria, the most recent of the six-storm string of hurricanes, has become of particular interest, due to its impact on the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

In the last days of September, Maria bombarded Puerto Rican citizens with flash floods, deadly winds, and at one point, left every single one of the island’s 3.4 million residents without power as reported by Business Insider. According to USA Today and Newsweek reports, still only 45 percent of those residents have access to clean drinking water, an estimated 10,000 residents were left homeless, and according to the Miami Herald, the death toll has still yet to be officially released. Other updates of the aftermath in Puerto Rico reported by Newsweek include a potentially life-threatening dam that has been weakened by mudslides and flooding, lack of resources like gasoline and electricity, and the destruction of crops.  

Hurricane Relief donation boxes in Aaron Building downtown

Here at Penn State Altoona, a resource donation effort was started by three Penn State affiliated organizations. Two are Puerto Rican undergraduate/graduate student associations, PRSA and Boricua Grads, and the third is an entrepreneurial-based leadership organization, Penn State Altoona Enactus. Vice President of Communications for Penn State Altoona Enactus, Cristina Ortiz, gave her personal connection to the relief effort.

“The connection PSUA Enactus has to the situation in Puerto Rico is through me. I am Puerto Rican and my extended family lives on the island,” said Ortiz. “I encouraged Penn State Altoona Enactus to partner with two organizations at University Park, the Puerto Rican Student Association and Boricua Grads, to aid in their hurricane relief donation effort.”

Ortiz said she personally drove the first shipment of donations to University Park last Friday, where they were sorted and driven to Reading Pennsylvania to be put in a cargo shipment container en route for the southeast region of Puerto Rico.

List of recommended items to donate

Yolian Amaro-Rivera, the president of Boricua Grads, said the first round of donations was met with a lot of support. It was successful enough, in fact, that the relief effort was able to be extended, allowing for a second shipment of donations to be made in mid-October.

“We definitely received a lot more than we expected,” she said. “We had a large van full of donations and we even had to leave some for the second shipment because we couldn’t fit them all.”

Drop boxes for donation essentials like first aid kits, non-perishable food items, clothing, deodorant, diapers, flashlights, and much more can be found in the lobbies of Slep Student Center, Sheetz Health Center, and the Aaron Building downtown until October 13.