Westchester County to Contribute in Puerto Rico Relief Efforts

After Hurricane Maria and Irma hit Puerto Rico and parts of the Virgin Islands, WCC and Westchester County have taken measures to help.

Responding to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, County Executive Robert P. Astorino launched a “Hurricane Relief for Puerto Rico” drive across Westchester County, according to a press release.

“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those impacted by recent events, especially members of our college community who have ties to tragic loss of life and property,” said President Dr. Belinda Miles in an email to staff and faculty.

According to Dr. Miles, WCC is one of the most most diverse institutions in the SUNY system.

“We sent to SUNY Administration our statement of absolute support for a proposal, which SUNY Trustees authorized, to provide in-state tuition to Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands students displaced by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.”

WCC students have included a fundraising component into their planned events in order to contribute to the county’s hurricane relief program.

“Hurricane relief is an appropriate choice for the SGA to turn our attention to this semester,” said Ben Neubardt, Director of Public Relations for the SGA. “The devastation in Puerto Rico goes beyond the islands and into the lives of our students, and we would like to offer an accessible opportunity for students to participate in relief.”

According to Neubardt, there are donation boxes on campus in the SGA office, Student Involvement office, and a few other offices on campus. They are specifically looking for water purification systems, portable lighting, power banks, and clothing. The county collects these donations and facilitates their delivery to the islands.

“These boxes, and an attendant to oversee donations, will be present during on campus events now through mid-November,” Neubardt said. “We have compassionate, dedicated students on campus, and we appreciate all the contributions to this cause they have already made. We’re hoping that we can make a difference in the lives of some of the people who need our help.”

According to Fernando Cacsire, President of WEB, he was approached by Neubardt.

“[Neubardt] asked if, during our WEB events, we could have a bin for donations where there would be someone watching over it,” Cacsire said. “We are just hoping people are getting more aware of what has happened and how they can help. At the end we as WEB are willing to hear how much more we can do to help Puerto Rico.”

According to The Daily News, Puerto Rico’s death toll from Hurricane Maria could be substantially higher than the 45 fatalities. Almost 90 percent of Puerto Rico still remains without power and weeks after the hurricane hit, 3.4 million residents still do not have proper shelter or clean drinking water.

“Westchester County is home to more than 44,000 Americans of Puerto Rican heritage,” Astorino said. “The devastation of Hurricane Maria has been unprecedented, and on a personal level, the worst fears of families and loved ones have come true. We are all one community here in Westchester, and my hope and prayer is that we can make a meaningful contribution to the people and communities most in need.”

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