- Wayne Washington Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Palm Beach County Cares, a coalition of local aid groups, has delivered more than 200,000 pounds of goods to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were both devastated by Hurricane Maria in September.
“We had intended to close up the effort on November 12 but were approached by a group with close to 600,000 pounds in the Florida area which they have been trying to get shipped to Puerto Rico,” said Port of Palm Beach Commissioner Katherine Waldron, a co-founder of the coalition. “We are now working with them to make this happen, and we hope to have good news, including details, later this week. These supplies include solar generators, medical supplies, hygiene supplies, food and pet supplies.”
Reliable information about power outages and water supplies have been difficult to get, particularly from Puerto Rico, where there are disputes about how many people were killed by the storm.
The United Way of Palm Beach County is still collecting financial assistance for the islands at unitedwaypbc.org.
Palm Beach County Cares was established in October, about a month after the county escaped catastrophic damage from its brush with Hurricane Irma.
Seth Berntein, senior vice president of community investments for the United Way of Palm Beach County, said 210 volunteers worked a combined 1,250 hours at a county warehouse and at donation collection sites to process and load supplies for delivery to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. About $35,000 in cash assistance was also collected.
“Those dollars will be used for life-saving medical supplies, hygiene products and other goods that are needed for folks in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico as well as for folks coming here,” Bernstein said.
Palm Beach County Cares had an overall fundraising goal of $5 million. Waldron said the coalition raised a total of about $1 million.
“We didn’t reach that goal, but we feel we made a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
About $10,000 was raised last week during a fundraiser at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Waldron said.
“This and other monetary contributions we receive will be used to purchase additional supplies such as generators and medical supplies,” she said.
Beyond the help provided by Palm Beach County Cares, the state of Florida is continuing with its relief efforts, including welcoming to the Sunshine State more than 168,000 Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.
A statement released by Gov. Rick Scott’s office said the governor “has also met with President Trump and Vice President Pence to discuss his trip to Puerto Rico and actions the state of Florida is taking to help with response and recovery.”