Nearly $200,000 was raised for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico through a joint effort led by Newark's four Puerto Rican elected officials.
During a nearly day-long fundraiser at the Flamboyan in Newark's North Ward, a stream of elected officials, individuals as well as representatives from corporations, schools, and non-profits turned over checks made out to the American Red Cross's relief effort in Puerto Rico.
“We’re inspired and honored to be here in Newark with our government, corporate and community partners joining together to support our neighbors in Puerto Rico," said Jocelyn Gilman, executive director, American Red Cross New Jersey
“Today’s efforts support Red Cross Services as we continue to mobilize volunteers, reconnect families and distribute critical relief supplies to help the hundreds of thousands of people in need in Puerto Rico,” Gilman said.
The event was hosted by state Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz, Newark North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. and Newark Councilmen-at-Large Luis Quintana and Carlos Gonzalez and was supported by the City of Newark.
The fundraiser was well on its way to reaching its goal of $100,000 when word was delivered by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka that United Airlines donated $100,000 to the effort.
A loud cheer erupted and shortly afterward, Councilman Quintana led the entire group in singing an emotional rendition of "Himno Nacional de Puerto Rico."
"The outpouring of support from the community was overwhelming," Quintana said.
Among the corporations who made major donations were PSE&G ($20,000) and RWJ Barnabas Health ($10,000) and Investors Bank ($3,000). Numerous elected officials also donated, including U.S. Sen. Menendez, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires, Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Baraka, Ramos, Quintana, Gonzalez and Ruiz as well as Bobby Mercado, who is running for Essex County Freeholder.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy also came to the fundraiser and pledged $2,500 to the hurricane relief fund.
"Every little bit helps, not just the amount of money raised, but the number of people who are part of the effort," Murphy said. "We can all do more. I'm glad the governor sent 11,000 people down there. That's a great start. We need to continue to do more. I'm looking in the mirror when I say that."
Ruiz thanked the corporations for the large donations, but also thanked everyone who made small donation, including local school children and people who deposited money into donation cans around the city.
"I want to take an opportunity to thank everyone who was involved in today's relief efforts," Ruiz said. "Puerto Rico will rise and return back to its fullest glory because of the generosity of the people of this great city and state. We received some big checks and some small ones, but the energy and hope that they all came in with will make a difference to those suffering in Puerto Rico. It is truly humbling to see the great spirit of human nature at its core coming together for others."
Councilman Ramos said it was important for the Puerto Rican leaders in Newark to rise to the challenge because the city is home to the largest number of Puerto Ricans in the state.
"Many, if not most, of the Puerto Ricans who live in Newark have some connection to the island, whether family or friend," Ramos said. "Having this fundraiser today is a way for us to channel our anxiety into doing something positive and productive for all those who are suffering. Throughout this weekend, the community came together. Our collective efforts will make a difference."
In addition, numerous community groups and schools donated to the effort, including The North Ward Center, First Avenue School, Maria Varisco Rogers Charter School, Abington Avenue School, the Greater Newark Vistor and Convention Bureau, the Hispanic Law Enforcement Society of Essex County, the Mount Prospect Business Improvement District,
Those who wish to donate can do so by making a check out to The American Red Cross/Hurrican Maria/Puerto Rico. All proceeds will go toward relief efforts in Puerto Rico.
On Puerto Rico, about 450 Red Cross workers are helping to reconnect families and distribute critical relief supplies, including food and water. The Red Cross has sent in satellite receivers, which are driven around on trucks that also carry portable generatos, laptos and powerstrips that allow people to charge their phones and communicate with loved ones.