The Burlington County, New Jersey, Board of Chosen Freeholders recently completed a collection drive for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, asking for donations of everything from flashlights to baby food.
The island, a territory of the United States, took a direct hit Sept. 16 by the deadly Category 5 hurricane. The population continues to suffer a month later with problems getting food, water and electricity back up and running.
Burlington County Freeholder Ryan Peters organized the collection drive, which ran Oct. 12–27.
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“Burlington County stands in solidarity with those affected by Hurricane Maria,” said Peters. “The people of Puerto Rico need our help. I ask that our Burlington County residents, local businesses and the community-at-large come together to assist those who need our support throughout the weeks and months to come.”
The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders partnered with the State of New Jersey and its Office of Emergency Management, the Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development and the Governor’s Office of Volunteerism on the drive.
The Center for Hispanic Policy, Research and Development is led by Westhampton Township Deputy Mayor Abraham Lopez, who recently saw the hurricane’s devastation for himself while visiting Puerto Rico.
“What I witnessed was hard to bear,” Lopez said. “Crumbling and life-threatening infrastructure deficiencies, people drinking and bathing from rain water, and rationing crackers to make food last.”
“Not all was gloom,” he said. “I also witnessed our fellow citizens’ hard work to restart their lives, help neighbors and reopen businesses. Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are resilient and will certainly see this through, ensuring that Puerto Rico shall rise.”
“I’m honored to work with Freeholder Ryan Peters on this most important and literally life-saving initiative and am proud to be a resident of a county that stands with those who need us most,” Lopez said.
The county set up nine collection boxes and put up flyers to let residents know what was needed. The county stipulated that items donated must be new. In addition to baby food and flashlights, the items collected included batteries, canned goods, cleaning supplies, diapers, feminine hygiene products, hand sanitizer, first aid items, leather work gloves, underwear and socks, pillows and blankets and toiletries.
“Our hearts go out to those in Puerto Rico impacted by the overwhelming devastation,” Peters said. “In times like this, hope is what keeps us going. The very fabric of our community here in Burlington County is built on this belief. Any donations we can provide symbolize that hope. Please spread the word and assist us in supporting victims of Hurricane Maria.”