The Puerto Rican Agenda in Chicago launched a fundraising campaign, Pallets and Planes, to provide immediate relief to those affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico with a successful benefit show on Friday, September 22 at Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. After sending two planeloads of supplies, the Puerto Rican Agenda recently shifted strategy to mobilize resources for purchasing pallets directly on the island to stimulate the local economy. The shift in strategy is reflected in the updated campaign name, Pallets in Puerto Rico. Donate to the campaign by contributing to the Puerto Rican Relief Fund HERE.
The signature strategy of the Pallets in Puerto Rico campaign is to ensure the greatest impact of donations through the most effective methods in a short time frame.
Each donation contributes to the Puerto Rican Relief Fund for purchasing pallets of emergency supplies directly from warehouses in Puerto Rico. Pallets are personally received by municipal leadership in Puerto Rico for immediate distribution across the island.
All efforts are volunteer-run with no individuals receiving monetary gains.
Within 48 hours of the campaign launch, members of the Puerto Rican Agenda raised nearly $70,000, assessed the immediate needs on the island, purchased pallets of emergency supplies, secured transportation courtesy of Custom Trucking Company, and loaded a cargo plane underwritten by United Airlines.
Supplies arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Monday, September 25—less than five days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island as a Category 4 hurricane. The airplane then turned around and transported 300 evacuees from Puerto Rico multiplying the impact of Pallets and Planes donors.
Fueled completely by volunteers with contributions from Chicago’s Puerto Rican community and allies, the grassroots effort was bolstered by the support of civic leaders including Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel who coordinated the transportation logistics for the first flight, and Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz who received the shipment for distribution to the hardest hit areas including hospitals and safety centers around the island.
The Puerto Rican Agenda continues to expand partnerships and collaborated with New Life Covenant to secure a second airplane loaded with supplies and generators on Wednesday, September 27. The shipment will be delivered by a cargo plane underwritten by United Airlines and with the support of Governor Bruce Rauner.
On Thursday, October 19 the Pallets and Planes campaign shifted strategy by stimulating the local economy and changed its name to Pallets in Puerto Rico to reflect the shift. Instead of purchasing pallets in Chicago, the Puerto Rican Agenda has partnered with Supermercados Econo and Sam’s Club in Puerto Rico to purchase and distribute pallets to some of the hardest-hit towns on the island. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez will personally delivered $50,000 worth of emergency supplies to Comerio on October 19 and Loiza on October 20 through working directly with their respective mayors. Additionally, Aibonito and Barranquitas will received $30,000 worth of supplies on Saturday, October 21. See our video footage of donation distribution HERE.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
FAQ 1: How can I donate to the Puerto Rican Agenda Hurricane relief fund?
Answer: You can make a monetary donation by clicking HERE.
FAQ 2: Who can checks be made out to and where can checks be mailed/dropped off to?
Checks can be made payable: The Puerto Rican Relief Fund
The Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago
2546 W. Division St
Chicago, IL 60622
FAQ 3: Are monetary donations tax-deductible?
Answer: Yes, The Puerto Rican Agenda is a non-profit organization, however, the Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (Tax ID: 36-2967052) is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization registered in the state of Illinois and the federal government and is serving as fiscal agent for the Puerto Rican Relief Fund.
FAQ 4: Are you accepting items for donation such as water, diapers, batteries, etc.?
Answer: No, we are currently not accepting material donations for the following reasons:
- We do not have the capacity or space to accept donations.
- We want to apply monetary donations towards the greatest impact, most effective use, and in a short time frame by not incurring shipping costs or spending time sorting and packaging supplies.
- We purchase supplies (based on requests from receiving towns) directly from wholesale outlets in Puerto Rico.
FAQ 5: How were the items sent to Puerto Rico for the first two flights?
Answer: After purchasing pallets of supplies directly from wholesale outlets, they are transported by trucks underwritten by The Custom Companies, Inc and delivered to O’Hare International Airport for departure on a donated airplane from United Airlines and bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz personally receives items and directs them for distribution to shelters, hospitals, and safety centers throughout the island. The first airplane stocked by Pallets and Planes returned back to Chicago with 300 passengers who were stranded in Puerto Rico. It was the first flight since Hurricane Maria made landfall to return to Chicago through this effort thus multiplying the impact of each monetary donation.
FAQ 6: Where in Puerto Rico will the next round of donations be sent?
Answer: The Puerto Rican Agenda is in communication with several municipalities in Puerto Rico to assess their ability to receive and distribute supplies. On Thursday, October 19 the Pallets in Puerto Rico campaign launched to stimulate the local economy. Instead of purchasing pallets in Chicago, the Puerto Rican Agenda partnered with Supermercados Econo and Sam’s Club in Puerto Rico to purchase and distribute pallets to some of the hardest-hit towns on the island. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez personally delivered nearly $50,000 worth of emergency supplies to Comerio on October 19 and Loiza on October 20 through working directly with their respective mayors. Additionally, through the Agenda’s coordination and partnerships Aibonito and Barranquitas received over $20,000 worth of supplies on Saturday, October 21. Watch the videos of supply distribution in each town here.
On Friday, November 3, Congressman Gutierrez returned to Puerto Rico to deliver $12,500 in cash raised through the Pallets in Puerto Rico campaign to the towns of Jayuya, Loiza and Bayamon. See his speech to Congress here acknowledging the work of the Puerto Rican Agenda and allies who have sent aid to Puerto Ricans on the island.
In early December, a $5,000 micro-grant went to a rebuilding initiative in Caguas: Caguas Renace. Additionally, Congressman Gutierrez made his fourth trip to the island to distribute $15,000 in micro-grants from the Pallets in Puerto Rico campaign to Cayey, San Lorenzo, and Vega Alta. Recipients included municipal and community leaders in each town working to support schools and elderly care centers.
Puerto Rican Agenda members carried out various distribution efforts totaling $34,000 in donations in late December and early January:
- $10,000 in medicine for Salud Integral de la Montana (SIM), a set of clinics in Puerto Rico that service the towns of Barranquitas, Comerío, Corozal, Naranjito, Orocovis and Toa Alta. They are a Federally Qualified Health Center and the order was fulfilled by a pharmacy in Puerto Rico, Drogeria Betances in Caguas.
- Three micro grants ($5,000 each) to Ciales, Dorado, and Morovis for respective Lion’s Club chapters and municipal initiatives to implement sustainable energy initiatives.
- A $2,500 micro grant to Proyecto de Apoyo Mutuo en Humacao for their community kitchen. (More here)
- Five micro grants (ranging $500-$2,000) to support annual Three Kings Day events that bring small gifts to children for the holiday season in Isabela, Juana Diaz, Maricao, San Sebastian, Sabana Grande, Vieques, and Yaoco.
FAQ 7: Who can I trust to drop off my donations at in Chicago?
Answer: Visit our “Recommended Donation Sites” page here for suggestions.
FAQ 8: How can I volunteer with the hurricane relief efforts?
Answer: Fill out a volunteer inquiry form here to indicate your availability, skills, and interest. You will be contacted on an as-needed basis.
FAQ 9: How do I become involved with the Puerto Rican Agenda?
Answer: Follow us on Facebook for the latest campaign updates, invitations to our monthly meetings, events and initiatives.