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Floridians launch fundraising effort to help Puerto Rico after earthquake

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 17:36:57-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Floridians are working together to help Puerto Rico in the wake of devastating earthquakes.

Multiple organizations, including Course of Action Foundation and Somos Puerto Rico Tampa, are launching "Tampa Together for Puerto Rico."

“We were all worried about Puerto Rico we all wanted to do something,” said Jeannie Calderin, the founder of Somos Puerto Rico.

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Calderin has family on the island, including an uncle on the south side where a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck this week. It was felt across the region and people have felt shaking since.

“My uncle is in the epicenter where everything is happening and what they’re saying is people need air mattresses they need tents things like that,” she said.

The organizations said they’ve stayed in touch with local government officials and learned immediate needs include survival kits, hygiene kits, supplies and meals.

“The one thing that we have identified is the most important thing based on lessons learned is there are still roads usable there’s still movement in the island the economy is still moving supermarkets available hardware available,” said Evelio Otera, with Course of Action Foundation.

Organizers said rather than collecting items, they are asking for monetary donations they will use to travel to Puerto Rico and make purchases of items there.
 
“The most efficient way to handle this is by helping the economy in Puerto Rico by sending teams of organizations down there,” said Otera.

They said the goal is working smarter, taking lessons from past relief efforts.
 
“We spent thousands and thousands of dollars shipping things to Puerto Rico and all the difficulties we went through because of the government over there. Things were more difficult so we have to work smarter not harder and make sure with all money we are getting we are going to get to the people immediately,” said Calderin.

This week, President Trump approved Puerto Rico’s emergency declaration. Tomorrow, Florida lawmakers are planning a trip to meet with leaders there.

“Even though they’re going through this these are people and they need their dignity and they need help,” said Calderin.

The groups are accepting checks as well as donations through a GoFundMe page. Checks can also be dropped off to the restaurant Rice-n-Beans.