Evacuees set foot on the U.S. mainland after being rescued from hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico on Wednesday. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: CONTRIBUTED
Photo: CONTRIBUTED

Dayton region mobilizes to aid Puerto Rico

The Dayton region is pitching in on Hurricane relief for Puerto Rico, from donating cash and goods to even a local executive lending use of his corporate jet for evacuations.

The 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory have been without electricity since Sept. 20 and in need of help with basic necessities like food, water and shelter following back-to-back hurricanes.

Nationally, President Donald J. Trump’s administration has been under pressure to step up federal aid to the devastated island, with the government’s level of response drawing critical comparisons to the federal government’s bungled Hurricane Katrina response. The Trump administration recently waived a century old shipping law in order to make it easier to send aid and reported there are 7,200 troops now on the island and 44 out of 69 hospitals on Puerto Rico are now fully operational.

The Dayton region has mobilized to help Puerto Rico recover.

Larry Connor, managing partner of a Miami Twp.-based real estate investment firm, The Connor Group, donated use of his aircraft, other than the cost of fuel, to bring supplies to the island and evacuate residents to the mainland.

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The plane is donated for use by relief organizations like the Red Cross, FEMA and others, The Connor Group stated. So far, the group has delivered about 2,000 pounds of supplies and evacuated 30 people, with additional rescue missions planned this week.

“We only had two stipulations for the use of the plane: make sure it’s is filled with critical supplies, like water and food, going into Puerto Rico,” Connor said in a statement. “And make sure you bring back as many people that you can that are in need of evacuation.”

Another local effort to aid Puerto Rico’s recovery was held at Miami University Friday night , where students and faculty held a “mapathon.” Attendees were working with the American Red Cross, which was asking for volunteers to draw outlines of buildings onto mapping grids to help those on the ground in Puerto Rico decipher where buildings once stood. The effort will help evaluate the damage sustained by hospitals and medical clinics, the university said in a statement.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Reserve’s C-17 jets have also stayed busy with relief efforts after in Puerto Rico and other recent environmental disaster relief efforts. A Wright-Patt jet flew members of the Indiana Task Force 1 recovery team to Puerto Rico last week following Hurricane Maria. Earlier this month, a C-17 picked up members of New York Task Force 1 in Georgia and transported the team to San Juan, P.R., after powerful Hurricane Irma churned through the Atlantic Ocean, brushing near the island.

The Wright-Patt airlift wing has flown hundreds of responders and tons of hurricane relief aid to Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico the past month since a series of record-setting hurricanes struck the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Caribbean causing dozens of deaths and unleashing widespread destruction in its wake.

The Cincinnati and Dayton Region American Red Cross has three representatives in Puerto Rico at this time, as part of the more than 100 relief workers deployed at this time to help with the recovery from Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Elvia Price, chief program officer, Cincinnati Dayton Region American Red Cross, said as soon as Mexico makes the formal request for assistance with responding to the damage from a recent earthquake there will likely also be locals sent to Mexico City as part of a rapid response team.

“We are immensely grateful for this community because they’ve been so immensely supportive,” Price said.

She said for people looking for ways to contribute, cash is typically the best way. For what goods that do get donated, Price said the local Red Cross works with Matthew 25: Ministries, a humanitarian aid group headquartered in Blue Ash.

Cash donations are encouraged for several reasons including that it lets the aid workers to purchase what they can on the ground, which also helps with recovery efforts by helping the economy of where they are aiding. It means the dollars can be used more quickly, because money can be instantly transferred while goods need to be shipped. Also money doesn’t get spent on shipping costs when cash is donated instead of purchased goods.

“What financial donations allow us to do is get 100 percent of the money to areas where the money is needed,”Price said.

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