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By: Keith S. Shikowitz

Members of the Rockland County Police Hispanic Society (RCPHS), Universal Lions Club, the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) and Caribe Tapas Restaurant participated in collecting donations of supplies and money for the victims of the recent sets of earthquakes and aftershocks to hit the tiny Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Many of the people collecting for the relief effort have family there who have been affected by this latest natural disaster to hit that island. The collection of supplies took place at the firehouse on Fairmont Avenue in the Village of Haverstraw.

Village Mayor Mike Kohut opened up the firehouse for the event. Besides the use of the firehouse what else is the village doing on the relief effort? “The two villages as well as the town have donation boxes in the village halls for the last week. We’ll continue if they want us to. Then providing them space here today. There’s not much more we can do realistically, but anything we can do we try to do.”

Haverstraw Town Councilman “Papo” Cancel was there bringing donations. When the volunteers gathered for a pep talk from RCPHS President Jose Nunez, informed the group that Former Councilman Hector Soto would have been there if he was able to be. But he is here in spirit.

Nunez, with a lot of enthusiasm addressed the volunteers. “Like Jorge said, I want to thank each and everyone of you for being here. When we put this whole thing together, we only had one goal in mind. Only one goal specifically. That is to help out the Puerto Rican people.

He added that this is not about one group of one organization. This is only about the Puerto Rican people. “If you’ve been paying attention to what’s happening in the news, we see the level of corruption that’s once again rearing its ugly head In Puerto Rico and this is direct connection to Hurricane Maria with some of the goods that were found in Ponce in a warehouse extending from 2017.”

More warehouses with supplies from Maria relief that the Puerto Rican government officials did not distribute, have been found.

With the corruption in Puerto Rico, Nunez promised that they are going to be sending representatives from each of the organizations and ensuring these items are equally and equitably distributed without the help of the government because this is for the Puerto Rican people. “This is not for the government. This is for the people everything This is why we here and This is why we’re doing this!”

This is not NAHREP’s President Elsa Sequinot’s first rodeo with fundraising for Puerto Rico. “I can pretty much tell you, I spearheaded the effort when Maria hit Puerto Rico. I was existing president of the Rockland County Police Hispanic Society.”

She was contacted with regard to what’s happening with the earthquake and made sure that not only their organization got involved to help but also notified the existing Hispanic society to also get involved. “I was reached out to by many different dignitaries and politicians and local community people. This is a continuation of the Maria effort.”

Isabel Vazquez, Director of Government Affairs for NAHREP explained the involvement of the group in the effort. “Our board of directors and our advisory have assisted and donated our time for this. We’re volunteering our efforts here as well as the next event at Caribe Tapas Restaurant at 3:00. We also want to say that we’re very proud of the cooperation we’ve had with the society the Lions club with the United Way and with the owners of the Caribe Tapas Restaurant.
“We got involved with the Puerto Rican relief effort and we’re having a Lions Club meeting and the owner of Caribe Tapas Restaurant on Main Street, he’s also a Lions member, said if we’re going to do this we’re going to do this big because Puerto Rico needs the help.” said Annette Martinez President of the Rockland Universal Lions Club.

Now that they had committed to doing this, they had to figure out how to make this happen. Ivan Arroyo told them to let him make some phone calls. At the next meeting is when the Hispanic Police Society joined the effort as did the girls from the real estate group. “These guys got together with us and started making phone calls and it just kicked out it became like so big. We didn’t expect what we were getting into. It just exploded it was all over the media.

She thanked everybody involved adding, “We’re not just a Lions Club collecting. Between the Hispanic Police Society and the ladies from the Hispanic Real Estate Association, we are one. At this moment where one team and we want to get credit as one unified group.”

Ivan Arroyo, Director of Events and Promotions for Caribe Tapas Restaurant joined the Lions Club and at the meeting said, “It’s unfortunate that this came up for Puerto Rico but, let’s do a little fundraiser. We came up with the idea. “I said I’ll get the artist the music, the promotions and get a lot of stuff donated. I’ve done this before.

According to Arroyo it’s just making a lot of phone calls and a lot of work. Then they found out the Hispanic Police Society was trying to do something. He came up with the idea of getting together and do this. “We came in together and then all of a sudden right after that The Realtors came in.” After that they threw one flyer out there a little teaser out there to see if they would take the bait and then it grew and everybody wanted to get involved that after they did the initial flyer, the Senators called to get involved.

Aside from County Legislator, Michael Grant attending the function at Caribe Tapas, Guillermo Rosa, Deputy County Executive came to give his support to the volunteers at the Firehouse. “I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. This is the suffering of people I grew up with and of the families that I know.

He was one of the original organizers of the Puerto Rico relief effort when Hurricane Maria hit. “We did this effort out of the fire training center. “We actually got four18 wheelers of stuff which were facilitated by the governor. We took those 18 wheelers, sent them up to Camp Smith. From there they went straight to Puerto Rico.

When Jose (Nunez) called me up and said we’re doing another effort for Puerto Rico, we’re going to go ahead and do this. I am here to show my support and encourage other people to come.

At 3 pm, the party moved from the firehouse to Caribe Tapas Restaurant. A number of Town, Village and County officials showed up to lend their support.

Howard Phillips Haverstraw Town Supervisor took the microphone. “Haverstraw has always been a melting pot of many different people and many different cultures, but one family. We come here tonight on behalf of the Town Board members we are going to present a check from the friends of the Haverstraw Democrats for $500.

Councilman Cancel, “The turnout is great, and we appreciate everything you do. I will be giving $500 from the Super Bowl pool.

The goal for monetary donations is $10,000, according Jorge Folch, Vice President of the RCPHS. “We are still selling shirts at $20.” As of the afternoon of January 22, they had around $8,000+ in donations.

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