Hurricane Maria Relief Effort at the Market

The Downtown Farmers Curb Market is excited to be partnering with United City, a local 501(c)3 non-profit, to send food and supplies directly to families in Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and St. Thomas, who are struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Dory Rodriguez, who founded United City along with her husband, was worried about her Mom in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma hit. In her hometown of Toa Baja, the river had risen past the limit of 30 feet. “There were a lot of people in the mud because their houses were washed away,” Dory said.

Dory wanted to send a care package to her mom, as well as other friends and family members, but she was concerned about the massive pile-up of shipped containers of food and supplies that were stuck in the port in San Juan due to political wrangling over taxes and problems with logistics. After a little research, she discovered that the best option was to send a large, flat rate, priority box of supplies via the United States Postal Service. The box, which can hold up to 70lbs of supplies, only costs $18.85 to ship, and it can be insured for up to $50. Plus, the shipment is exempt from taxes.

Once the boxes arrive in Puerto Rico (or the other islands), they can be delivered directly to family members or individuals, or they can be sent to distribution centers, like local churches. Dory put out a call for help on her Facebook page, and the response has been tremendous. “It went crazy from there,” Dory said.

Phyllis Sharp, the LDDA administrator and a member of the Market staff, saw the Facebook post and brought it to the attention of Jim Luna, the Market Manager. Jim also has friends and family in the islands, and he was motivated to help. He agreed to set up tents and tables at the Market on Saturday to help with the effort. United City volunteers will be at the Market collecting donations and filling boxes.

The public can help pack boxes as well. So even if you can’t bring supplies, you can participate by helping to pack boxes. The Market will also provide a message station, so folks can write notes of encouragement or draw pictures to send in the boxes.

“The Market is all about community and supporting our neighbors.  Right now, our neighbors in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are suffering through unimaginable devastation,” said Julie Townsend, Executive Director of the LDDA, which owns and operates the Market. As a result, the Market will donate funds to cover the cost of shipping up to 100 boxes.

There are three ways that Market customers can help.

First, customers can donate directly to United City through their Paypal Account, via credit card (at the Market), or with a check. The cost to fill up a box with supplies (without the cost of shipping) is only $20.

Second, customers can bring supplies to the Market, and volunteers will fill the boxes for them. United City is looking for the following items:

-Baby Wipes (no running water, so this helps with personal hygiene)
-Canned Foods with the Pull Tab Lids
-Packaged Non-Perishable Meats in Vacuum Packs (which weigh less) or with Pull Tab Lids (Tuna, Chicken, Vienna Sausages, Etc.)
-Meat Jerkies
-Rice or Beans
-Crackers or Boxed Snacks
-Dried Fruit or Nuts or Nut Butters
-Snack Bars or Sweets
-Tylenol or Basic Over-the-Counter Medications

Dory wants Market customers to know that most people on the island can still cook because “80-90% of the people use propane,” so dried beans and rice are acceptable donations.

Third, customers can take a box home with them, fill it up themselves, and drop it off (or any other unboxed supplies) at the LDDA office at 117 N. Kentucky Ave. on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday between 10 am and 4 pm. “Raid your pantries for canned bean, rice dishes, or anything you think would be appropriate, and bring it to us,” Julie Townsend said.

The drive will continue until at least all 100 boxes have been filled and perhaps beyond.

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  1. Local Efforts Help Hurricane Maria Victims - lkldnow - […] Downtown Lakeland Curb Market is coordinating with United City, a local non-profit; three kinds of help are requested: bring…