To provide immediate emergency relief to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments have partnered in making $50,000 grants each to the Puerto Rico Community Recovery Fund at the Puerto Rico Community Foundation.
The Puerto Rico Community Recovery Fund has been a longstanding account at the foundation to provide aid after natural disasters. It was reactivated following Hurricane Irma, which skirted the island last month. But now it’s a critically important aid source in helping residents recover from damage inflicted by Maria, which hit the island head on at Category 5 strength.
Large areas of the U.S. territory have been without power for two weeks while food and potable water remain scarce. At least 8,800 people remain in shelters. Depleted fuel supplies hamper generator operation and transportation on the island. Early estimates of the cost of recovery approach $30 billion.
“Our two foundations are coming together in this effort because we believe the Puerto Rico Community Foundation has the ability to get aid directly to where people are most in need,” said Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Maxwell King. “Also, a community foundation is structured to be able to take public donations. Our grants should convince people they can give to the Community Recovery Fund with confidence and trust.”
The emergency assistance grant is in keeping with The Pittsburgh Foundation’s previous efforts in natural disaster relief, most recently an emergency $50,000 grant to the Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund, which has grown to $79 million.
“Pittsburgh’s connections to Puerto Rico are varied and deep-rooted,” said Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Heinz Endowments.
Oliphant referred to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ long history of drawing baseball talent from the island, including one of the team’s most legendary players, Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash while on a post-disaster emergency aid mission from the island to Nicaragua in 1972. This week, the Pirates organization honored that legacy by chartering a cargo plane, collecting more than 150,000 pounds of supplies and delivering it with the help of players.
In addition to the baseball connection, thousands of Puerto Ricans have pursued higher education, including medical training, at Pittsburgh area universities.
“But even without those links, the proud history in Pittsburgh is that sometimes we extend our boundaries of giving simply because it’s the right thing to do,” said Oliphant. “We must do our part to assist in the emergency mission of saving lives and restoring basic quality of life.”
More than a dozen community foundations and private, independent foundations across the country have provided emergency grants to the Recovery Fund.
The Pittsburgh Foundation is sending a special appeal to its donors, and both foundations’ websites will provide direct links to the Recovery Fund on the Puerto Rico Community Foundation website.
In a phone conversation with King, Dr. Nelson Colón, president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, told him how grateful his board, staff and emergency relief organizations are for the grants and for the foundations’ directing followers to donate.
“We want to help the people that are helping and you are making that possible,” Colón told King. In a Sept. 29 press release, Colón said the relief priorities are to improve resident access to potable water, food, medicines, medical equipment and other essential items. “The organizations we fund are our assessment arm and our intervention arm, and they are rooted in the communities that most need our help.”