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Brother's Brother Foundation collecting donations for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico

Tony LaRussa
| Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, 12:33 p.m.
Victims of Hurricane Maria wait in line for food and water at a shelter in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by the storm.
Victims of Hurricane Maria wait in line for food and water at a shelter in Puerto Rico, which was devastated by the storm.
Homes across Puerto Rico were destroyed by 155 mph winds and severe flooding caused by Hurricane Maria.
Homes across Puerto Rico were destroyed by 155 mph winds and severe flooding caused by Hurricane Maria.
Dead livestock littered rural areas of Puerto Rico after residents fled their homes as Hurricane Maria approached the island last week.
Dead livestock littered rural areas of Puerto Rico after residents fled their homes as Hurricane Maria approached the island last week.

A local charity with decades of experience providing aid to disaster victims has been collecting donations since August to help victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

And then came Maria.

“The devastation these hurricanes have caused is unprecedented,” said Luke Hingson, president of Brother's Brother Foundation in the North Side. “The people affected by these storms have many needs, and we are doing our best to meet them.”

In the weeks since Harvey and Irma wreaked havoc in Texas and Florida, the foundation has collected 35 tractor-trailers filled with food, water and medical supplies to help hurricane victims, Hingson said.

Hurricanes with winds of 155 mph at landfall flooded entire communities, disabled radar and cell towers, and severely damaged the electrical grid in Puerto Rico, according to El Nuevo Dia, the island's largest daily newspaper.

In the capital of San Juan, one of the largest shelters is a sports venue named for Roberto Clemente. More than 10,000 people have sought shelter across the island, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said.

Brother's Brother is coordinating its efforts with the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to determine how best to assist hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Chamber Chairman Ron Alvarado said he spoke recently by phone to Luis Clemente, son of Pirates' legend Roberto Clemente, to try to determine what the most critical needs are on the island.

Clemente, who is in Puerto Rico, told Alvarado that he is working with Rosselló to coordinate the response from charities in the states.

Hingson said the foundation will work to fill gaps in aid not provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Even though FEMA is stretched, our government will be providing a large volume of support to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” he said. “But we know there will be many things that won't be provided, so we'll be focusing our efforts on filling those needs.”

The opening of the island's main port in the capital allowed 11 ships to bring 1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food. Dozens of additional shipments are expected in the next several days.

One concern is the lack of medical supplies, Hingson said, adding that Brother's Brother is assembling a shipment of supplies for the Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

Hingson said the best way people can help is to donate money to the organization, which uses 100 percent of the donations it receives to provide relief.

Donors can specify where the money they send is directed.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368, tlarussa@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TonyLaRussaTrib.

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