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Wexford couple collecting for Puerto Rico's hurricane victims

| Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017, 12:06 p.m.
This is a photo of family and friends with Eunice McCarthy at her aunt’s house in Trujillo Alto during a recent trip to the now hurricane-ravaged island.
This is a photo of family and friends with Eunice McCarthy at her aunt’s house in Trujillo Alto during a recent trip to the now hurricane-ravaged island.

Eunice McCarthy, of Wexford, held it together pretty well as she learned of the devastation in her native Puerto Rico until she got a text from her cousin on Tuesday.

It read, “Please send water and canned food.”

Reading that plea for the basic necessities, McCarthy could no longer take it.

“I lost it,” she said. “I'd been holding back tears for a week. And I was done feeling useless.”

McCarthy and her husband, Tim, are collecting relief supplies for Puerto Rico, asking friends, colleagues and anyone else who'll listen to drop items for donation on their front stoop. Items they are collecting include water, canned goods, baby and adult diapers, feminine hygiene products, batteries, mosquito repellent, first-aid items and medications, including pain relief and stomach medication.

“If I can do even this little bit, I will,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy, her mother and brother moved from San Juan to New York, where her brother still lives, when she was 8. Her mother lives in Florida, and was staying with McCarthy and her family after fleeing Hurricane Irma, prior to Hurricane Maria hitting. After Puerto Rico avoided a direct hit from Irma, they'd watched a cousin's Facebook Live post with relief that the island escaped the worst.

The comfort was short-lived.

“Maria came and that was a different story,” she said. “We didn't hear from them for days.”

When they did, the good news was that their family, who are all in and around San Juan, was safe. Some of their homes flooded, but they were still standing.

However, as reports continued to reach the mainland it became clear the situation was growing desperate. Her cousin's text only reinforced that realization.

McCarthy is part of a Facebook social group called “Boricuas in the Burgh and Friends,” boricuas being a name for Puerto Ricans living in the United States. It was there that she learned of several people in the area collecting donations and decided to start her own drive to help.

Iván Usero, 38, is one of the administrators of the group and a board member of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He immediately started a YouCaring Page, “Pittsburgh Stands with Puerto Rico,” to begin collecting monetary donations and through social media decided with several others to gather supply donations. Guardian Storage donated a unit at 350 Old Haymaker Road in Monroeville and they will be there accepting donations from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, he said. They will also likely collect in the coming weeks as well, Usero said, although they are still deciding the best method for getting the donations to the island.

“We're just trying to do what little we can to help,” said Usero, who grew up in San Juan. “I figure we'll jump off a cliff and build a plane on the way down,” he said.

Anyone who would like to leave items for donation is welcome to do so on the McCarthy's front stoop at 301 Cloverdale Drive, Wexford, by Friday. This weekend they will take the supplies either to the storage unit in Monroeville or to the Roberto Clemente Museum, which is hosting a collection on Sunday.

Karen Price is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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