Providing relief to the residents of Puerto Rico after the Caribbean island was decimated by Category 5 Hurricane Maria has proven to be a more challenging and difficult task than in providing relief to residents in both Houston and the state of Florida, after they were struck by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Merokian Scott Carlin and Jose Cardona, owner of No Limit Auto Body
Ask Merokian Scott Carlin, who along with Jose Cardona has received donations and contributions of well over a million pounds in little over two weeks since the hurricane left the Caribbean island with little-to-no water, no food or medical supplies to sustain its population.
While the two gentlemen have been able parlay a network that includes some famous people to get planes and cargo ships to transport supplies to the island, the challenge to get the planes and ships back home to transport even more supplies is challenged by a practical financial necessity to provide materials to fly back to the U.S., to help defray the costs of operating the transports.
At present, there seems to be few materials to fly back – although the humanitarian incentive is clearly there, and there are resources being provided from some donators to make the trips back. Adding to the practical costs are the realities that even those ships that can dock – with a green light from FEMA to do so when the supplies are not seized – unload their cargo to sit at those docks unable to be distributed to those in need.
“There are not enough people to get the supplies off the ships,” Carlin said.
But that is all quickly changing, Carlin told Your NewsMag recently with Cardona at the original warehouse in Freeport in which the two first began receiving donations – some very large – on an hourly basis.
Warehouse loaded with supplies for Puerto Rico
AT THE BEGINNING
Both Carlin and Cardona are members of the Long Island Exotic Car Club, one of several around the region. Cardona owns the No Limit Auto Body Shop, which repairs auto bodies and will do occasional restorations. It is his auto body shop that became the original warehouse for storing donations and contributions.
Such car clubs annually hold fundraising events such as Run4Blue, a charity for fallen officers in police departments and their families in the tri-state region. “We’ve raised over $100,000 for those officers” with the charity, Carlin said.
Cardona recalls talking one morning on the phone with Wayne Schneider of Manhattan, who belongs to the Precision Concierge New York car club, when the subject turned to the devastation on Puerto Rico and potential human disaster if something is not done. With their skill in charitable fundraising, the two quickly agreed to a catered breakfast in which members of the car clubs could bring donations in.
Within days word spread around several car clubs, which began an almost hourly flow of donations of water, baby supplies, non-perishable foods and over-the-counter medications. “We also went to the local box store and purchased any building supplies that could be used to help rebuild structures,” Carlin said.
About one million pounds of donated goods now lie at Javits Center awaiting distribution thanks to connections Schneider has in New York City, said Carlin. There are even more donations stored in warehouses in New Jersey thanks to Troy Green of Green Lights Customs, and in Florida, Carlin said, from car club connections in those states.
Through contacts in the car clubs, Carlin and Cardona have also reached several high-profile executives who have arranged for planes and cargo ships to transport the donated goods to Puerto Rico.
Carolyn Aronson, CEO of It’s a 10 Records, Desiree Perez, CEO (The Boss of Bosses) of Roc Nation Records and FatJoe are among the celebrities that have offered funds and resources, Carlin continued. “Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees and his wife Laura” are among those who are donating, and executives of Care One and InnovaCare, both medical suppliers, are solidly on board in the endeavor.
“The medical supply people have about 200 people on the ground in Puerto Rico,” Carlin said, now enabling some of those supplies to reach into interior of the island, where many are still without even communication to the outside world.
“We are able to use a cell phone app to contact people who are in Puerto Rico” who know where people are and how to get supplies to them from donations sitting on the docks, Carlin said.
“If we can get one child life-saving oxygen,” then all the work Carlin and Cardona have put in to create the network and distribution system to the Caribbean island will be worth it, they both told Your NewsMag.
Carlin further spoke of a tour operator on the island that has been going door-to-door as well, to identify those with needs. He adds that roughly 20% of all donations are actually targeted to specific families on the island.
Carlin calls the experience of creating the network and distribution system to provide for the people of Puerto Rico as “one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.” Cardona says it “feels amazing to be able” to get such a response and put such a network together to help people in need.
If you would like to donate or learn about this endeavor, which will continue for the next six months to a year, email Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.