Part of the athletic complex at Immaculate Conception Pastoral Center, Douglaston, has turned into a storage area for the past few weeks, as Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens stockpiles needed supplies that will be shipped to assist hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.
On Friday, Oct. 20 and Monday, Oct. 23, volunteers from parishes, diocesan agencies, and business companies have been sorting and packing supplies. Included are canned foods, bottled water, batteries and flashlights, cleaning products, and personal hygiene supplies.
Richard Slizeski, director of mission for Catholic Charities, who has been coordinating the effort, says that about 60 parishes in the diocese have donated products. He has personally been driving from parish to parish to pick up the materials.
In addition to volunteers from Catholic Charities, there were some from St. John’s University, NYPD, Staples and Wells Fargo who answered the call to help.
Jennie Melendez of Mary’s Nativity, Flushing, said she responded when she read the notice in The Tablet.
Born in Puerto Rico, she came to New York when she was four years old.
“I grew up here but your roots are always there,” she said. “You have family there, you have close friends. I have my closest friend there right now. I haven’t heard from her except for maybe two minutes because we kept getting disconnected and we sounded like we were doing a commercial because all we kept saying was ‘can you hear me now.’
“It’s just a matter of keeping our fingers crossed. We pray for everybody. We cry a lot. I came in here today, I’m like ‘Oh my God.’ My husband dropped me off because he can’t help, but I said ‘You have to come in here and look at this, you have to see this, it’s beautiful’.”
She urged others to get involved.
“You can’t just sit home with your arms crossed and watching TV and the news and say, ‘Oh, look at what they’re doing.’ No, it’s a matter of ‘What am I doing?’ – you donate with money, you donate food, but you have to put a little more into it,” she explained.
Marisa Rodriguez, of Puerto Rican descent and a member of St. Patrick’s parish, Bay Ridge, was taping shampoo bottles to prevent them from spilling before being packaged in the boxes.
“It means everything to be giving back,” she said. “My parents are born and raised in Puerto Rico, so when you grow up in a bilingual, bi-cultural home, you know you are, who your parents are, regardless of where you were born.”
When she saw the donations, she said, “I was just moved, I was a little emotional and I was energized and you could feel the energy in the room, it was just great, everybody getting together to do the right thing.
“My hope is that we all stay strong and that we help them because this is not a short term process. This is going to be long-term, and we have to show up and we have to vote and we have to represent and speak loud so that we’re heard.”
Contributing to this article were Ed Wilkinson and Melissa Enaje.