Since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20 and two earthquakes struck different cities in Mexico that same month, two local Brooklyn institutions have opened their doors to organize relief efforts. And while each institution has sought to collect and distribute supplies to natural disaster victims, only one has demonstrated the qualities of a highly-professional response plan.
In Bensonhurst, at the intersection of Kings Highway and West 13th Street, Assemblyman William Colton’s District Office has held a donation drive each weekday since Sept. 25. The drive has been made in partnership with Reverend Erick Salgado of the Iglesia Jovenes Cristianos Mission of God, a Pentecostal church located only a few blocks away from the District Office.
According to Angela Yeung, the Communications Director for Colton’s office, the donation drive was Colton’s initiative and that the office reached out to Salgado’s church because of its unique standing within the community. Salgado plans to travel to Puerto Rico himself and personally deliver the goods to those in need.
“A good amount of collections have been made,” Yeung said by phone. “We are seeing 5-to-15 constituents come in per day.”
On Tuesday, the box was half-filled with uncooked pasta, diapers, plastic toys, and nonperishable snacks, no more than 20 or 30 items total to distribute. Furthermore, Yeung claims that Colton and Salgado held a press conference on Sunday, Oct. 8, in order to call for more donations. No members of the press came. The District Office’s donation drive is scheduled to end on Oct. 18.
Further north, in Downtown Brooklyn, Catholic Charities has partnered with many local churches to create a more streamlined and professional disaster relief effort. Headquartered at 191 Joralemon St., Catholic Charities works as the unofficial public relations and marketing arm for the Catholic Church of New York. A Senior Communications source at Catholic Charities in Brooklyn said of the effort that, “the Bishop of Brooklyn, Nicholas DiMarzio, has asked parishes to quickly come up with collections for victims of the recent tragedy”, and over “180 churches” have responded to the call to participate.
According to TheTablet.org, Bishop DiMarzio has written to all pastors saying, “We do realize that this is the fourth request for a special collection for natural disasters in one month’s time. The need for assistance to these people is real. I know that the faithful of Brooklyn and Queens are caring and generous people. Please express my deep appreciation as we once again ask for the generosity of the people of your parish.”
By all accounts the call has been answered. Donation boxes have been set up at the front of each participating church and over 50 volunteers have already spent time packing up aid and supplies. Newsletters specific to each neighborhood church have been sent out and alerted members of the need to donate and give whatever supplies can be offered. On a more logistical level, Catholic Charities has found a willing partner for the transport of the supplies. On Oct. 20, Catholic Charities plans to use Jet Blue airlines and their cargo-specific airplanes, Atlas Airlines, to deliver the supplies to Puerto Rican residents.
The diocese will also call together all Puerto Rican parishioners for Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Prospect Heights on Friday Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. in order to raise awareness for the relief effort and pray for victims of these recent disasters.