Puerto Rico Relief Center moves today, needs help

OBSERVER Photo by Nicole Gugino The Puerto Rico Relief Center will move from 338 Central Ave. today to Erie Dining Hall on the SUNY Fredonia Campus. Volunteers are needed at 4 p.m.

The Puerto Rico Relief Center has been helping families for months out of its location at 338 Central Ave. Now, a partnership with the State University of New York at Fredonia will allow for more space to further fill the needs of incoming families fleeing the devastation.

According to Edwin Ramos, the center will make the move to Erie Dining Hall on campus today at approximately 4 p.m. Volunteers are needed to move existing donations to from the storefront at 338 Central Ave. to the new site.

“Dr. (Kevin) Kearns and Mike Metzger from SUNY Fredonia were informed we needed somewhere to go, so they offered me a spot. It took a little time to figure out where, we checked out a few places before deciding on Erie Dining Hall. The Erie Dining Hall is awesome. There’s an elevator there, there’s a loading dock and there’s ample space for everything we need,” Ramos said.

Once the center is set up in its new location off Temple Street, signs will be placed to help direct those seeking help and those making donations.

“We’d like for some people to come in and show up to help not only (today), but we have an ongoing crisis. The people that are here now are just the tip of the iceberg of people that are going to be coming from Puerto Rico. Still, only 40 percent of the people on the island have electricity and that’s intermittent. Of the families that we’ve helped here, more are expected,” Ramos explained.

“The community has come out full force and been awesome in helping us and I would like to thank everybody that has donated and come out. It has been heart warming to see the outpouring of help that we have received and we hope they continue to support us after we move,” Ramos added.

He thanked the owners of the Stearns Building for agreeing to house the center for several months, but said a new focus means they have outgrown the space.

“I’m trying to focus on the needs of individuals when they get their place or are living with other people. We’ve had people ask for larger pots and pans because now they’re cooking for 10 or 11 people instead of four. When people leave their homes to look for work or even just to grocery shop, whatever it is, they need the proper clothing and attire to be able to maneuver in our climate,” Ramos said. “When we do open up, we’ll be able to receive donations of more household goods, furniture, cooking utensils and pots and pans in addition to the coats and gloves and boots that we were collecting.”

In addition, the center has teamed up with nonprofits, Catholic Charities and the Hispanic Community Council, in order to accept monetary donations.

“We have helped between 30 to 40 families that have come here. Those families are still in the city. Some are living with one family, some are living with two other families, so what we’re trying to do is help them establish their own residence so that they can have their own space and the stability that comes with it,” Ramos added. “We’ve teamed up with Catholic Charities to help provide assistance with first-time rent and security deposits for the people who are here trying to look for a better life. They’re displaced from their homes and trying to get some stability and that’s exactly what we’re trying to provide.”

All are welcome to put on their moving gear and assist in today’s move to Erie Hall. Hours of operation at Erie Hall have yet to be announced.