It started out as a mission of love and faith, but has evolved into a commitment to address dire living conditions.
United 4 PR, a Christian-based group of different backgrounds, formed almost immediately after Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria crisis.
Many of United 4 PR’s members are Puerto Rican and hail from the Bronx.
As the group expanded to include help from those in other congregations, many of whom were not Puerto Rican, nor from New York City, their mission remained the same.
“We just couldn’t leave the people in Puerto Rico all alone,” said Marcus Soler, one of the members of United 4 PR.
On Friday, February 23, the group held a fundraising event called ‘The Boricua Experience’ at Lorraine’s Bar & Grill in Parkchester.
The medium-sized restaurant was decorated with inspiration from the island: Puerto Rican flags adorning the walls and table center pieces, candles filled with sand, water and blue stones.
The event, which garnered 40 presale tickets and attracted dozens of walk ins, offered tasty food, live music, artwork and a passion for Puerto Rico.
Guests listened to a variety of local musicians perform salsa, tributes to the island and religious songs, while perusing artwork on display for sale from other local creative artists.
While the evening was about sustaining the awareness of the crisis in Puerto Rico, organizers also had their hopes set on raising money for a newer van or truck.
All the churches working in tandem with United 4 PR have continued to collect supplies and monetary donations, but the group realized they needed a more reliable source of transportation once on the island.
One of the biggest facets of their work is collaborating with Connected Life Church in Puerto Rico to help carry out mission work by traveling to the island and personally distributing supplies, as well as helping to physically rebuild homes and remove any remaining debris.
“When devastation happens there’s an emotional aspect and sometimes we forget what people are going through,” said Jeannie Guzman from United 4 PR. “Just to be there to listen and share in prayer goes a long way sometimes.”
Their last mission trip in December of 2017 was met with success, but was plagued by a series of vehicle problems.
The vans they used, which were owned by Connected Life Church, had a series of mechanical issues.
Since their last trip, the group has been sending supply packages to individual households, especially to those with elderly family members.
For their next trip, which is expected to happen in early April, they want to be able to help as many as they can without encountering any delays.
Through the fundraiser and their other efforts, United 4 PR so far has raised over $5,000 towards acquiring an updated vehicle on the island for Connected Life Church.
The group estimated the cost of a van to be about $20,000 and will continue to collect donations until their April trip.
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, leaving behind destruction and despair.
Homes were leveled, others left without roofs, family members were missing for days, and communication to and from the island was almost nonexistent as Puerto Rico was left in the dark.
Thousands fled the island in search of safety and security, but those who remained were left with the looming challenge of rebuilding their homes and their lives, without access to basic necessities like food and clean water.
For more information on the group’s mission or to make a donation, contact United 4 PR at unite