As the situation in Puerto Rico continues to unfold after back-to-back monstrous hurricanes devastated the island, many of us watch the video footage, read the harrowing stories of death and survival, and feel helpless from our comfortable homes on the mainland.
Many have criticized aid to Puerto Rico as being slow and inadequate. As of Tuesday, only 7 percent of the island’s electric utility’s customers had power, and 88 percent of cell sites were out of service Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal. Furthermore, while stores have started to reopen, shelves are bare, leaving residents without a consistent source of food and water.
Hearing firsthand from Puerto Ricans on the ground about the devastation, North Shore sisters Yvette Flores and Jeannie Edwards decided to take immediate action, forming a nonprofit organization called LIPA, Ltd. (Lifesaving Implementation of Puerto Rican Aid; LIPA was also the name of Flores’ and Edwards’ maternal great-grandmother). LIPA’s near-term mission is to charter an airplane to deliver within the next week much-needed supplies to Aguada, a town on the west coast of the island.
“We couldn’t sleep at night if we didn’t help the town where our mother was born,” says Flores, an attorney who lives in Highland Park. “Knowing that we are Puerto Rican, so many people are asking us where they should donate. There’s such a great need,” and a fragmented response that isn’t reaching all areas of the island.
Flores and Edwards, along with other family members in the Chicago area, have put their careers on hold and are working to raise enough money to cover the $22,000 price tag of chartering a plane, simultaneously working their network to find someone potentially willing to donate a plane so they can put all the funds toward supplies. Their ultimate fundraising goal is $50,000 and they are currently about one-third of the way there.
The approximately 42,000 residents of Aguada, a town surrounded by mountains, survive largely on food they harvest themselves. Farms have been destroyed, and because of the town’s substantial distance from the territory’s capital San Juan, state and federal aid to Aguada has been almost nonexistent.
LIPA is coordinating with other organizations to collect supplies such as canned food, water, flashlights, batteries, and diapers. Upon arrival in Aguada, LIPA will work with Catholic Church St. Francisco of Asis to aid in distribution to those who are most in need.
Unlike many nonprofits that have significant overhead costs, LIPA will use 100 percent of funds to aid Aguada’s food and shelter crisis, and resources permitting, may extend support to other towns, as well. In the longer term, any excess money will go toward rebuilding the town.
“This is not something that’s going to happen quickly,” Flores says. “It could be another generation before the town is rebuilt.”
For more information about LIPA, go to lipahelp2017.org.
Donations can be made:
Checks may be mailed to:
Lipa, Ltd in c/o
620 N. Sheridan Road, Unit 1C
Highwood, IL 60040
For questions, please contact Yvette Flores at 312 952-5474 or email [email protected]
You can continue to help those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, as well as the earthquakes in Mexio, by donating to the Red Cross. When you use our site, your donation will be tripled!
Susan Pasternak has worked as a journalist for more than two decades, reporting and writing on myriad subjects ranging from national health care policy to personal finance to head lice. Her work has been published in numerous consumer and business publications. Susan lives with her husband, three children, and dog Roxy in Highland Park. She also volunteers with Working Together, a Highwood/Highland Park organization that provides enrichment opportunities to under-resourced children in the community.