Catholics Prepare to Offer Relief as Hurricane Dorian Approaches Puerto Rico

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By Tim Harfmann

As Hurricane Dorian makes landfall with heavy rain and winds over 75 miles per hour, Lillian Betancourt is hoping her loved ones on the island are able to weather the storm.

She works at Holy Name Church in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, and visits Puerto Rico every year. Having just returned from the island, the devastation her family has faced is fresh in her mind. 

“They’ve experienced, what seems to them, hell and they can’t help but be nervous,” Lillian said, fighting back tears while recounting her first visit to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“Everything just appeared to be burned…. nothing was green… nothing was green,” she explained. 

After Hurricane Maria, Lillian’s mother and friends went months without electricity or running water. They were left to fend for themselves. 

Now they’re gearing up as a community to survive the new storm.  

“They fueled up all their vehicles and they just band together, and they’re prepared for another Maria, but they know that it’s not going to be as devastating,” Lillian said. 

Oscar Hernandez, a Bronx resident who works in Brooklyn, has family on the island, too. He’s worried about his in-laws and his nephew who has autism. 

“They already turned off their water. They turned off the lights already. They put the boards up, collected as much water and canned food as possible,” Oscar said. 

Catholic relief groups are re-mobilizing again as well. Parishioners from Brooklyn and Queens traveled to aid in Puerto Rico’s rebuilding in 2018, and again this past July. 

At the moment, Catholic Charities USA is working closely with Caritas in Puerto Rico, where there are already people on the scene. When the storm passes, they’ll get to work helping to provide relief.    

You can make a monetary donation online by heading to catholiccharitiesusa.org and clicking on the ‘donate’ button in the top right corner of the screen.