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Diocese, food bank seek donations for victims of natural disasters

Hurricane Maria bears down on Puerto Rico on

Hurricane Maria bears down on Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 in San Juan. Credit: Getty Images/Alex Wroblewski

Relief efforts for the victims of recent natural disasters will continue through this weekend on Long Island as more organizations pitch in to help.

Much of the effort has focused on Puerto Rico, where huge numbers of people remain without power and water after Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre announced Thursday that it will authorize a special collection in its 133 Long Island parishes the weekend of Oct. 7-8 “to assist those suffering from the seemingly unprecedented number of natural disasters.”

Bishop John Barres issued the notice to churches at the request of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This is the second such collection recently, with funds raised in early September dedicated to victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Gulf Coast region.

This time, the diocese is looking to assist people affected by hurricanes Maria and Irma — immense storms that pounded Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cuba and other Caribbean islands — as well as the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck Mexico last week.

“We pray in solidarity for all those who are suffering in these days,” Barres said in a statement.

Relief efforts for Puerto Rico have grown locally as the extent of damage has been reported. An estimated 100,000 Puerto Ricans live on Long Island and many are volunteering.

The Island Harvest Food Bank already shipped pallets of food and water through its network of partners and food banks. Officials said the shipments will continue every other day, and more donations are needed.

“We are getting food out there, but it’s more than food,” said Migdalia Otero, vice president of operations and food procurement with Island Harvest in Hauppauge.

Otero, who is Puerto Rican and has family on the island, is traveling there soon to set up a second relief location outside San Juan.

“We are bringing hope, we are bringing words of encouragement . . . and the promise that more help is on the way,” she said.

Margarita Espada, who is leading another relief effort through the Teatro Yerbabruja nonprofit in Central Islip, said the group will continue accepting donated goods through mid-October and is shifting its emphasis toward gathering canned food.

“The need is great and we need everyone to lift up Puerto Rico,” Espada said.

Island Harvest is accepting donations on weekdays of pop-top ready-to-eat items; packaged food that can be stored, such as peanut butter, tuna and soup; and bottled water. No glass containers are allowed.

Donations will be accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 15 Grumman Rd. West, Suite 15450, in Bethpage; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 875 Jerusalem Ave. in Uniondale; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 40 Marcus Blvd. in Hauppauge. Visit for more locations.

The Teatro Yerbabruja drive will be held Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 63 Carleton Ave. in Central Islip.

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