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LI group, volunteers launch relief effort for Mexican quake victims

Maria T. Carvajal, left, coordinator of services for

Maria T. Carvajal, left, coordinator of services for Adelante of Suffolk County, and Olga Caraballe Garcia, of the U.S. Department of Labor, sort donated supplies for victims of the earthquake in Mexico at Adelante's office in Central Islip on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Credit: James Carbone

A Long Island nonprofit and a network of volunteers are joining to coordinate a relief effort for survivors of the earthquake that shook central Mexico, collapsing buildings and killing at least 273 people, according to the most recent news reports.

The drive, coordinated by Adelante of Suffolk County in Central Islip, aims to collect supplies to aid in rescue efforts and provide needed items to people left homeless in Mexico City and nearby cities and towns.

The 7.1-magnitude temblor on Tuesday was centered in the city of Puebla, affecting some of the most populated parts of Mexico.

Olga El Sehamy, executive director of Adelante, spoke of the anguish she and other natives of Mexico living abroad have felt, watching the devastation from afar. The relief effort was born out of that frustration.

“We feel helpless not being there, because we see how the people are just dropping whatever thing they are doing and going in and sifting through the rubble and opening whatever home is left and making meals for other people,” El Sehamy said at a news conference in Central Islip.

“Part of our hearts wants to be there” and help, she said. El Sehamy said she has relatives in the quake-stricken area who survived and are struggling to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Adelante, which runs programs geared to low-income communities in Central Islip, is located at 83 Carleton Ave. in Central Islip and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for donations. It is coordinating with other organizations on the Island as well as with merchants in New Jersey to arrange for delivery of the goods they collect.

The group is asking for nonperishable food, baby formula, diapers and pet food, as well as a variety of medical, first-aid and cleanup supplies, such as gauze, adhesive medical tape, cotton, peroxide, latex gloves, flashlights, batteries, construction gloves, face masks, garbage bags, toothpaste and toothbrushes and hand sanitizers.

Adelante also has partnered with companies and organizations to collect donations in Amityville, Brentwood, Centereach, Copiague, Flanders, Hampton Bays and St. James. Adelante can be reached at 631-234-1049 for specific locations or to find out about volunteering opportunities.

About 27,000 Long Island residents identified as Mexicans in the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent estimates. Mexicans are the largest Latino group across the nation, with about 34.6 million people of Mexican origin living in the United States.

Assemb. Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington) joined the relief effort, offering his office as one of the drop-off locations for donations and to give information about recovery efforts.

Lupinacci said his district, “which is home to many Mexican-American residents, is with the people of Mexico City today. In fact, all of New Yorkers are and the United States.” With communications in the affected areas still disrupted, he offered help through his office for those who are trying to reach relatives.

Lupinacci, who is running for Huntington supervisor against Democrat Tracey Edwards, also said the public can make monetary donations through the Mexican Red Cross’ first aid and relief efforts or can go to the site and buy items from a wish list that the Mexican Red Cross has posted.

Among the quake victims were 21 schoolchildren trapped under debris at their primary school. Emergency personnel and volunteers are continuing to work round-the-clock to search for and rescue survivors from the rubble.

Dulce Rojas, a Mexican community activist, said the Long Island relief effort also will seek to assist people in towns outside Mexico City who were affected and have not been the focus of international aid groups.

“The people I know in Mexico have been feeling a little bit alone” in the towns outside the city, Rojas said. “We want to make sure that everyone who needs help can get it.”

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