Annette Ramos tells a  Puerto Rican folk tale  during Unidos en la Distancia to benefit earthquake victims on Jan. 24  in Rochester.(EMC photo by John Haeger) Annette Ramos tells a Puerto Rican folk tale during Unidos en la Distancia to benefit earthquake victims on Jan. 24 in Rochester.(EMC photo by John Haeger)

Community aids earthquake relief efforts

In response to the numerous earthquakes in Puerto Rico that began disrupting the island on Dec. 28, members of the Latino community in Rochester have come together to gather donations for the island’s residents who were affected. 

Local activists Wanda Martinez-Johncox and Mercedes Vasquez-Simmons collected donations at various businesses around Rochester to support earthquake relief efforts. The two women and a group of volunteers personally delivered the donations to Puerto Rico Jan. 22. Such items as water, sleeping bags, tents and personal-care items are still being collected at Equal Grounds Coffee on South Avenue, La Manita de Amando off North Clinton Avenue or at Trillium Health off Monroe Avenue. 

“Our efforts are grassroot. We are just everyday Latinos. When it’s time to work, we roll up our sleeves,” Vasquez-Simmons said of assisting with earthquake relief efforts.

Members of Borinquen Dance Theater perform Jan. 24 in Rochester during an event to benefit earthquake victims in Puerto Rico. (EMC photo by John Haeger)

According to Vasquez-Simmons, the call for donations that she and Martinez-Johncox put out to the community helped to garner more than 900 pounds of goods, which were distributed throughout the Puerto Rican towns of Guayanilla, Guanica, Yauco, Ponce, Utuado and Lares. 

A second trip to Puerto Rico was to take place Feb. 13, a third trip is planned for March, Vasquez-Simmons said. Anyone interested in participating in or gathering donations for March trip may contact Vasquez-Simmons at 

Other community efforts to help with earthquake relief include a partnership between Ibero-American Action League and Puertorriqueños Unidos en la Distancia (Puerto Ricans United in the Distance), which launched an online donation campaign. Those wishing to make a financial donation may do so by visiting

Ibero also has reopened the Multi Agency Resource Center, which helped serve thousands of people escaping the effects of Hurricane Maria, and now is aiding those escaping the devastation of the earthquakes. Ibero President Angelica Perez-Delgado announced that as of Feb. 5, the agency had served more than 60 families that have relocated to Rochester since the earthquakes. 

On Jan. 24, Puertorriqueños Unidos en la Distancia, in collaboration with several local organizations, sponsored a fundraiser at the Avalon in Rochester. The fundraiser featured cultural performances, story time for kids, music and more. The event raised more than $5,000 that went toward supporting the Team Cuca Foundation, a nonprofit on the island working directly with families affected by the earthquakes.

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