Communities unite to raise money to aid Puerto Rico

Volunteer Samantha Welsher, left, Deanna Palczak, Stu Palczak, and volunteer Maria Bottisti pose for photo during the Taste of the Mohawk Valley portion of the Live Aid Puerto Rico event at the Amsterdam High School on Thursday. The event was to help raise funds aid Puerto Rico after the devastation from Hurricane Maria. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O’Hara)

AMSTERDAM — Residents of the Fulton, Montgomery and area Latino communities came together Thursday for the “Live Aid: Rebuilding/Never Broken, Fulmont For Puerto Rico” fundraiser held at Amsterdam High School. Everyone had one goal in mind: To raise funds for Puerto Rico which was was tremendously impacted by the devastation from Hurricane Maria.

The high school was filled with many volunteers along with local restaurant vendors and local bands who dedicated their time to helping the wonderful cause. Local sponsors also stepped up including, St. Mary’s Healthcare, The Daily Gazette, MVP Health Care, Frank Perrella, Alpin Haus, the Recorder, Team health, Hometown Heath Centers, The Leader-Herald and Dr. and Mrs. Govind Rao.

“Puerto Rico is hurting,” said Jerri Cortese, director community and public relations of St. Mary’s Healthcare. “The island needs the support.”

The event consisted of two parts: Taste of the Mohawk Valley and a Hurricane Relief Concert.

The Taste of the Mohawk Valley ran from 5 to 7 p.m. and boasted 24 local restaurants who served food they had donated for the cause. The restaurants included Amsterdam Price Chopper, Subway, Fritz’s Pizza, Moes, Winners Circle, Wine ‘N Roses, Cp’s Jackie’s Diner, Partner’s Pub, Rosito’s Bakery, 308 Prime Restaurant and Bar of the Johnstown-Gloversville Holiday Inn, Cuba Havana, Rockton House, 518 Grille, Black Tie Event and Catering, Top Notch, Rain Dancer, Rustic Loft and Olde’ Brick House.

The Hurricane Relief Concert included talented local bands and artists such as Skeeter Creek, Bronte Roman, MedRock, Flame, and Louie and Lisa Velez who all volunteered their time to perform.

Throughout the event, raffle tickets were sold— $10 for 25 tickets — for the chance to win gift baskets filled with donated items. T-shirts were being sold as well. All the money made at the event is going toward funding for Puerto Rico.

“We’re looking to do what we can do as a community to support the recovery efforts,” said Vic Giulianelli, CEO and President of St. Mary’s Hospital. “Whether those efforts happen on the Island or help with acclimating people to this area — because that is happening, too.”

Giulianelli said he decided to have an event to raise money for Puerto Rico after witnessing from afar the devastating damages that Hurricane Maria had caused. Giulianelli called the hurricane “the worst storm in a century.”

He said he chose Amsterdam to have the benefit because of the significant population of Latino families. Many of those families are originally from Puerto Rico and continue to have family connections there.

“25 percent of the population is Latino and more than 90 percent of the Latino population has it’s origins in Puerto Rico,” Giulianelli said. “They’re a big part of the community.”

Ladan Alomar, executive director of Centro Civico said since Hurricane Maria there have been 80 families who have moved to Amsterdam and 36 new students have entered into the school district.

Centro Civico created a Puerto Rico relief group for the region. They have helped place those families into homes, and they have also been collecting personal items to send to National Guard to forward to Puerto Rico.

“I was very touched and very proud when the CEO at St. Mary’s Hospital reached out to me and said he wants to help,” Alomar said. “He created this wonderful event where everyone has the opportunity to share culture and food together.”

Louie Valez, who is part of the MedRock band said the event for Puerto Rico means a lot to him because his parents are from Puerto Rico and were born there.

“It means a lot because it shows how strong communities like Amsterdam and Montgomery County can be together during such a tragic event like this for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico,” Velez said.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 92 percent of Puerto Rico has cell service, 83 percent has potable water and only 41 percent has power. Puerto Rico is still in crisis and is still in need of a lot of help.

“[Puerto Rico] we love you, we’re not going to abandon you, we’re going to be with you,” said Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger.


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