Local organization in desperate need of coat donations for Puerto Rican families who fled to Cleveland after earthquake

Posted at 7:56 AM, Jan 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-29 17:52:44-05

CLEVELAND — More than 200 people have come to Cleveland in the last two weeks from Puerto Rico, seeking safety as the island is rocked by earthquakes and tremors.

The earthquakes started on Dec. 28 and experts estimate about 2,000 tremors since then. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and shelters are continually being evacuated.

Cleveland has a robust Puerto Rican community, and family members have paid for relatives to come here to escape.

The Spanish American Committee has seen more than 200 individuals walk through their doors in recent days — many who fled with just the clothes on their backs, wearing shorts and sandals in Cleveland’s cold climate.

It is why they are putting out a plea for coat donations, along with gloves, hats, socks, boots, toiletries and diapers.

“It breaks our hearts to see people coming here because they left their families behind, their homes were crushed,” said Ramonita Vargas, executive director at the Spanish American Committee. “And to start all over again, you need a job, you need resources in order to survive and it’s really heartbreaking.”

Vargas said more than 2,700 families came to Cleveland seeking shelter following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“A lot of them have good jobs, they purchased their own home, they’re stable, their kids are going to school so a lot of them are happy now but it took a little while to get there,” Vargas explained.

Our city has a population of roughly 60,000 Latinos, but Vargas believes that number will grow to 80,000 with new census data.

The Spanish American Committee is hosting an event on Wednesday at 6 p.m., hoping to get affected families, city leaders, and community groups all under one roof.

If you’d like to donate, you can drop off items at the center. It is located at 4407 Lorain Ave. in Cleveland, near Ohio City.

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