We’re taking a break from writing about the business of CPG branding to cast a well-deserved spotlight on a Concentric staffer that has done something extraordinary.
Yessenia Perez, our Controller, has done a remarkable job helping the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. In an effort to get her parents, who were visiting the island when Maria hit, safely back home, she ended up soliciting literally tons of food, first aid items and clothing, finding several planes and coordinated multiple airlifts. You may have even seen her on the news, but we’re going to tell her story again because we’re so proud of her.
On Wednesday, September 20, Maria slammed into the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a category 5 storm, causing billions of dollars in damage, dozens of fatalities and trapping thousands who were visiting the Caribbean island. Two of those people were Yessenia’s parents, Alcides Perez and Ivonne Rios, who are Puerto Rican natives. The couple, pastors, were there helping a church they founded when Maria landed.
Like others with friends and family there and without any ability to communicate, Yessenia could at first only pray and stay glued to the news in hopes of getting any information. But apparently sitting around is not her style. She talked to a friend who also had Puerto Rico connections and they both sprang into action.
When you are doing humanitarian relief you have to be strong in your beliefs because that’s what determines how far you can go and how many people you can help.—Yessenia Perez
The two picked up their phones and began dialing, looking for support from or ways to help nonprofit organizations like The Puerto Rican Culture Society (PRCSC), Global Empowerment Missions (G.E.M.) and others. They joined efforts to amass donations from the local and regional area to send to the island. They began coordinating with churches, grocery stores, small business, and private citizens who had planes, and even the U.S. military. They also worked the local media to get the word out about needing plane donations, such as the coverage seen here on WSOCTV.
To evacuate her parents, who were luckily found to be safe and staying in one the hotels, Yessenia’s plan was to help fill a plane with donated goods and bring them back on the return flight.
And the plan worked…just not the first two times. She had to contribute to the coordination of three flights before her parents could make it onto one of the planes. But they did make it home safely—grateful to see Yessenia and their family back here in Charlotte. The lucky flight took place on October 7th through Ingrid Hoffmann (the chef from Top Chef Estrellas on Telemundo) and #beyondthefill, which has been running medical supply missions to Puerto Rico.
With her parents home you’d think this is the end of the story, but it’s not.
As we all know, the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico continues 60 days after the hurricane with 75% of residents without power and over 25% without running water. Today, any amount rain can cause tremendous floods and great damage. This is why Yessenia is doing more than ever for the relief effort.
Through PRCSC and G.E.M. there are more containers arriving, some targeting the North region where her parents’ church is located. The weekend after Thanksgiving she is joining an aid contingent on another flight to Puerto Rico and will be on the island to help distribute goods. This massive relief mission, logistically organized by G.E.M., will deliver more than 100 containers of donated goods to 47 out of 78 Puerto Rican towns.
I read a quote from Ghandi a while back, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’ Through my service I find compassion, caring, love which are hard to experience in the craziness of the world today. So I will continue to help others as much as I can.—Yessenia Perez
Understanding that there is a long road of recovery ahead and that there is still much more to accomplish The Puerto Rican Cultural Society of Charlotte, that has also invited Yessenia to join their board, will continue to work hard to help in this recovery in representation of the Puerto Rican living in the Carolina’s and with the support of many. The PRCSC certainly knows a good humanitarian when they see one!
Feature photo courtesy of WSOCTV9 Charlotte, Cox Media Group.