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Private sector shows outpouring of support post-Irma

FirstBank launched the “Uno para Todos” fundraising campaign.

Puerto Rico’s private-sector community continued Thursday to display an outpouring of support for the victims of Hurricane Irma, launching efforts to help rebuild.

A number of companies have joined the Office of the First Lady’s “Unidos por Puerto Rico” campaign, which is collecting goods and money to help those displaced locally as well as in islands throughout the Lesser Antilles that experienced the brunt of the historic storm.

Econo, FirstBank, Microsoft, Evertec, Fast Signs, García Trucking Services, Pet Plastics, LLC, GFR Media, Coca-Cola, Econo, Maderas 3C, Bella Group, the Puerto Rico Pharmaceutical Industry Association, the Puerto Rico Builders Association, Claro, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and the Ferries del Caribe Foundation all announced plans Thursday to contribute.

FirstBank, which is part of “Unidos for Puerto Rico,” has contributed $100,000 and has established the entity’s official bank account #0108501910. Contributions to this fund can be made by visiting FirstBank branches; through ATH Móvil for business app, using the “UnidosPorPuertoRico” pATH or through ATH Móvil, at 787-552-9141.

“It is very important for us to collaborate in all recovery efforts intended to aid Puerto Rico, which represents our main market,” FirstBank President Aurelio Alemán said.

“We recognize the outstanding job our public officials, nonprofit organizations and private citizens have been doing to help hurricane victims restore basic services,” he said.

Aware of the severity of the impact in the Caribbean neighboring islands, FirstBank is complementing the local effort with an additional initiative, under the name “One For All VI,” which includes GFR Media, Coca-Cola, Econo, Maderas 3C. For that effort, FirstBank opened an account in Puerto Rico, #0108501899, with an initial contribution of $250,000.

Puerto Rico residents will be able to help the neighboring Caribbean islands by visiting FirstBank branches to make a donation, through ATH Móvil Business using the “UnoParaTodos” pATH or through ATH Móvil, at 787-600-1455.

“One For All VI” will address the most pressing needs of the USVI’s communities. Funds will be assigned to three nonprofits.

Meanwhile, Supermercados ECONO announced its support of First Lady Beatriz Rosselló’s campaign, by opening collection centers for non-perishable items at its 63 stores in 46 towns. Furthermore, the retailer will match customer monetary donations up to $100,000, said Eduardo Marxuach, president of the local chain.

ECONO will work with partners Microsoft, Evertec, Fast Signs, García Trucking Services and Pet Plastics, LLC in the effort.

Felipe Palacios

Pharmaceuticals pitch in with products, money
The island’s pharmaceutical sector is also banding together to pitch into the relief efforts, as the Puerto Rico Pharmaceutical Industry Association confirmed Thursday.

The 14 companies belonging to PIA will seek to address some of the most relevant unmet humanitarian needs that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma’s destructive route through the Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico.

Among the diverse initiatives developed to support the people and communities in need, companies such as AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Baxter, BristolMyersSquibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson&Johnson, Eli Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi, have pledged financial aid as well as donations of essential medications, many of which are life-saving, to treat diverse health conditions.

Most of these donations have been distributed via humanitarian aid organizations active in Puerto Rico such as DIRECT RELIEF (www.directrelief.org), Americares (www.americares.org), American Kidney Fund and the American Red Cross.

Pfizer and Allergan are also donating consumer health products like Advil and ChapStick, and Refresh and glaucoma medications, respectively. Other companies are providing aid as well; Abbott worked with Feeding America ahead of the hurricane season to store Abbott nutrition products as “disaster relief packs” at the Puerto Rico Food Bank in Bayamón, which allowed for a quick response.

Abbott also is donating additional nutrition products to the food bank and United Way to help meet community needs.

PIA member company employees have also donated money to the United Way, Red Cross, and other nonprofit organizations as well as basic necessities, such as non-perishable food, baby food, milk and personal care products.

Many of the local PIA biopharmaceutical companies are also supporting Puerto Rico patients by activating the emergency protocols of their patient support programs. Some of the steps they’ve taken to rapidly respond to the crisis include replacing medicinal products damaged or destroyed by the hurricane, providing new medications or early refills, and relaxing financial documentation requirements.

“All of us, gathered under PIA, are an integral part of the Puerto Rican community and we are committed to being a part of the solution to some of the immediate problems that are being faced by the citizens affected by Hurricane Irma on the Island”, said PIA Board Chairman Felipe Palacios.

Partnership forms to rebuild communities, schools
The Puerto Rico Builders Association, in alliance with Claro, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and the Ferries del Caribe Foundation, are working to help victims in Vieques, Culebras, St. Thomas, Tortola and St. Martin.

Together, they will establish an audiovisual technological platform with educational software and necessary telecommunications service in all public schools in Vieques and Culebra, to speed up the process of rebuilding communities, facilitating the communication of residents with their relatives outside the islands and, in particular, help the restart of classes.

The companies will work with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to deliver building materials, computer equipment, an audiovisual technological platform with educational software and telecommunications service after obtaining a “comprehensive inventory of the priority needs of all school sites in the two municipalities,” Puerto Rico Builders Association President Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz said.

They will also establish centers at the neighboring islands to channel assistance efforts including those by relief brigades, as well as assist in the reconstruction of homes in the devastated areas. Claro will provide wireless telephony units and is available to work with teams from Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, who will install the equipment at the centers.

Microsoft will offer credits for Skype calls to families that have been evacuated so they can hold videoconferences with their families. Children will have access to the “Yo Puedo Programar” platform to complete programming tutorials in Minecraft and access educational technologies. Families will be able to take digital literacy and online security courses as part of the “Navega Protegido” initiative.

Microsoft has donated $100,000, split evenly between the American Red Cross, Puerto Rico Chapter and the NetHope Organization, comprising more than 50 information technology firms that help disaster victims.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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