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PRxPR has allocated $1.5M in donations since Hurricane María hit

Motivated by the devastation that Hurricane María brought upon Puerto Rico when it hit in September 2017, a group of private citizens came together to help via a nonprofit that to this day continues to aid local communities overcome different challenges.

In an interview with News is my Business, PRxPR founder Carmen Báez confirmed that the fund has donated more than $1.5 million to local food programs, renewable energy initiatives, water systems, roof repairs and most recently, COVID-19 aid.

“There was so much devastation, particularly to agriculture, that we just had to help,” said Báez, about the nonprofit that was launched by a group of Puerto Rican business leaders in the United States diaspora with experience, broad networks, resources, and direct ties to Puerto Rico.

PRxPR invests 100% of donations amongst the most critically affected communities across the island.

“As a no-overhead fund, every dollar goes to work. We’re very quick to market because we have the ability to create alliances of all kinds,” she said.

As to who is getting help, Báez said that most recently, the nonprofit has been working with communities hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their access to food. So, PRxPR has been going straight to the farming community to buy their production and distribute it.

“We’re buying produce from small aggregate local farmers in the mountains of Puerto Rico. I’ll give you a very specific example: we have a collaborative of five farmers in the area of Adjuntas. They came together to provide us with 200 boxes every other week filled with 25 pounds of their produce,” Báez said.

“We’re creating jobs because they’ve hired people in the mountains to help them through the production. They box it for us, and we pay them to take it to Manatí, where another foundation distributes the boxes among elders and bed-ridden people who live alone,” she said, noting that by working this way, PRxPR is creating a “circular economy.”

These farmers, who may not otherwise be able to go to the city to sell their harvests, are able to do so through this type of small network.

“We’re feeding people who are struggling with food insecurity and we’re also helping to lift our culture, which is one of my passions. How can we get agriculture back on its feet and stop importing?,” she said.

As of August 2021, the nonprofit — working with local and community-based organizations — delivered more than 100,000 pounds of food, she said.

One of the promises that PRxPR makes is that because it is so lean, it can approve grants in 24 hours. It has cut back on bureaucracy so that people in need in communities can have access to money by writing “no more than one page, which we consider their proposal,” Báez said.

“We don’t make it complicated. We’re allergic to bureaucracy and papering and documents and all that process that is so traditional of the nonprofit sector,” said Báez, who is the former president of the Latin America division of Omnicom Group.

“I come from the corporate world and so do my colleague founders. So, we run this fund like a corporation, with speed to market, accountability and transparency, which I think make us very different from the other groups,” said Báez, who currently lives in New York.

Right now, PRxPR has about $200,000 in its coffers, because “money comes in, and we get it out. We don’t hold on to it as an endowment type thing. As money comes in, we tackle the grants that might be on deck and we get the money out,” said Báez.

In 2022, the nonprofit sees itself extending its role to stand behind small communities in other aspects, working to impact areas that continue benefitting the elderly and children.

For the past year and half, PRxPR has been working with the Boys and Girls Club in Vieques, buying a hot lunch meal for 60 children in the island municipality, which it plans to continue at least through the first quarter of 2022, Báez said.

At present, PRxPR has a list of more than 3,000 donors, many who are Puerto Rican and others who are not, but may have ties to the island. She said the base is split between 80% stateside donors and 20% who live in Puerto Rico.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 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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