People take part in a service Wednesday at Sacred Heart Chapel in Lorain for the victims of the recent disasters that struck the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE Enlarge
LORAIN — Several hundred people from Lorain and surrounding communities gathered Wednesday evening at Sacred Heart Chapel for a prayer vigil for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the recent earthquake in Mexico.
The vigil also was part of the effort by Lorain City Councilman Angel Arroyo, D-6th Ward, to collect supplies to send to the victims in Puerto Rico.
Arroyo also has headed collections for the victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. When asked if this time it meant more because his family is from Puerto Rico, Arroyo got a bit choked up and couldn’t answer right away.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I’ve done this twice for Katrina, twice for Sandy and Oklahoma. This is family. There was no question about whether I was going to do it. It was just when.”
Those organizing the collection have high hopes for the shipment that will be sent to Puerto Rico.
“We sent down two trucks to the victims in Florida two weeks ago,” Arroyo said. “We hope to send six semis on Saturday morning. We have one semi full at the Puerto Rican Home. We had a box truck from Kentucky come this morning.”
During the vigil, those in attendance sat in the dark for a few minutes in silence to show solidarity with those victims in Puerto Rico who are without power. The vigil also had another moment of silence for prayers for the victims.
There was also a procession with flowers during the vigil.
“I’m overwhelmed and grateful,” Arroyo said. “Today was the community coming together. We had people from Amherst, Cleveland, and we had a group from Kentucky come today and drop off a load of supplies. It’s a group that came together supporting and praying and working together to make sure we support our people back home on our island.”
Despite all that the community already has given for victims of other natural disasters, Arroyo wasn’t surprised by the outpouring of support shown this week.
“I’m not amazed because this is what our community is about,” he said. “It’s not just the Latino community. This is what Lorain is about. People might say their feelings about our community, but we’re a tight-knit family.”
Over the weekend, the Puerto Rican Home had 30 to 40 volunteers working to collect supplies to be sent, according to Arroyo. In two days, the facility was filled to capacity.
At Sacred Heart, the gym is nearly full of supplies after three days of work. They still have two more days of work ahead of them before the trucks leave.
“I’m overwhelmed by the amount of work people have been putting in,” Arroyo said. “We’ve had more than 150 volunteers in three days (at Sacred Heart). I just appreciate everyone coming out and supporting this.”
The group plans to leave at 5:30 a.m. Saturday to travel to New York City with the supplies. Once there, the supplies will be loaded on a ship that has offered to take the supplies to Puerto Rico for free.
Arroyo said there’s more people can do to help the victims, even if they can’t offer supplies.
“I encourage everyone to continue calling congressional members to fight the budget,” he said. “If the budget passes the way it is, they’re going to cut hundreds of millions from FEMA. That will not only affect Puerto Rico, it’ll affect Harvey, Irma and Jose victims.”
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