Puerto Rico EDS wins EDS honor, highlights SA Week

By Robert Mitchell and The Salvation Army’s Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands Division

The Plaza las Américas, the huge shopping mall in San Juan, P.R., was the scene of an informative Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) display May 17-19 during National Salvation Army Week.

Marco Lopez, the development director for the Puerto Rico & Virgin Islands Division, said the display on the mall’s second floor was designed to help prepare shoppers for hurricane season. It featured preparedness information and photos from the last four major weather events on the island, including 2017’s Hurricane Maria.

“We said ‘OK, what are we most known besides our thrift stores?’ If there is a disaster, people call The Salvation Army or they see us there,” Lopez said. “So, we went with EDS. I want to strengthen our brand beyond the thrift store and the red kettle. We have many other programs.”

Right before National Salvation Army Week, the division was recognized at the “Better Together” Conference in Dallas Texas, with the Emergency Disaster Services National Team Award,” which evaluates the performance and effective management in emergency situations at the national  level.

“With great pride, we celebrate … the moments we lived and attended in past emergencies such as hurricanes María and Fiona, earthquakes, and the pandemic,” said Major Juan Mercado, divisional commander. “The Salvation Army has been vital to the recovery of Puerto Rico from the biggest disasters for 61 years. We are uniquely positioned to respond quickly with disaster relief efforts such as hurricanes and other catastrophic events.”

Mercado said in each event, the response by The Salvation Army was immediate.

“We have been present with the distribution of hot meals, masks, clothing, household goods, cleaning kits, electric generators, emotional support and financial assistance for the payment of utilities. All this public assistance with an investment of over $35 million dollars impacting more than half a million people served,” he said.

Orlando Olivera, FEMA’s Caribbean Area Office coordinator for Puerto Rico, said The Salvation Army and FEMA are strong allies.

“We need to include all sectors of our community, such as nonprofits, because they are important for effective emergency preparedness, response, and recovery work,” he said. “Thanks to the consistent support of the Salvation Army during emergencies, families in Puerto Rico can receive emotional support services, supplies, among other types of aid. We appreciate their efforts, and their collaboration helps us to have stronger communities that are better prepared for the next disaster event.”

The Salvation Army has 11 centers located in the municipalities of Arecibo, Bayamón, Caguas, Fajardo, Guayama, Humacao, Loíza, Mayagüez, Ponce, Peñuelas, and San Juan.  The centers provide aid tailored to the needs of socially disadvantaged families, the elderly, children, the homeless, and immediate care in case of emergencies and disasters.

The Salvation Army also has a Disaster and Emergency Management Operations Center, and its facilities are equipped with an industrial kitchen that allows for the feeding of 10,000 people a day during emergency situations. In addition, they are prepared with mobile units (canteens) ready for action within the first 48 hours after an emergency.

“In an emergency, non-profit organizations such as the Salvation Army are key to bringing aid to communities; we work together and have been very effective, before, during and after the emergency,” said Nino Correa, commissioner of the Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD).

For more information about the Salvation Army in Puerto Rico, visit www.salvationarmypr.org or call (787) 999-7000 to donate.