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Rebuilding hope after Hurricane Maria
Nov 29, 2017

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico, it would be easy to look around and see only despair. Instead, Debbie García-Gratacós chooses to see what she calls “the beautiful hand of God” at work.

As a volunteer and board member with the national nonprofit organization Friends of Puerto Rico, García-Gratacós is keenly aware of the suffering taking place, but she also said she’s witnessing humanity at its best.

“I’m seeing our country come together and rise up to help in a way I’ve never seen before,” García-Gratacós said. “People all across the U.S. are saying, ‘Puerto Rico, we are with you.’”

As a client of BB&T and an advisory board member in the northern Virginia market, she’s familiar with BB&T’s mission to make the world a better place. That’s what led García-Gratacós to email Chairman and CEO Kelly King with a request to help Friends of Puerto Rico restore hope for the island’s most vulnerable citizens.

“Mr. King responded immediately with a $100,000 gift from BB&T,” García-Gratacós said. “It was literally a lifeline. And it shows that behind big corporations, like BB&T, are people who really care about other people.”

“Although we don’t have a corporate presence on the island, our hearts are still connected to Puerto Rico through the many associates who have loved ones there,” King said. “We hope this gift will honor those associates who are part of our family and support the incredible work being done by Friends of Puerto Rico to get help where it’s needed.”

BB&T’s funding, along with generous gifts from other individuals and corporations, is helping Friends of Puerto Rico transport donated food, medicine and other critical supplies as they lead one of the largest, privately funded humanitarian relief efforts on the island. According to Friends of Puerto Rico Co-Founder and Executive Director Angelique Sina, financial contributions are vital to cover the costs of getting donated goods to the areas beyond the main cities where they’re needed most. So far, the organization has coordinated six flights, delivering about 800,000 pounds of food and more than $300,000 worth of medicine and supplies. Each flight can cost from $100,000-$275,000, depending on the size of the plane and its contents.

Friends of Puerto Rico is also working closely with the island’s Boys and Girls Clubs as they provide a safe environment for children who need care while schools remain closed and parents try to find work.

“The things that may seem simple here for us on the mainland can still be very difficult for so many in Puerto Rico,” García-Gratacós said. “Seventy percent of the island is still without electricity or water. Many hospitals and schools are closed. And people who were barely making it before the storm, now find themselves left with almost nothing.”

But there is still reason to have hope and to be thankful, she said. “There are whole towns, thousands of miles away, that are praying and collecting donations for the people of Puerto Rico,” García-Gratacós said. “You can’t help but be moved and encouraged by everyone’s generosity. It renews your faith in humanity.”

To see how BB&T’s donation is helping Friends of Puerto Rico save lives and restore hope, we encourage you to check out a short, but impactful, video on our BB&T Facebook page!


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