Carlos Nuñez was born and raised in Puerto Rico. In the days after Hurricane Maria, he received calls and messages telling him about the devastation of his home island.
“I got a call from my mom, maybe two days later, telling me about how uncomfortable and unbearable the smell at the supermarket was that day, when they had to spend hours just to get some water,” he said. “Hearing about problems at the hospitals. Just seeing pictures of the island that I grew up on, that was so lush and beautiful and green, was all gone. It was just sticks.”
He knew he had to take action, so he contacted two friends who shared a connection to Puerto Rico: Tany Downing, a Salt Lake City lawyer who served her mission in Puerto Rico, and Dorany Rodriguez, a lawyer who was born and raised in Puerto Rico.
“So I contacted them and said, ‘have you seen what’s occurred? Are we ready to do something?’ And they were immediately on board, and that was just great news,” Nuñez said.
The group contacted Jeffrey Mendez, the vice president of sales at Vivint Smart Home. Through their humanitarian program Vivint Gives Back, the company decided to pay to ship the goods to Puerto Rico.
The initiative collected donations at Vivint locations in Lehi, Provo and Logan. On Sept. 30, they filled four 26-foot long moving trucks filled with supplies to be shipped to Puerto Rico. When added to the rest of the goods they’ve collected so far, there is enough to fill seven large shipping containers.
Dorany Rodriguez, one of the friends Nuñez teamed up with, said the first of the goods they’ve collected are beginning to arrive in Puerto Rico.
“We were able to send about seven pallets of food and some solar generators,” she said. “We’re very excited.”
While working with Vivint to organize shipping the rest of the goods they’ve collected, the initiative has shifted its focus to bringing power back to Puerto Rico.
“Now we are focused on lighting up the island,” Rodriguez said. “The only way to do it is taking generators.”
Rodriguez said they’ve chosen to send solar generators because gas has been hard to come by on the island. The initiative is seeking donations to help fund these generators and solar-powered lights. So far, they’ve raised about $207,000.
Rodriguez said the support they’ve received moves her to tears.
“These are people, some of them, that do not have any ties to the island. It’s not that they’re Puerto Ricans, or they have family or friends. They know there’s a need and they just said, ‘we want to be there to help,’” she said. “I just want to say thank you and I want to say that we’re going to make sure that the people of Puerto Rico receive every single thing that people have given us. That’s our commitment and we’re going to stop until we do that.”