Flag raising kicks off Rome relief efforts for Puerto Rico

Published Oct 13, 2017 at 4:10pm

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo and a contingent of city employees joined Rev. Maritza Perez of Maranatha Church and Rome citizens of Hispanic heritage to raise the Puerto Rican flag at Rome City Hall during a ceremony this morning.

The flag raising shows the city’s support for Puerto Rico, and also efforts by Perez to raise money for her hurricane-ravaged homeland, officials say.

Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory of 3.4 million people, and other islands in the Caribbean Sea on Sept. 20.

The hurricane killed an estimated 45 people and left most of the island without power and running water. Medical supplies and fuel are in short supply.

“It’s like someone dropped a bomb on our island. The footage they are showing is horrible, but we can do something,” Perez said.

During the flag raising several audience members sang “La Borinquena,” the national anthem of Puerto Rico.

Moody’s Analytics estimates Puerto Rico could lose $40 billion in economic output because of road damage and lost power, and property damage could total $55 billion.

The island had been in recession since 2006, and had lost 10 percent of its population in that time.

Puerto Ricans are considered U.S. citizens and may travel to and from the mainland as they wish.

“This disaster is among the worst in U.S. history,” Izzo said.

“I know our federal government is working to alleviate the problems facing the island, and the City of Rome will also continue to support relief efforts,” the Rome mayor added.

Perez will lead a group of workers to Puerto Rico sometime next month before Thanksgiving. They are seeking cash donations to help purchase emergency supplies.

“They want to bring supplies further inland, because much of what has been provided is not being moved from the major cities into the inner part of the island,” Izzo said.

Donations may be made to Berkshire Bank, 100 W. Dominick St., or at Maranatha Church at 620 N. Washington St. Call 315-336-0685 for more information.

Perez moved to Rome with her husband, Alfonso, when he was stationed with the 10th Mountain Division.

She leads Maranatha Church as an outreach to Rome’s Hispanic Community.

Their congregation is composed of people from several countries, ranging from Puerto Rico to Mexico to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Perez said she appreciated efforts by Izzo and Berkshire Bank in helping the church’s outreach.

“Mayor Izzo spoke up for Puerto Rico at the Latino Summit held in Utica,” Perez said.

“She was calling me up while I was finalizing this outreach with Berkshire Bank. I thank her for her courage,” the pastor added.