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Local Partners to Open Relief Center for those Displaced by Hurricanes

Displaced families and children, who are relocating to the Hartford region from Puerto Rico and the Caribbean islands as the result of recent hurricanes, will now get services and supplies at no charge at a temporary center. Centro de Ayuda Para Nuestros Amigos Caribenos (Help Center for our Caribbean Friends) is located at 15 Van Dyke Ave., Hartford and opens Nov. 1. The goal is to help people start their new lives here as quickly and seamlessly as possible with the aid of volunteer staff, support services, and supplies from community, state, and city partners. The center expects to serve and support many individuals in the coming months. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those interested in obtaining services can call 2-1-1 or the relief center at 860-422-7095 for more information.

The Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) donated space for the center at its former Two Rivers High School location and is coordinating the services. “Many of us are anxious to help families as they transition here,” said Greg Florio, CREC’s executive director. “We’re excited that many concerned community partners will be together in one location to give them food, clothing, and other necessities.”

“Many of our member districts and agencies are already providing much-needed services,” he continued. “We’re not replacing what they’re doing; we’re just providing an additional option for these families. There can never be too much support in these situations.”

State Rep. Angel Arce is grateful that many in the Hartford region are anxious to help. “The one-two punch of hurricanes Irma and Maria dealt a devastating blow to Puerto Rico and the island’s 3.5 million residents,” he said. “It became clear after Maria that the recovery effort would be a massive undertaking over a prolonged period of time. That’s why I’m so grateful to the Hartford community and state agencies who are working together in a coordinated manner to help our families and friends in Puerto Rico who’ve lost so much.”

The arriving families will also have on-site access to social services, employment, job search assistance, transportation, educational resources, and more. For example, a bilingual case manager will provide information on one-stop services. Capital Workforce Partners and the Hartford Public Library will offer families community identification cards, English as a Second Language class referral and registration, library cards, career readiness information (including referrals and registration), and backpack donations. The Charter Oak Health Center, Catholic Charities Institute of the Hispanic Family, and other organizations will work together to meet healthcare and insurance needs.

We’re pleased that when CREC asked agencies around the region if they want to join forces with us, so many answered the call. This is not a job that one agency can do alone,” said Sandra Cruz-Serrano, CREC’s deputy executive director of operations. “This calls for partners who are interested in helping families during a crisis. We’re grateful to the agencies who answered the call.”

Joel Cruz, the director of Catholic Charities Institute for Hispanic Family, is excited to work with other organizations in this cooperative endeavor. “The collaborative efforts of every agency and every individual are the beauty of humanity at its best, “he said.

The Capitol Region Education Council thanks the community for supporting the center and its relief effort. “We know that in tough economic times, none of us could do this alone,” said Florio. “But, when we come together, we’re certain to change lives.”

If your organization wants to be part of this humanitarian effort, contact MaryAnne Pascone at or call 860-509-3645.

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