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November 16, 2017

People’s Market hosts a fundraiser for Puerto Rico

(Jessica Picard/ Daily Collegian)

The People’s Market in the Student Union held a fundraiser from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18 to raise money for the citizens of Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Known for “the best coffee on campus,” the People’s Market is asking customers to “pay what it’s worth” for their coffee. While customers may still pay market price, they can opt to pay more, with the proceeds going to Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

Jessica Benitez is a senior marketing and hospitality and tourism major who has worked at People’s Market for three years. She said that each semester, the “Pay What It’s Worth” fundraiser takes place, but this semester, the decision as to who the proceeds should go to was clear.

“Obviously we feel that Puerto Rico isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and we want to help in any way possible as a local business and nonprofit organization,” Benitez said. “That’s an issue with natural disasters, is that right after they happen, there’s a lot of support and a lot of aid, but after the cameras leave, and time passes, people aren’t around to support them. That’s why we wanted to support [Puerto Rico].”

According to Freddy Ramos, a senior biology major who works at People’s Market, the money being raised will be donated to “Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico.”

“[‘Western Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico’] is a coalition of political leaders, nonprofit organizations, business owners and community activists that has been doing a lot in the area and working with local, state and federal officials to send aid where it is most needed,” Ramos said. “It’s mostly in the lower valley, in Holyoke and Springfield, where there’s a larger Puerto Rican population.” He added that the People’s Market was donating through the organization because they wanted to “make sure the money is going directly to Puerto Rico.”

According to CNN coverage, the death toll from Hurricane Maria has risen to 48 in Puerto Rico, and Puerto Ricans “still face a daily struggle for food, water and other necessities while coping with the devastation to their homes and businesses more than three weeks after the powerful hurricane slammed ashore on the U.S. commonwealth.” With widespread power outages, many communities remain cut off, with roads blocked and no phone service.

After hearing about the fundraiser and visiting the People’s Market, Victoria Ferrara-Lawlor, a freshman psychology major, said that she is “glad our campus is so proactive towards fundraising natural disasters in the United States, and gives a way for students to support fellow Americans.”

The final amount raised is still being calculated.

“Typically in the past, we’ve been able to raise a lot of money,” Benitez said. “We’re not asking people to come in and pay $20, or $10, and that’s rare. But 99 pecent of the time people want to give a little bit extra. We’re a small local coffee shop, and if we can use our coffee to help people in Puerto Rico, then why not?”

Katherine Esten can be reached at kesten@umass.edu.

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