Between Dec. 28 and Jan. 15, more than 300 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater hit Puerto Rico. Ten of those quakes were 5 or greater, the largest being a 5.4 quake on Jan. 6 and a 6.4 quake on Jan. 7.
The quakes hit the southwest portion of the island hard, damaging buildings and homes and leaving people with no shelter. Because the quakes were centered on the southwest coast, the San Juan metropolitan area was largely unscathed.
But the Staff Management | SMX team at PAM LLC in Guaynabo, about 10 miles from San Juan, were determined to help.
“Our office is in Guaynabo, an hour and a half from earthquake site,” said Edgar Romero, Staff management | SMX senior account manager. “We didn’t feel it here, but people on the south part of island had a lot of damage. Houses fell down. People are living outside, in refugee camps and on the streets.”
The Staff Management team had seven associates affected by the earthquake, one of whom had to move to the continental U.S. with family because of a lack of a place to live. The others found shelter with family. And they were the lucky ones. A CNN report on Jan. 17 said that 8000 people remained in shelters in and around Ponce, Puerto Rico’s fourth-largest city. And that’s not counting people whose homes were damaged or who may be living in the streets because their houses were destroyed. The report also estimated that nearly 500 buildings were uninhabitable.
“When the earthquake hit and we saw how bad the situation was we immediately started to look for ways to send help,” said Luisa Vega, a Staff Management | SMX recruiter in Guaynabo. “The response from our associates was incredible.”
It was a different situation from the 2017 hurricanes that knocked out power to most of the island. With only a portion of the island affected, many in the San Juan area wanted to help. So, after the Jan. 7 earthquake, the Staff Management team worked with its client, PAM, to ask associates and managers to donate water, food and clothing for earthquake victims. Within four days, they had enough to make a trip to Ponce to deliver the goods.
“We were able to collect hundreds of water bottles, food cans, clothes, baby wipes, adult and baby diapers, hygiene articles and food,” Luisa said.
With traffic heavy going down to Ponce, the team decided to work with a non-profit organization, Hogar El Buen Pastor, to ensure that the donated items were delivered to those who need them. They organized the delivery of the items and Hogar El Buen Pastor has made multiple trips to Ponce on behalf of the team.
The outpouring of support from the Staff Management team, PAM team and associates showed that being The People Company is more than just putting people to work, it’s about impacting lives.
“The commitment that our teams have not only to taking care of our associates on a daily basis but in times of true crisis is phenomenal,” said Jerry Wimer, senior vice president. “The passion that they display in going the extra mile to ensure our associates are safe and have what they and their families need to survive is truly inspiring.”
The team continues to solicit donations and will do so for as long as it is needed.
“I hope more people will have the aid they need,” Edgar said. “If we need to continue to do that, we are available to do it.”
If you would like to donate to relief efforts the Unidos Disaster Relief Recovery program sponsored by the Hispanic Foundation is collecting money. If you know of specific areas you’d like to support with donations of food, clothing or other essentials, a citizen-run database is available in Spanish.
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