MERIDEN — About 250 people who left hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico braved the frigid cold Wednesday to find warmth and support from the social service and school community.
Casa Boricua de Meriden, the Disaster Relief Committee of Meriden and Meriden Public Schools hosted the event at Maloney High School to introduce families to a suite of social service agencies. Volunteers served dinner in the school cafeteria, as representatives from the Child Guidance Clinic, the city’s Department of Public Health, the Meriden Boys & Girls Club, and more offered assistance and services.
“It was a great turnout,” said school board member Marisol Estrada. “It was a great event for the community.”
The guest list was made up of students who registered in the city’s public schools since Hurricane Maria struck the island on Sept. 30, causing a humanitarian crisis. In the weeks following the hurricane, children – with and without parents – boarded flights for the mainland. Connecticut has a particularly close relationship with Puerto Rico and the state has received thousands of evacuees. Meriden, with 142 new students, has the sixth most in the state.
Finding housing and jobs was a top priority, said Anabel Beltran Roman, executive director of Casa Boricua. Agency volunteers helped applicants translate Spanish resumes into English and offered training in job assistance software.
Many were referred to the American Job Center in Meriden. Beltran Roman said they have placed two mothers in jobs.
The Child Guidance Clinic had staff on hand to offer counseling services to children traumatized by the hurricane or separation from family. Volunteers also helped families register for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA. Families in need of food, winter weather clothing, and boots were directed to Casa Boricua’s food pantry and clothing donation department. Housing assistance was also available.
“We think it was a huge success,” Beltran Roman said. “It was an incredible turnout despite the frigid temperatures. They utilized the event to let themselves know what’s available.”
Casa Boricua is in need of men’s jackets, shoes, coats, and children’s winter wear. Donations are accepted at the center located at 204 Colony St.