Fort Wayne, Ind. (WANE) – A native of Puerto Rico who now lives in Fort Wayne is trying to help victims of Hurricane Maria. He’s behind a project to rebuild one of the landmarks in Caguas, Puerto Rico called La Estrella de la Paz. Translated it means The Star of Hope and Peace. “Every year people in the city never had a lonely Christmas because they would come and look at the star,” said Rolando Perez. “It’s raised the day after Thanksgiving and lowered February 1st or 2nd because of Hurricane season.”
The star was built by Perez’s uncle in 2002. This year the star no longer shines because like many structures in Puerto Rico it was destroyed on September 20th by Hurricane Maria. Perez has started a project called Operation Lifting Hope. He wants to rebuild the star and deliver donations to storm victims. “It hurts that they can’t lift up the star because it would bring so much hope,” said Perez. “I’m just trying to help.”
Sud’ n Impact Gym owner David Hernandez recently returned from Puerto Rico. He heard about Perez’s mission and decided to help the cause. “We have been holding fundraisers and a lot of different events to raise money,” said Hernandez. “I thought to myself when I looked at things and saw buildings and debris and trash everywhere that nothing was cleaned up. Lights were still out. There’s no running water in a lot of areas. My thought was, if this would have happened here, in our city, there would be an uprising. This is a U.S. territory. It is not a third world country.”
According to the Associated Press power has been restored to a little more than 60 percent of Puerto Rico. Perez says his family is among the nearly 40-percent still without. “They’ve spent a littlle over 90 days without electricity, but they do have running water now and they use my uncle’s generator sometimes.”.
Perez, Hernandez and volunteers are boxing up water and other supplies for Puerto Rico. They plan to leave near the end of January. While there they also plan to work with a group of contractors on rebuilding La Estrella de la Paz. “My uncle would say our path began with a star and so that’s a pretty powerful thing. I believe in that and that’s one of the reasons I’m going, just to bring a little hope.”
Operation Lifting Hope is still collecting the following items: water, baby wipes, disposable plates and cups, canned and non-perishable foods, personal hygiene items, baby food, baby formula, water filtrating jugs, mosquito repellent, small tents, over-the-counter medicine, first aid kits, blankets, batteries, flashlights, lanterns, lighters and matches. For more information call Sud’ n Impact Gym at (260) 602-7039.