Monday, December 11, 2017

Popular Opens Bank Account to Help Islands Hit by Irma

By on September 11, 2017

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico-based Popular bank has opened an account under the name “Puerto Rico Hugs the islands” to aid the neighboring islands of Culebra, St. Thomas and Tortola after they were damaged by Hurricane Irma’s passage.

Popular says the money raised will be used to “pay for expenses related to the vessel that will take items for St. Thomas, Tortola and Culebra; in addition to covering expenses related to purchase these items. Funds will also be used to support bona fide organizations that are aiding Hurricane Irma victims in St. Thomas, St. Croix & Tortola.”

The first shipment will sail Wednesday, Sept. 13.

In an interview with Caribbean Business, Beatriz Polhamus, the executive director of Fundación Popular and manager of the bank’s Social Commitment Division, said the initiative came about with a campaign launched last year after Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti. On that occasion, although the original goal was to raise $50,000, about $100,000 deposited by people interested in supporting Puerto Rican non-profit organizations that were helping the neighboring island.

The fundraising account number is 030043069. Popular will match the first $250,000 raised. Donations will be accepted at all branches and through ATH Mobile phone 787-223-7300. The foundation expects to have the account open for a month and, depending on how the donations are registered, could extend the fundraising campaign several additional weeks.

A woman with her two children walk past debris left by Hurricane Irma in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)

“We are committed to our clients and to the communities we serve. We know that Irma caused great damage in several of the nearby Islands. We want to make sure we support the residents in the recovery process,” Polhamus added in the bank’s news release.

Based on the experience with Haiti last year, Polhamus said the shipment cost $100,000, although she explained that the cost may vary depending on the size of the vessel, the weight of the goods to be shipped, how much the owner of the boat is willing to donate for the transfer and the travel distance.

She also stressed that the foundation is responsible for ensuring that 100% of the funds raised go directly to the people affected and to support local efforts to work with these disasters. And assured that no part of the money is directed toward administrative expenses in which the financial institution could incur.

So far, more than 800 people have joined the campaign by donating money through the ATH Móvil app’s fund transfer feature, but more is needed to reach the initial $250,000 goal. Since Friday afternoon, about $33,000 has been raised through ATH Móvil. The amount people have deposited in branches has yet to be added.

Polhamus said the foundation is not receiving basic necessities in order to not intervene with the work being carried out by multiple collection centers that have arisen around the island. She suggested also collaborating with the different organizations by purchasing products that are not usually donated, such as flashlights, batteries, panels, gas stoves, electric generators.

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