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October 15, 2017

GISELA RODRIGUEZ, a solo practitioner in Tallahassee, has parents in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, and she hasn’t heard from them since Hurricane Maria devastated the island. Needing to do something, she sent out the word in Tallahassee that her law office would collect donations to be sent by Operation Airdrop. By her deadline on September 28, four truckloads were on their way to desperate Puerto Ricans.

Florida lawyers give to feed hungry Puerto Ricans
By Jan Pudlow
Senior Editor

A photo shared on social media speaks volumes about the desperate situation in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

In giant letters drawn at a street intersection, it says: “SOS. Necesitamos agua/comida!!”

Translation: Urgent distress. We need water/food!

Puerto Rico biker The basics of human existence are in high demand in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria made landfall on September 20 with winds of 155 mph, disabling radars, weather stations, and cell towers, and destroying the electrical grid, leaving an estimated 3.4 million people without power.

Without electricity, pumps could not supply water.

Many homes and government buildings have collapsed walls and no roofs.

Carlos Bonilla, a Florida lawyer in Orlando at ELP Global PLLC, has family in Puerto Rico, and is driven to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis.

“My mother is one of 11 brothers and sisters. My Uncle Rafael, in San Jose, could not get word from one of his sisters, Teresa, in the southern part of the island. She is the only sibling he did not hear from. His motorcycle and car can’t get through the roads.

“He said he would get on his 10-speed bike if he has to. That’s how hard it is to communicate with loved ones,” Bonilla said.

His mother, Nilda Rivera Cruz, is getting her Ph.D. in psychology at Carlos Albizu University in Miami (that also has a campus in San Jose, Puerto Rico).

Mother and son, partnering with the university, have launched an effort to provide 100,000 meals to the people of Puerto Rico.

“Amazingly, we are able to buy the meals and have them shipped to Puerto Rico for only 31 cents per meal, as long as we purchase them in blocks of 100,000 each,” Bonilla said in an email sent to all members of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida.

“My mother Nilda and I have personally kicked off the food drive by committing to purchase the first 10,000 meals.

“But even a $10 donation buys a family 30 meals, so no donation will be too small.”

“We have come up with a plan in conjunction with the director of IT for the university to use the university accounts and IT systems for the food drive program, and since the university is a nonprofit entity, we are capable of creating a crowdfunding platform where donations may be tax deductible,” Bonilla explained.

Albizu University’s Hurricane Maria Relief is working with REAP ( to get the prepackaged meals delivered to Puerto Rico.

To contribute to the food drive, go to

[Revised: 01-30-2018]