You may have already heard about the devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that ripped through Ecuador on April 16, leaving at least 480 people dead, 231 missing, and more than 4,000 injured.
Since Bensonhurst and Sunset Park are home to a large Ecuadorian population, many of our neighbors and their families may be personally impacted by the tragedy. But what can we do on the ground in Brooklyn to help our friends, neighbors and loved ones thousands of miles away?
There are five make-shift Brooklyn organizations working closely with the Ecuadorian Consulate General in New York, including two in Sunset Park and one in Park Slope (the others are in Cypress Hills and Bushwick). They are:
- United Senior Center of Sunset Park (475 53rd Street)
- The Spot Bar (483 39th Street)
- Express II Car Service (475 Fifth Avenue, at 11th Street)
“We just started today, and people are dropping things off slowly,” said Jose Roccano, who works at Express II Car Service. “We’re open 24/7 and are collecting until they tell us to stop. Most of our families are okay, but people are trying to help each other.”
While many churches with large Ecuadorian populations — such as Saint Dominic’s Roman Catholic Church and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Bensonhurst, and Sunset Park’s Church of the Redeemer and Trinity Lutheran Church — are organizing their own food and clothing drives, Roccano recommended people donate to Consulate-approved organizations.
Donations have already begun to pour into the United Senior Center of Sunset Park and The Spot Bar, where “somebody already donated 40 gallons of water,” said Ricky Nacipucha, Spot’s co-owner, who is also Ecuadorian and fortunately has family who are safe. “We’re so sad about this and asked what can we do? Well we have business and it feels good to do something.”
Other items needed, according to Ecuadorian consulate are:
- hygiene products: soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes, Kotex menstrual pads and linings
- food: canned food, rice, beans, sugar, easy to open canned food, hydrant beverages, salted and non salted cookies, powdered milk.
- survival gear: syringes, first aid items (cotton, disposable gloves, skin tape), battery radios, batteries, candles, mosquito nets, and matches.
- baby products: diapers, baby food, baby formula, Pedialyte
- tents, beds sheets, mattresses.
- miscellany: plastic garbage bags, and, by “special request,” dry food for dogs and cats.
The senior center will be open from 8am-3pm each weekday and Spot Bar will be open daily from 4:30pm to midnight or 1am.
Several community fundraisers are also being planned. At Spot Bar, a dance party will kick off at 9pm on Saturday, April 23, with 25 percent of sales going to rebuilding efforts.
Trinity Lutheran Church (411 46th Street), which has organized missions to Ecuador in the past to build houses, is also collecting hygiene kits and planning a Zumba-thon dance fundraiser this Friday, April 22 at 8pm.
And once pastor and his wife of the Church of the Redeemer at 48th and 7th Avenue return home tonight from their trip to Ecuador — they were in the country when the earthquake hit — more efforts to support family and friends will be planned.
“The quake was terrible, aftershocks just as great, and terrible devastation,” said church elder Barbara Pimentel, who is also executive assistant to the pastor at Trinity Lutheran. “One or two in the congregation still have not heard from their family.”
Reporting contributed by Rachel Silberstein.