A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Madison Avenue Christian Church to host Evening of Hope for Puerto Rico to fund mental health services

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When Hurricane Irma skirted Puerto Rico, knocking out power to over one million, the people had no idea that two weeks later, the strongest category five hurricane in over 90 years would slam the island. Hurricane Maria decimated the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, leaving the island’s citizens without power, food, water and shelter. Weeks later, the island is barely functioning with major shortages of food, water, gasoline and power. Its people are cut off from much-needed basic survival services.

The Madison Avenue Christian Church congregation was moved by the devastation and dire need of the people of Puerto Rico.  Working with Thomas More College Assistant Dean and Professor, Dr. Maria Garriga, who is from Puerto Rico, MACC planned a major relief effort and event.  

An Evening of Hope for Puerto Rico will be held at 1530 Madison Avenue, Covington, from 6-8 p.m. on Sunday, December 3.

Dr. Garriga brought a connection to Mariela Oyola-Brauch, a Puerto Rican Fort Mitchell resident whose parents and other family members are living on the island. Mariela has traveled to Puerto Rico since hurricane Maria hit the island, to check on her family and to help with relief efforts in the rural towns that have been cut off from most services. Based upon their recommendations, 100% of the proceeds from the Evening of Hope event will be given directly to the Programa de Adolecentes de Naranjito, Inc. (PANI), a United Way-funded organization located in Naranjito, PR that is providing mental health and social services to children and teens.  Naranjito has the second highest rate of youth alcoholism on the island and is one of the many rural towns that were devastated by the hurricanes.  Since the hurricanes, PANI’s funds have been cut and directed elsewhere.

“The MACC congregation gives us hope that we will get out of this terrible situation,” said PANI Executive Director Aurea Berríos Sáez. “Currently there has been an increase in the number of cases of depression and suicides in all ages. After the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Maria, there have been more than 25 cases of suicides in Puerto Rico.”

With the financial support from MACC, PANI hopes to increase their counseling and emotional services from seeing ten children each day to 50.  

“We would like to thank the Congregation at Madison Avenue Christian Church in the Commonwealth of Kentucky with all of our heart for the donation they will give us to continue fulfilling our mission of ‘strengthening the capacities of children and their families for a more just and equitable society through the provision of quality psycho-social and educational services,’” said Director Saez.

PANI will also engage children in group activities to help them cope with their uncertain lifestyles at the present time.

A recent 60 Minutes report featured emergency response personnel saying that Puerto Ricans are still in a crisis mode.

“Out of necessity, we’re seeing many family members moving to the United States, leaving behind loved ones who are scattered and uprooted; their hearts are broken,” said Mariela Oyola-Brauch. “With the help from Madison Avenue Christian Church, we will bring much needed emotional support and hope back into the lives of many children and teens.”

The Evening of Hope will feature a musical program with a live feed from Mariela in Puerto Rico, followed by a reception.

“As a faith community, we have an obligation to lend a hand to our fellow citizens whenever possible,” said Committee Co-Chair, Mary Lee Smith. “We are so proud of our community for stepping up to help children and teenagers in Puerto Rico and look forward to an outstanding event of support so that we may send help where the need is so great.”

The evening’s performers will include classical guitarist Richard Goering, pop singer/songwriter Ella Shockey, violinist Miao Li, Madison Avenue Christian Choir and The Kentucky Brotherhood Singers. For more information visit Mchurch.com. Contributions are accepted online or by sending a check to Madison Avenue Christian Church PR Fund, 1530 Madison Avenue, Covington, KY 41011.

For questions, contact the church at 859-261-0226.

To learn more, visit the website.

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