Residents collect items in Flanders to help hurricane, earthquake victims

For the past two weeks, a number of large pallets containing items like diapers and canned food has been steadily increasing on the grounds at Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

There are about 40 now, which will soon be shipped to help the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico — which has left much of that country without power — and those affected by a series of powerful earthquakes last month in Mexico.

Janet Barron of Ridge and Paola Zuniga-Tellez of Flanders are among the organizers of the relief effort.

“A few of us started this and made a call to the communities,” Ms. Barron said Monday. “We just asked the community to help through Facebook and radio shows. We used every way we could.”

Ms. Barron said they are not an organization or association.

“We’re just a bunch of women putting all this together.”

The La Fiesta radio station, Liga de Justicia law firm, and Smithtown Nissan are among the businesses that have offered their support to the cause, as has Arturo DeJesus, who owns DeJesus Deli and Taqueria on Route 58, Ms. Barron said.

The Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance Corps also has been helpful, donating a building and outdoor space to store and package the donations, she said.

“We originally did a collection for Hurricane Harvey, and then FRNCA and Paola approached us. So we just opened up the building again,” said Mark Dunleavy, first assistant chief of the FNVA. “That’s what we’re here for. We help the community any way we can. And if there’s any other way we can help, we’re there.”

He said every time he looks, there’s more pallets.

The collected items include diapers, baby wipes, canned food, dog food and more, Ms. Barron said.

Originally, people donated a lot of warm-weather clothing, but it’s actually cold and raining in the part of Mexico where the items are headed, so the group held a yard sale and sold off the warmer clothing in order to get more of the items that were needed, Ms. Barron said.

A lot of other volunteers have been stopping by to help, said Ms. Zuniga-Tellez, a Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association board member.

“Many days, we worked 18 hours, non-stop,” Ms. Barron said.

“We’re a group of women who are doing this and a lot of other businesses are supporting us,” Ms. Zuniga-Tellez said. “There’s a lot of support in the community.”

Some of the donations will be shipped to Mexico, where connections have been established with an airline called Aeromexico to fly them there.

The items headed to Puerto Rico will first be shipped to Central Islip, where another organization is handling the transport to Puerto Rico, Ms. Zuniga-Tellez said.

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Photo: Janet Barron of Ridge (left) and Paola Zuniga-Tellez of Flanders helped organize donations that will be shipped to Mexico and Puerto Rico. (Credit: Tim Gannon)