Lyons Township paraeducator gives back

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Lyons Township paraeducator gives back

Mary Ann Rivera holding the backpacks that were donated to support individuals in Puerto Rico.

Mary Ann Rivera holding the backpacks that were donated to support individuals in Puerto Rico.

Mary Ann Rivera holding the backpacks that were donated to support individuals in Puerto Rico.

Mary Ann Rivera holding the backpacks that were donated to support individuals in Puerto Rico.

Grace Kulat, Reporter

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After a successful first trip to donate school supplies to schools in Puerto Rico, paraeducator Mary Ann Rivera plans to make another trip to donate the 400 backpacks in her basement.

When most people go on vacation for their 30th anniversary they don’t end up donating 84 boxes of supplies and 214 backpacks to Puerto Rico. But after hurricane María devastated Puerto Rico Rivera and her husband decided to do so.

“Originally my husband had surprised me with a trip to Puerto Rico for our 30th wedding anniversary. We have not been back to the island for a long time and wanted to see how the family was holding up after the hurricane,” Rivera said.

According to USA Today, when the storm hit the shore on Sept. 20, 2017, it was a Category four hurricane. The commonwealth estimated that it will take $139 billion, including $33 billion for housing, to rebuild the damage done.

“Most of the struggle is happening in the towns that are up in the mountains,” Rivera said. “They are the last to get any form of relief from the government. Kids have been affected by all of this and I wanted to be able to let them know that kids here are thinking of them, that teachers and other educators care about them.”

According to the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA Debris from María and 41,000 landslides shut down all but 400 miles of Puerto Rico’s 16,700 miles of roads, cutting off municipalities across the island.

“I have family members who are educators in Puerto Rico,” Rivera said, “They had been telling us how bad the situation was for the kids at the schools. Many schools were closed due to the severe damage from the hurricane.”

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) the United States government allotted $600 million dollars to fund the department of education, so that they could rebuild schools and help schools with supplies. Rivera donated items that are essential to a student’s success in school such as crayons, pencils, notebooks, tissues, disinfectant wipes and backpacks.

“The original thought was to take two suitcases of school supplies since we were flying Southwest and we could take extra bags free,” Rivera said. “That didn’t end up being the case. We ended up with 84 boxes and 214 backpacks.”

Rivera received donations from teachers at LT as well as teachers from all over the state. In addition to donations of school supplies Rivera also received monetary donations from teachers, schools, and friends; these donations totaled to $6,700.

“These donations went towards shipping cost, purchase of school uniforms and water for some of the towns that still did not have proper running water,” Rivera said

Rivera said that her and her husband did the bulk of collecting the donations and packing the boxes.

“The best thing about us is that we both have big families,” Rivera said. “We had the boxes delivered to my husband’s cousin’s home. Once we got there the family made arrangements to use one of the local church social rooms to sort out the school supplies and fill the backpacks.”

Rivera and her husband wanted the children to receive the backpacks directly because Rivera said that she had heard stories about packages that have been sent not always ending up where they are supposed to.

“When we went to the towns to give out the supplies, both the children and the teachers were very grateful,” Rivera said.

The great reactions from the people in Puerto Rico have encouraged Rivera and her family to continue to donate. They plan on going to Puerto Rico again soon to donate supplies they already have and more they plan to collect. If you wish to donate school supplies you can contact Rivera at [email protected]

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