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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A well-deserved anniversary celebration


Many people donate clothing to the Project Angels bazaar, which is then sold for no more than $5.


Community project in Yabucoa marks 5 years & raises funds


By RICHARD GUTIÉRREZ

richardsanjuanstar@gmail.com


Project Angels is a non-profit community project in Yabucoa dedicated to helping the people of various communities in Yabucoa. Located in a former school in the Calabasas neighborhood, the nonprofit on Tuesday celebrated its 5th anniversary serving the community.


“This was originally an initiative of the Catholic Church to work with the community situations in a more organized way,” said William Bermúdez, director of Project Angels and coordinator of the anniversary event. “Our first project was related to psychologists and social workers, which was a success. When this school closed, we rescued it and turned it into a community service center and also our headquarters.”


The Project Angels headquarters has a significant number of areas that were made specifically for community services, such as a bazaar, where many people donate clothing that is then sold for no more than 5$. The money the bazaar makes is used for other charity works. The bazaar hasn’t only been used to impact communities in Yabucoa, but also communities outside of Puerto Rico. Husband and wife Ángel Sorrilla and Katherine Jiménez personally buy clothes in bulk and send two to three boxes of clothes at a time to towns in the Dominican Republic.


“We try to stay in contact with communities from the Republic and we try our best to send the clothing to charities specifically,” Jiménez told the STAR. “Once the clothes are in the Republic, we can redirect the clothing boxes to destinations where they are needed the most. We try our best to stay in contact with people who own charities and people we know in the Dominican Republic.”


In addition to the bazaar, Project Angels was able to build a community events center where people can host activities at a relatively low rental cost of $250.


“This community did not have a community activity center,” Bermúdez told the STAR. “With our efforts we were able to make a community activity center with air conditioner, tables, chairs, anything needed to host an event, whether it’s an anniversary party, birthday or any other event. This gives the community access to hosting events in their own community.”


Project Angels has also collaborated with several other organizations, one of them being the Comprehensive Women’s Foundation (Fundación Mujer Integral), an organization that has for years been providing courses for women.


“During the pandemic we joined forces with Project Angels because we wanted to reach more women; therefore, we sometimes use the activity room to offer different courses, some of which include women’s hygiene and even exercise routines during the pandemic,” said the foundation’s founder, Grisselle Fonseca. “We’ve been working with Mr. William Bermúdez and Project Angels for over two years providing an educational project for women from all over the Calabaza community.”


Another service provided by the organization is the Cybercafe, which even though it was primarily intended for children and young people, many adults use it due to the fact that some people don’t have an internet connection in their home. Certain tasks that require an internet connection can be performed in the Cybercafe, which has air conditioning and free Wi-Fi.


“I would say the Cybercafe will prove quite useful when students get back to school and it’ll continue to be of good use for adults who require internet services,” Bermúdez noted.


The Cybercafe is still very much a work in progress, but even at 50% capacity it’s still providing services for the community. Bermúdez added that they will continue to work hard to improve its space and services.


The center also has its own fruit and vegetable garden where a variety of fruits and vegetables are grown and then given out to the community once harvested.


In addition to the garden, Bermúdez also talked about the construction of a community kitchen at the headquarters.


“Back when Hurricane Maria happened, one of our biggest concerns was the fact that we didn’t have space to cook for people who didn’t have access to warm food,” he said. “However, thanks to a donation provided by the municipality of Yabucoa, we were able to build a community kitchen, which has storage space large enough to store food for at least 500 people, without counting the stoves, refrigerators and a power generator that was donated directly by the mayor of Yabucoa.”


Mayor Rafael Surillo Ruiz, who also participated in the event, told the STAR that “for us here in Yabucoa, Project Angels represents what we all should aspire to be.”


“After Hurricane Maria in 2017, we learned the importance of community organization,” he said. “Community groups were the protagonists during Hurricane Maria, they took on the role that the state should’ve taken on. The coordinator of this event and member of Project Angels, William Bermúdez, also works with us in the municipal administration. What we want to achieve with this is to replicate this concept in other communities here in Yabucoa.”


The event started at 9 a.m., when those in attendance were able to enjoy a live, on-site broadcast of the radio show from the station Victoria 840, “Ponte Al día con Linda Michelle.” At noon, a mass was led by Father Miguel Ángel Ramírez, and at 1 p.m. the community celebration began with plenty of food for lunch and cake for dessert. Fried food such as bacalaitos and empanadillas were among many other food items on sale, all to raise funds for the charity.


Many artisans gathered at the event as well to sell their handmade products, as is the practice at all Project Angel events.


Apart from the mayor, another political figure also took part in the event, Pastor Ana N. Henríquez, the gubernatorial candidate from Project Dignity who was among those interviewed on the radio show.


“Project Angels is a precious project to me because of how much they help the people in need,” Henríquez told the STAR. “The more we promote things like this, the better for the community. We are aspiring to lead the people of Puerto Rico from La Fortaleza in 2024 with these values in mind.”

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