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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Legislators hear from faith-based organizations on community needs

Rep. Víctor Parés Otero

By The Star Staff

San Juan District 4 Rep. Víctor Parés Otero and at-large Sen. Keren Riquelme Cabrera held a conversation this week with a group of pastors and leaders of the faith-based sector to address their needs.

Parés announced that early next year he will propose to the new leadership of the island House of Representatives to create the position of “Faith Base Coordinator” to serve as a liaison for coordinating impact events focused on assisting communities, as well as developing seminars with government agencies to expedite the distribution of aid in times of emergency, as in the case of a hurricane or other severe storm of high impact.

“We completely believe in the faith-based sector and its volunteer work in the communities of San Juan. It is the churches, non-profit entities, that are essential in the recovery efforts after the impact of a hurricane,” Parés said in a written statement. “In view of this, we are going to create a structure that allows the House of Representatives to communicate directly with these entities to support them, not only in times of crisis, but at all times, since the work they do supplements the government. To this end, we will present an Administrative Order when sworn in to the House in January 2025 so that it can be instituted.”

“Faith’s grassroots sector plays a very important role in the social development of our people, and [its leaders] are always in the communities they serve, so they know the needs of their residents firsthand and that is why they are in a position to help us,” the lawmaker added. “That is why, in addition, we are going to propose the creation of an Interagency Standing Committee that includes the departments of Education, State, Health and Economic Development & Commerce, the mayors and the Legislature, so that the churches know about the disaster plans that exist for an emergency, as well as the aid that exists for these nonprofit organizations.”

Parés’ remarks were made during a forum, which was co-hosted by Riquelme, with a group of pastors from several churches in San Juan held at the Casa Refugio Worship Center.

“Volunteering is the fabric of our society. You represent that expression of giving to those most in need,” Riquelme said. “The work of ministers and chaplains in the communities, not only in San Juan, but throughout Puerto Rico, is very important and even more so now with a population of older adults (65 years or older) that exceeds 770,000. You can serve as a liaison for those people, working together to improve their quality of life.”

According to data from the Puerto Rico Department of State, by 2021 there were around 11,500 non-profit entities on the island, many of which belong to the faith-based sector.

Among the churches present at the forum were the Healing Ministry of Pastor Moisés Román, who also represents the Fellowship of Pentecostal Councils, the Defenders of the Faith Church, and the Philadelphia Church, among others.

The faith-based sector consists of nonprofit organizations that provide direct services to the most vulnerable people.

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