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El Portal coalition sending supplies to storm victims in Jamaica

A councilwoman teams up with residents and a Jamaican nonprofit to help children in a storm-ravaged section of the island country.

BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
El Portal is coming to the aid of hurricane victims in Jamaica.

Councilwoman Daisy Black — along with some concerned village neighbors — have partnered with a Jamaica-based nonprofit to help needy school children living in the northeastern part of the Caribbean island, which has been ravaged by storms in recent years.

“I have always felt that if someone is in need, it is our duty to help out,” said Black, who donated $400 of her own money and recently traveled to the island country to help distribute backpacks to school children.

“In the past, I have donated goods to Haiti and feel that I should help others in the Caribbean islands as well.”

In recent years, major hurricanes and tropical storms have struck Jamaica, leaving the island with extensive damage.

In 2007, Hurricane Dean pummeled the island with strong winds and rain, leaving serious damage and killing dozens. Last year, Tropical Storm Gustav, which eventually became a hurricane, brought heavy rain and flooded streets, causing significant damage for the island’s road infrastructure and leaving more than $200 million in damage.

El Portal resident and Jamaica native Sharon Isaacs reached out to Black after hearing from her friend, Jamaican Councillor Desmond Gilmore.

Gilmore is involved with the Lime Hall Benevolent Society, a 3-year-old nonprofit that has sought help for the children of the Lime Hall district of Saint Ann’s, Jamaica.

Several schools in Saint Ann’s were severely damaged by the storms, but are now opening for the new school year.

“This is something I have always wanted to do,” said Isaacs.

The group collected roughly $3,000 and more than 500 backpacks, school supplies and clothing.

Black reached out to local businesses and employees of El Portal.

Isaacs, who has lived in El Portal for 18 years, began the effort in April. In her down time, she would make phone calls to friends and family asking for donations. Isaacs adds that she received donations from as far as Ocala.

“On a weekly basis, I would spend at least a hundred dollars on purchasing school supplies including crayons, pencils, and backpacks,” she said.

In all, the group managed to collect 32 boxes filled with shoes, food and school supplies, clothing and soap.

The items were shipped last month.

Gilmore also came to El Portal to finish packing the boxes last month, before they were shipped.

For information on how to donate, call 305-754-6141.

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