Francestown church organizes dinner to benefit Puerto Rico 

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, February 12, 2018 5:37PM

Cher Barker was sitting in a pew at church one Sunday, the group raising prayers for the people of Puerto Rico who were affected by the hurricane that touched down late last year, when she had an idea.

It was the second or third week in a row that members of the Community Church of Francestown were praying for the area that was pummeled by Hurricane Maria in September.

“I was a little frustrated because I was feeling like nothing is changing and no one is helping,” Barker said in a recent interview with the Ledger-Transcript. “Prayer is all well and good but at some point, you have to get off your hands to help.”

Barker said she posed a question to the congregation, “what are we going to do to deal with this?”

From there, a plan started to form. First, an idea of hosting a community dinner, like the congregation does every so often, and then, after some research, Barker said she found an organization to donate the proceeds to. She decided to direct any money raised during the dinner to an initiative lead by a New-England based solar installation company, who is partnering with two other organizations, to bring portable energy and water purification units to areas in Puerto Rico.

The project called “Power On Puerto Rico” aims to build a total of 100 units and transport them to the island. The goal of the units is to provide Puerto Rican communities with drinking water and lighting, according to a press release from the solar company. 

"More than 30 percent of Puerto Ricans are still without power and clean drinking water, so we know the need for these portable emergency units is still very high despite it being five months since Hurricane Maria caused immense damage to the island," Phil Coupe, ReVision Energy co-founder, said in a press release.

The U.S. territory has struggled in the aftermath of the hurricane, which is said to be the worst in its history. Multiple news outlets report that months after the hurricane, one-third of the island still remains without power. A federal budget deal, which was passed on Friday, directs billions to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including $4.9 billion in Medicaid funds, $2 billion to restore the shredded power grid and $9 billion for housing and urban development projects. 

Even though the islands have reason to cheer about the approved budget, the sum is likely not enough to cover the costs of extensive hurricane damage.

Michael Petrovick, who lives in Francestown, said he has traveled to Puerto Rico about 25 times over the past 30 years. Petrovick said he traveled to the island shortly after he graduated from college and had such a good time that he has been hooked on traveling to the area ever since.

Petrovick said he hasn’t been back to the island since the hurricane ravaged it in the fall. He said he has been closely following news reports about the island since the storm stuck because “it hits close to home.”

Petrovick said he is a member of the church in Francestown and heard about the fundraising effort when it was conceived. 

“[Members of the church] try to help anybody who we can, but when you have a connection to a cause you get more excited about it,” Petrovick said.

Barker said she was able to get in touch with a Puerto Rican woman who now lives in Manchester. The woman gave Barker some tips on how to cook a Puerto Rican dish called pernil asado, or spiced pork shoulder, which will be served at the benefit dinner. Petrovick said he has volunteered to make a dessert called flan, which is a custard dessert that can be found on the island.

The dinner will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Community Church of Francestown on Main Street.

There will be no charge for the dinner, but a donation basket will be passed around during the dinner.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.