Cooper Restaurants has a special connection to Puerto Rico through Luis del Valle, Vice President of Operations for Cooper Restaurants. A Puerto Rico native with family residing on the island that endured Hurricane Maria and its aftermath, Luis watched with the world as recovery and relief efforts slowly trickled down to the island and knew action was needed. He spearheaded a relief drive, the goal of which was to fill a single shipping container with basic necessities that would be transported to Puerto Rico to assist its people.
"Their reality is 85% of the island is without power. Water is scarce. Grocery stores are empty, so supplies are low. People are desperate and scared," Luis said. "Everyone there is waiting for hours in line to get whatever is available, which is being rationed. In a lot of cases, they may wait eight or more hours only to reach the front of the line and find out that supplies have run out. It's heartbreaking to watch. It's a humanitarian crisis."
Donations were collected at Felix’s Fish Camp, Bluegill Restaurant, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House for two weeks in October 2017, while local volunteers from Volunteers of America’s helped sort and load the supplies. Citizens across Mobile and Baldwin County opened up their hearts for Puerto Rico, donating water, food, baby items, personal hygiene items, pet supplies, as well as cleaning supplies.
"I never thought we would get there. My goal was one cargo container. My hard to reach goal was one -- and we did three," said Luis.
A Crimson Shipping barge bound for Puerto Rico transported the supplies to San Juan, where they were distributed to those in need.
“I'm humbled. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to do here. I'm very happy and thankful," said Luis. "I pray and I'm confident that this will make a difference to someone."