Six ways Vermonters can help Puerto Rico

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Puerto Ricans talk about life in the wake of Hurricane Maria and what the futures holds for them. Ricky Flores/lohud Carrie Cochran/Cincinnati Enquirer

Olga Mardach, of Morrisville, and others are collecting donated seeds, farm equipment, first aid kits and other items to send to Puerto Rico.(Photo: COURTESY OLGA MARDACH)

Olga Mardach is collecting seeds in Vermont — to be planted 1,800 miles away.

Mardach, who lives in Morrisville and has family in Puerto Rico, is leading a hurricane relief effort focused on the long-term recovery of the island’s agricultural and rural areas.

Those areas look and feel a lot like Vermont, Mardach said, with green mountains and an economy based on small businesses.

“That’s probably whyI love living up here, because there’s a familiarity to it,” said Mardach, who lives in Morrisville, in a recent telephone interview.

Mardach and others are gathering seeds, first aid kits and other equipment that will be shipped to Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Maria last month. 

More: Former drummer for Grace Potter and the Nocturnals rebuilds in Puerto Rico

From farming to yoga to dancing, Vermonters are finding creative ways to help the island recover. Here’s a roundup:

1. Seeds and equipment for rural recovery

Mardach is leading an effort to help rural Puerto Rico recover and build the island’s reliance on its own crops.

She and others have organzied an event on Friday in Montpelier to collect seeds, as well as first aid kits, water filters, mosquito nets, leather work gloves, solar lamps and other essentials.

If you go:

What: Vermonters Stand with Puerto Rico Event, featuring live music, dinner and a silent auction

Where: Christ Episcopal Church, 64 State Street, Montpelier

When: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 13

Donations: Suggested donation $5 to $25, plus requested items including seeds, herbs and construction materials

Benefit: Donations will be sent to Puerto Rico through the organization Siembra Tres Vidas

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2. Fundraising concert in Montpelier

The Vermont-based Chad Hollister Band is leading a fundraising concert on October 20 at Union 32 High School in Montpelier to help out percussionist Yahuba Garcia’s family, who live in Puerto Rico.  

The event also features Zak Kline, the U-32 Swing Orchestra and Francesca Blanchard.

If you go: 

What: VT to Puerto Rico concert

Where: Union 32 High School, 930 Gallison Hill Road, Montpelier

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20

Tickets: $20 general admission, $10 students. Tickets available at Buch Spieler Records in Montpelier or at swolf@u32.org.

Benefit: Proceeds will support the family of Chad Hollister Band percussionist Yahuba Garcia, who is from Puerto Rico

3. Dance party in Burlington

Arrive early if you want food at Sunday’s party for Puerto Rico in Burlington’s Old North End. The event includes salsa dancing, live singing and flamenco guitar. 

If you go: 

What: Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fundraiser Party, featuring salsa dancing, performances and food 

Where: Old North End Community Center, 20 Allen Street, Burlington

When: 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 22

Tickets: $20 donation

Benefit: Proceeds will support solar power generators and community health clinics through Resilient Power Puerto Rico and the Hurricane Maria Community Recovery Fund

4. Dancing for hurricane relief

“We cannot stand by and do nothing. So we’re going to dance.”

That’s the logic behind a Zumba extravaganza happening this weekend at University of Vermont’s Patrick Gym. Expect to shake it out to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Almost Like Praying,” a song dedicated to Hurricane Maria relief.

An online fundraiser connected with the Zumba event has already raised more than $4,000 for the United Way in Puerto Rico. 

If you go:

What: Zumbathon Hurricane Maria Relief For Puerto Rico

Where: University of Vermont Patrick Gym Dance Studio, 97 Spear Street, Burlington

When: 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14

Tickets: $20 suggested donation

Benefit: Proceeds will go to the United Way of Puerto Rico (online fundraiser here).

5. Stretching for Puerto Rico

For those looking for a slower-paced way to help Puerto Rico, a Vermont yoga studio is hosting a yoga event on Friday. The Vermont studio has connected with a yoga studio in San Juan as the focus of its relief efforts.

If you go:

What: Yoga for Puerto Rico

Where: Dharma Yoga Vermont, 50 Main Street West, Johnson

When: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 13

Cost: Donations accepted

Benefit: Proceeds will go to Puerto Rico recovery efforts through Sadhana Healing Arts Studio in San Juan

6. Fundraising through Champlain Housing Trust

The Champlain Housing Trust, based in Burlington, is acting as a fundraiser for a sister organization in a San Juan neighborhood that was hard hit by Hurricane Maria. 

The effort, which has already raised more than $34,000 from donors worldwide, will buy construction materials to help rebuilding.

Donors can chip in at www.gofundme.com/cano-martin-pena-relief-fund.

Contact April McCullum at 802-660-1863 or amccullum@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @April_McCullum
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