Weeks after Hurricane Maria barreled through Puerto Rico, people were left with only the clothes on their backs, living in shelters and on the street.
After talking to her best friend from Puerto Rico and hearing about what was going on and how she could help, local vision technician Susie Mortensen leapt into action, seeking donations for the people of Puerto Rico.
Aware of what life is like for people with visual impairments in Washington County, women gathered around Mortensen to help their little group, becoming known as “Mi Isla Bonita.” Seeing the blind children of Puerto Rico with nothing to do but sit in shelters, knowing the sighted children were able to see the destruction around them and blind children were kept close to their parents side, Mortensen felt the need to help.
“We felt very blessed to be able to donate to the Puerto Rico hurricane victims,” volleyball head coach Robyn Felder said. “When I found out about the service project, I asked my student-athletes if they could donate maybe two or three items or a few dollars worth of canned food or supplies. It was amazing to see the efforts of the volleyball team and how generous [it was] in this time of need.”
Donations were accepted at Dixie State University along with 10 local schools, dental offices, eye doctors and various locations within the community.
“Being of service to people in other parts of the world gives us a chance to get out of ourselves and make a difference in someone else’s life,” Mortensen said. “It lifts our spirits as it brings communities together. Being of service can be small or big, and helping other people who may have a different culture or language really makes no difference.”
Mortensen talked to the school about accepting donations around Sept. 31, and items were collected to fill the planes that had agreed to fly the supplies to Puerto Rico in Salt Lake City on Oct. 5.
“It was inspiring to witness a simple call to action materialize into a major relief effort so quickly,” said Dr. Jordon Sharp, chief marketing and communication officer. “Within days, the DSU community had collected a semitrailer worth of items for Puerto Rico and contributed greatly to the larger relief effort. The response illustrates the amazing people who work at DSU and the outstanding community where we live.”
A multitude of supplies were donated like water bottles, canned food, baby products, dog and cat food, feminine products, toiletries, paper plates, blankets, sleeping bags, shampoos, soaps and school supplies.
The first shipment was sent out to Puerto Rico Oct. 5. The second shipment of donations flew out of St. George Oct. 13.