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September 27, 2017

CAN YOU IMAGINE? How Hurricane Maria has devastated the family we love in Puerto Rico and how you can help.

Written by my mother:

34 years ago, St Joseph, Missouri hosted the Bronco World Series. Our two sons played baseball and Mike coached the St. Joseph host team, so, naturally, we were invested heavily in this event.  The call was put out for homes that would be willing to host players, and we were excited to have two 12 year old boys from Puerto Rico stay with us.  One of those was a talented, sweet, and polite young boy named Erick Bracero. Through the decades that followed, he and his family became a part of our own family, just as if the ties that bound us were of an organic nature.  
Erick returned to live with us for a summer. We travelled to the island, and they visited us here in the states. After high school Erick settled into studies at Missouri Western State College (now Missouri Western State University), where he earned a degree in Engineering and played baseball for the Griffons. Erick graduated in 1995. When he returned to Puerto Rico, Erick joined his father's firm and eventually married Michelle and had children, Dyanna, Melissa and Lorenzo. His relationship with his American family became even stronger. We vacationed together, called and texted during Royal's and Chief's games, and they even came to Kansas City to be in our daughter, Taylor's, wedding.
When weather reports advised Hurricane Maria was headed straight for the island of Puerto Rico, Erick advised communications might be lost between us. After many days of silence, sleepless nights, and profound worry, today, September 26, 2017, is the first time we have been able to speak by phone since the eye of the hurricane hit the city he lives in, Gurabo 7 days ago. The conversation began with tears and ended with tears. We learned more information about the devastation and needs of Puerto Rico, and its U.S. citizens from he and Michelle - more than any reporter on the street could fathom. And it's not good.
They are worried, but in their humble and faithful fashion, Erick and Michelle always returned to the acknowledgment that others there are in more need than themselves. While updating us with the state of affairs, they had no knowledge or awareness of any details of recovery, assistance, the crack in the dam, conditions at the hospital, number of deaths reported, etc., because...they have no power to connect to a news station.
Their house was spared major damage, but other houses in the neighborhood were not so lucky.  They have a mini-generator which, when they can find fuel, gives them 3 hours per day of refrigeration, circulates the stifling air with 3 fans, and allows them to heat water and carry in buckets to the bathtub so their three children can bathe. They have Spam, canned sausage, cereal, crackers and a few eggs - enough food, Michelle says, to last them if they are prudent for perhaps 2 weeks. She heats food on a Coleman portable stove. Potable water cannot be found. Michelle says "a glass of cold water with ice would be like gold." Each day, they catch a co-op van with fuel supplied by Erick's company in San Juan and make the trip to his office where they can, for a brief time, be cooled by the air-conditioning and make a couple of phone calls. Darkness comes early each night for this, and other families.
Because of the downed power in Puerto Rico, no services or merchants are able to accept credit cards.  You must have cash in hand for fuel, food and necessities. Walmart will re-open and have supplies - if you have "cash in pocket.".  Banks were to try to open today. This will not help Erick much, however, as he is now a realtor and, as one can imagine, there will be no buying or selling for months, perhaps years, to come with 90% of the island damaged.
Erick said, "if it was just me I would pass up an offer of help and say I was strong and I would be fine.  But I can't now.  I'm a dad and I must take care of my children." The need for fuel, gas, water and food is immediate. He vowed that whatever anyone could spare would "be spent wisely on my family and my elderly parents."

The response to this disaster has been slow and the conditions there are immediate.  If you have been considering how you can help, please start by helping this one family.  Then, one at a time we can work together to throw another starfish "back into the sea." I will personally vouch for the legitimacy of this need, and the ethical process by which funds collected for this humanitarian effort will be disbursed to Erick and his family.

Instead of using a donation site such as "Go Fund Me", we have decided to use a direct Pay-Pal donation link to help the Bracero Family. Donation sites like "Go Fund Me" charge a 3% service set up fee, 5% per donation and the Bracero Family would be taxed on any relief donations they would see. We believe that NO ONE should have to pay taxes on natural disaster relief funds donated. To donate, please visit Erick Bracero's direct pay-pal link here.


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