Sisters Sarahi and Merary and their family didn’t expect to make Montclair their home. Living on the small Puerto Rican island of Vieques they were hoping to remain there, even after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the land. An island of 9,000 people reachable only by sea and air, the residents have had an especially difficult time rebuilding.
For Merary, Sarahi and her husband, they were left without jobs. Sarahi and Merary previously worked in the tourism industry on the island but for now those jobs are non-existent. Sarahi’s husband Daniel, a commercial fisherman, was no longer able to refrigerate his catches due to the lack of power or have them transported to the mainland. Adding to that, his father and step mother are disabled and were finding it challenging to receive the basic care they needed.
Seeing a return to normalcy nowhere in sight, the family of eight (two sisters, a husband, in-laws and three daughters) moved to Montclair in early November staying with a friend in a one-bedroom apartment. They immediately turned to MNDC for assistance. Assistant case managers Luis Agrelot and Madeline Guthrie quickly got to work finding a home large enough for the family and securing funds for relocation and first month’s rent. They also registered the three girls – one 11th grader and two 7th graders – for school, helped them apply for FEMA benefits, referred them to medical providers and more.
The parents are now working on their resumes with MNDC’s assistance. Since Daniel has experience as a chef, he plans on pursuing a job cooking. The girls are getting settled in their schools and say everyone has been very helpful and caring. For the near term, academics will be challenging as their studies in Vieques were far less rigorous than in Montclair. Again, MNDC is helping with ensuring that they get the supportive services needed to succeed.
Sarahi praises MNDC for the amazing job they’ve done, saying, “Luis has done everything possible to help. We’re very grateful. He’s gone the extra mile.” MNDC intends to provide continuing case management for the family. They are also looking for donations of NEW items to help the family set up their household, such as pots and pans, linens (full and twin), towels, flatware and dishes. If you can help, please bring your items to the MNDC office, attention Luis-Felipe Agrelot, or call 973 744-9094.