Inverness residents raise funds to bring solar lanterns to Puerto Rico

10/26/2017

An Inverness woman has been raising funds to send hundreds of solar-powered lanterns to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria, and neighbors are delivering some of them to the island in a couple of weeks. Kate Munger, a longtime Inverness resident and world traveler, is collaborating with LuminAID, a Chicago-based company that designs and delivers inflatable LED lights to disaster areas. She said she purchased a LuminAID light a few months ago to prepare for power outages and was impressed with how well it worked in her home. “As soon as I started hearing about the pitiful response by that man in Washington, who was ignoring the U.S. citizens, I called LuminAID and asked if I could help,” she said. So far, friends have raised about $6,500—enough for nearly 700 lanterns. (A lantern costs $10 a piece to donate.) The company works in tandem with the disaster-relief organization Convoy of Hope to distribute lights by truck and helicopter; as of Tuesday, 354 lanterns had been delivered. Ms. Munger said establishing access to light is an important first step in recovery. “If you don’t have light and you’re on the equator, there are 12 hours where you can’t really function,” she said. “Having been on the equator quite a bit, when that sun goes down, you’re in the dark. I just felt it was the thing that could help the most.” Last week, as Ms. Munger was leaving Fairfax, local photographer Carlos Porrata—a native of Puerto Rico who left the island 51 years ago—flagged her down. Mr. Porrata, a retired state parks ranger who contributes to the Light, and his wife, Rebecca, a retired public health nurse, had decided to make a trip to the island to check in on family. “We stopped her because I wanted to tell her that we had decided we were going to go to Puerto Rico, and I told her I’d take some lights,” he said. “I’m taking 125 of them and I can guarantee they’ll be distributed very well.” Mr. Porrata will be in Puerto Rico for two weeks in November to visit relatives in Guaynabo and Cupey. He said things are not getting better there, especially for the elderly. He hasn’t been able to talk to Cuca, his 92-year-old mother, in a month. “I get a little information from my brother and niece, but it’s hard because cell phones don’t have any signal,” he said. “It may be that I stay longer. Rebecca and I have open plans, depending on what’s going on.” To donate lanterns through Ms. Munger’s campaign, visit luminaid.com/pages/friends-of-kate.