CENTRAL FLORIDA PRESBYTERY: Hurricane Maria Relief Opportunity


From the Rev. Dr. Carmelo Mercado of El Redentor Presbyterian Church 

I want to thank Central Florida Presbytery for asking the churches within our presbytery (and beyond) to assist the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.  (Our hearts also go out to Mexico.)  Last week, I was unable to write you a more detailed report of what has happened and what we are trying to accomplish in the relief efforts.  Some churches have asked me questions about helping, so I am writing to better explain in more detail the situation from our point of view.

We have been overwhelmed in attempting to organize and respond to this crisis that has completely devastated the island of 3.4-million American citizens.  About 70% of the members of El Redentor have relatives, loved ones, or friends in Puerto Rico, and many of them still do not know their whereabouts.  There is a high level of anxiety and uncertainty in our Latino/a community and churches.    

Besides a collective sadness for the magnitude of the apocalyptic-nature of Puerto Rico’s destruction, there is a personal tragedy:  My father-in-law (whom I had known since 13 years of age) suddenly had a heart attack and died after he saw the decimation of his humble country house and cattle; everything was wiped away and obliviated.  He was only 67 and stronger than me, but he could not take it.  He was transported to a local hospital with no electricity, no lights, no air conditioning, and no morgue.  The cemetery is flooded, and his body still cannot be properly buried.  That was the first news that we got from relatives in Puerto Rico, who managed to call us after searching for a cellular tower in another part of town.  It is impossible and not advisable for my family to travel there, since there is no gasoline, no electricity, no water, and barely enough food for a week.  We are profoundly sad. 

Through my Hispanic community connections, we have joined forces with local Hispanic activists and politicians, such as U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, FL Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Jimmy Torres-Velez, to support a well-respected agency called CASA, which has a direct endorsement from the First Lady of Puerto Rico and links to the National Guard.  We are asking church members to donate their time as volunteers and/or their supplies to CASA at the following address in East Orlando (about 10 minutes from UCF):

Acacia Banquet Hall (Borinquen Center)

1865 N. Econlockhatchee Trail

Orlando, FL 32817

For those who are unable to volunteer and/or take supplies at the Acacia center, we are receiving collection items at El Redentor and transporting them to Acacia.  Our address is: 

Iglesia Presbiteriana El Redentor

6971 Red Bug Lake Road

Oviedo, FL 32765


In addition, churches in our Presbytery are welcomed to start a collection site in their locations, and then either bring the items to El Redentor and/or transport them to Acacia.  If members want to volunteer, there is a need to organize, pack, and load items.  They can simply show up at Acacia every day from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.  (Many nights there are volunteers still working till 10:00 p.m.)  All are welcome!  Even though Florida was hit by Hurricane Irma, the community’s generosity is truly amazing and for some it is sacrificial. 

One can follow our updates and see our photos at El Redentor’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/elRedentor  (If necessary, copy and paste at https://translate.google.com for an English translation.)

Although it is too premature to plan for a mission recovery trip to Puerto Rico with sister churches, El Buen Vecino Presbyterian Church in Kissimmee is collecting items to be distributed to the devastated Presbyterian churches and other families in the island.  Contact the Rev. Jorge Texidor, PhD, at 407.973.2531 for their collection site at 2725 Simpson Road, Kissimmee, FL 34744.

Since this is a massive and ongoing effort, the collection site deadlines may be extended.  We have not emphasized cash collection, since most of our people want to do more than just write a check.  They want to volunteer and/or bring supplies in the face of chaos and helplessness.  However, for those who would like to make a cash gift of any amount, we are asking people to donate through our denomination’s outstanding relief agency:

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA)

Specific Donation for Hurricane Maria (Memo: DR000194 – Maria):


The Collection Items for the victims of Hurricane Maria are the following:

Drinking Water                                                              Tent or Awning

Disposable Plates, Cups, Cutlery                                Bed Sheets

Personal Hygiene (soap, deodorant, tooth paste)         Children/Adult Pajamas (male/female)

First Aid Kit                                                                    Diapers (extra-large and any baby size)

General Medicine (ibuprofen, antibiotics, insulin)          Medical Supplies (needles, etc.)

Sleeping Bags                                                                Baby Formula

Non-Perishable Can Foods                                           Baby Wipes


If possible, please send this email to our churches in Central Florida Presbytery (and beyond).  We also will be posting this email in our Facebook page.  Thank you so much for your prayers and any support that you are able to offer our families and friends in Puerto Rico.


The Rev. Carmelo Mercado, DMin, ChFC


Leave a Public Comment

PC(USA) Seal