SEMINOLE — In 2018, in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated much of Puerto Rico, the Rotary Club of Seminole Lake took its first humanitarian trip to the United States territory.

Working with Habitat for Humanity and Anona Methodist Church, the club sent a team to the Mayaguez area to assist the local Rotary chapter and to help rebuild homes and schools in the region. The group took a second trip to the municipality in the fall of 2019, as well.

Now, in the aftermath of a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked the southwestern portion of the island Jan. 7, the club is activating once again to assist their friends in Mayaguez.

“There’s obviously a lot of need down there right now,” said Chuck Oldanie.

As tremors continue to hit the area, many people are reluctant to sleep in their homes, as they’re afraid the roofs might collapse on them, he said. “The tremors keep coming and they’ll have another five or six months of this.”

In the weeks since the Jan. 7 earthquake, many have chosen to sleep in their cars or in tents in their yards, he added.

The Rotary Club of Seminole Lake is raising funds to purchase mosquito repellent and blankets for residents of Mayaguez.

“Those are the two biggest needs right now,” Oldanie said.

Orlando Carlo with the Rotary Club of Mayaguez added, “What you have right now is people in fear of going back into their homes….Their state of mind right now is so bad. Even though their homes might have just a few cracks, they’d rather sleep outside or sleep in their cars. That’s not very healthy.”

Even the area’s least rainy times of year can see significant rainfall, he said, and heavy rains create a breeding ground for mosquitos.

“We get a lot of mosquitos down here when it’s raining like it is,” he said. “That is why one of the biggest needs we have right now is getting some mosquito repellant, because it’s a little bit scarce on the island, for people to avoid sickness.”

Carlo is also working on a food voucher program for residents and finding ways to stimulate the local economy by assisting the small businesses that have been struggling since the Jan. 7 earthquake.

“People are not spending the little money that they have because they don’t know what they’re going to need tomorrow,” he said. “This has been hard on many, many supermarkets and other stores on the island.”

Those interested in making a tax-deductible donation to the Rotary Club of Seminole Lake’s fundraiser for Mayaguez should contact Glenn Stamm at glennstamm1@gmail.com.

The club will also be making a trip to Puerto Rico this fall, or possibly sooner, to help rebuild homes following the earthquake.