How the Industry Is Rushing Aid to Puerto Rico -- and How You Can Help

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Hurricane survivors receive food and water being given out by volunteers and municipal police on Thursday in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
Hurricane survivors receive food and water being given out by volunteers and municipal police on Thursday in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Credit: Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hurricane Maria, which tore through Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, has left millions without power, adequate food, drinking water, fuel and access to cash. As federal aid from Washington, D.C., is criticized as lacking, marketers, media, agencies and public citizens are stepping into the breach.

Industry players including Burger King, Goya, Royal Caribbean, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Google, Apple, Verizon, Major League Baseball, the National Football League and more are donating space, materials or money to the relief efforts, and celebrities from actor and comedian Nick Kroll to singer Ricky Martin and Chicago Cubs catcher Rene Rivera are mobilizing to find aid for Puerto Rico.

Burger King says it has served 1 million meals to hurricane victims and offered refuge in 125 restaurants on the island. With so much communication cut off, it is also encouraging people to leave handwritten notes in its stores about people they are trying to reach or their own staus; it is passing them along daily via its Facebook page, newpaper ads and a 5-minute morning radio program about who is looking for whom.

Cash donations are coming from the Coca-Cola Foundation, which is giving $1 million to the Salvation Army for hurricane damage relief in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the PepsiCo Foundation, which is giving $2 million in grants to help communities in Mexico City, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean; Walmart, promising a $5 million commitment to Puerto Rico relief on top of $35 million previously committed for Harvey and Irma relief in Texas and Houston; and MLB, donating $1 million for "long-term relief and long-term rebuilding efforts." Google is kicking in $1 million; it says its employees have collectively donated $7 million toward relief efforts in areas affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Similarly, Apple says its employees have raised $13 million. The Verizon Foundation is sending $1 million.

Tesla is sending "Powerwall" battery systems to help those in Puerto Rico generate power, Bloomberg reported. The batteries can be connected to solar panels to generate electricity.

Royal Caribbean cancelled a cruise on its Adventure of the Seas and instead sent the ship to San Juan, where crowds lined up for supplies and evacuations. According to the New York Daily News, Royal Caribbean has helped transport 1,700 people and will match donations of up to $1 million to help with hurricane relief.

Goya released a statement saying it will be "coordinating the donation and delivery of much-needed food and water not only from our facility in Puerto Rico but from our operation in the United States and other countries. We are unconditionally committed to working with the government, private entities, charities, individuals and the people of Puerto Rico."

Brands are also tweeting solicitations for help:

Cubs player Rene Rivera tweeted in support of his wife's GoFundMe page for hurricane relief.

And celebrities are chiming in, many taking up the challenge leveled by Nick Kroll on Stephen Colbert's "Late Show" to post awkward pre-pubescent photos of themselves in exchange for a donation, which Billboard reports has already raised tens of thousands of dollars within two days.

So what can you do to aid Puerto Rico?

Send money. There are a number of charities who need money for aid. Among them are UNICEF, Catholic Relief Service, Save the Children and more. A fairly comprehensive list can be found here, thanks to PBS.

Send supplies. If you are in New York City, the administration has created 18 centers designated to accept diapers, batteries, and first-aid gear. You can find the centers here. Ingrid Smart, president and CEO of U.S. Hipsanic agency Casanova/McCann in Los Angeles, says the USPS has a flat rate of $18.65 to send a large box weighing 70 lbs. to Puerto Rico; she suggests sending heavy things like canned goods, bottled water and batteries, all much-needed on an island where many people are facing up to six months without electricity. Smart says USPS expects to resume delivery of packages to Puerto Rico next week. (If you don't know anyone in Puerto Rico, ask your friends, colleagues and neighbors. They probably do. Or contact Smart here, who will supply names and addresses from the list she and Casanova are compiling).

Adopt a pet in need. The Humane Society of the U.S. is on the ground in Puerto Rico and shipping pets to St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey.

Encourage a trucker friend to donate time. According to CBS This Morning, the island is desperate for qualified truckers to get supplies to people in distress. The phone number for volunteers is 202-800-9603.

Get your Ricky Martin on. Smart also urges donations to Ricky Martin's foundation. The Puerto Rico-born singer has raised more than $1.3 million, including his own $100,000 donation. Smart says Martin is getting free use of planes and warehouse space so that all donations can go directly to buying generators and other supplies, which Martin will take directly to Puerto Rico himself and ensure distribution.

-- Written from bureau reports

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