October 22, 2018 | ° F

In wake of disaster in Puerto Rico, Rutgers businesses step up to provide relief

Photo by Casey Ambrosio |

In light of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, various New Brunswick businesses have chosen to hold fundraisers or donate their profits to relief organizations.

After Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico devastated, local Rutgers businesses started to hold fundraisers and events in order to raise money for relief efforts for the U.S. territory. 

Restaurants and cafes all over the New Brunswick area have made efforts to provide aid to Puerto Rico and collect more money from either scheduled events, specialties or just their own profits.

Jimmy Cronk, one of the owners of Destination Dogs on Paterson Street, is hosting a night to raise money for the victims of the hurricane this Saturday. The event will include a DJ at 9 p.m. playing Latin pop classics and salsa music, and a band at 10:30 p.m. providing a fusion of Latin and jazz music until 1 a.m.

“We’re gonna clear the tables out and everything,” Cronk said. “We usually don’t have dancing at Destination Dogs but there’s gonna be a lot of it. I hope things get rowdy but in a good way.”

Destination Dogs will also be providing Puerto Rican inspired food and drinks during the event, including empanadas and rum and Cokes. One specialty is what Cronk calls “The Benicio Del Toro” — a hot dog topped with arroz con gandules, avocados, spicy mayo and cilantro. 

“That’s a super dope special,” Cronk said. “I ran that one before, it's really good, can’t wait to bring it back."

All of the proceeds from the event will go to the charity "Unidos por Puerto Rico," a charity put together by Beatriz Rossello, the first lady of Puerto Rico, and the private sector to aid those who were harmed by Hurricane Maria. 

Sales from food, beverages, t-shirts or donations made at the door will go directly to the foundation, Cronk said. 

The idea for this event came from Cronk’s wife, who taught in Puerto Rico for a year. The couple was also married in Puerto Rico and both of them were devastated by the destruction caused by the Hurricane. 

“This deeply affected the both of us, but it really affected her. As soon as it happened she said ‘We have to do something about this’ and so I said, ‘Cool, let’s put something together,’" Cronk said.

Cronk said he views this event as something important not only to the Rutgers community but also to the people of Puerto Rico, stressing the fact that people should never forget that these are American citizens who desperately need help. 

Cronk also said he wanted to emphasize the impact that Puerto Rican culture has in this state as well.

“These are people who have contributed so much to Rutgers and the state of New Jersey. Our cultures are combined. These are people who are part of us,” Cronk said. “You know we take a lot of things for granted, all the luxuries that we have. But if you don’t have electricity or even water to drink, you would want someone to help. So I expect the Rutgers community to help because these are people and they need our help.”

Other well-known Rutgers businesses are moving planning events to fund aid efforts as well. Hidden Grounds Coffee is currently working on their own fundraising campaign for Puerto Rico. 

Just last month, the cafe donated one week of all of their profits to Houston, Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Anand Patel, one of the owners of Hidden Grounds, said they are coming up with the best ideas for an effective campaign.

Patel said he was positive that the Rutgers community would be willing to go the extra mile to help the people of Puerto Rico, the same way they did to raise money for Hurricane Harvey

“About 10 percent of our customers from that week were customers that we like never see in the store,” Anand said. “They made it a point to come in that week just to show their support. That’s what Rutgers is all about, man. I mean Hurricane Harvey was bad, but Puerto Rico is just in dire need of something. Anything we can do to help at Hidden Grounds, we would be more than happy to do.”

Jacob Turchi

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