Nov 20, 2017

Helping Where Help Is Needed

Medtronic is working with communities in Puerto Rico to help citizens in need and speed up the island’s recovery.

When the hours after Hurricane Maria turned to days, Virgen Colon of Juncos, Puerto Rico, grew increasingly frightened.

Without power in her flooded house, she needed electricity to operate the air conditioning and fans which kept her son Jan cool. He is 23, born with severe birth defects that have left him bed-bound his entire life.

He also needs oxygen and feeding tubes, and the various medical devices that help him breathe and survive required power to operate.

Finally, desperate, she called the mayor of Juncos. He solved her problem with one call to Medtronic.

"When we need food, they provide food," said mayor Alfredo Alejandro Carrion. "When we need water, the provide water. They are giving so much. We have been working hand-in-hand with Medtronic and the company has been such a good citizen for this town."

'There was never a question of whether we were going to help.'

Anthony Ruiz, coordinator of Medtronic humanitarian effort in Puerto Rico

Within two hours of the mayor's call, Medtronic provided a generator to Virgen and her family, along with fuel to run it and food to fill their empty refrigerator.

"Jan wasn't sleeping well because he wasn't getting the proper oxygen to breathe," Virgen said. "The generator solved that. I am very grateful."

"There was never a question of whether to help," said Anthony Ruiz, who has been coordinating the Medtronic humanitarian effort in Puerto Rico since the day after the hurricane. "Juncos is part of Medtronic. Medtronic is part of Juncos. It's our Mission to help people and be good citizens. So we're going to help."

In the weeks since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Medtronic has undertaken a massive relief effort, to help its 5,000 Puerto Rican employees, and the rest of the island's citizens, recover.

Medtronic has shipped in more than one million bottles of water with a million more on the way. More than 3,000 generators are either on the island or arriving soon. Company volunteers have distributed 25,000 boxes of food and that effort continues.

Medtronic provided employees with free onsite gasoline, daycare and laundry services.

And helped its neighbors.

'There are no words to describe the appreciation we have for what Medtronic did for us.'

Jaime Olivo, owner, Panaderia El Buen Pastor

Helping Neighbors

"If it wasn't for Medtronic we would not be able to operate," said Jaime Olivo, who for the last 14 years has owned and operated a breakfast, lunch and coffee shop two blocks from the Medtronic facility in Juncos. His shop is called Panaderia El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd in English) and is known for great coffee. The locals who fill it most mornings include many Medtronic employees who walk over from work. In the days after the hurricane, the Panaderia El Buen Pastor was the first local business to open and fed Medtronic employees who came to get the plant back in operation.

"They gave us diesel to run our generators," Olivo said. "We could not have operated without it. There are no words to describe the appreciation we have for what Medtronic did for us."

The generator still runs out back, and Medtronic continues to fill Olivo’s tanks with diesel. Keeping stores like Olivo's open in the wake of tragedies such as Maria is important to the local economy. Olivo's employees keep their jobs and earn paychecks. Residents stop in for coffee and spend money. All building blocks in Puerto Rico's recovery.

"Right after Maria, Medtronic knocked on our door and said 'What do you need?'" said mayor Carrion, as he took a break from packing food at a relief distribution center in Juncos. "Other mayors envy me because of the relationship and the good support that I receive from Medtronic. I am grateful for everything that Medtronic has done to help all of the people of Juncos," he said.

Medtronic is conducting similar efforts in four other Puerto Rico communities where the company operates: Humacao, Ponce, Villalba and Catano. And a Medtronic Philanthropy team is working with Puerto Rico officials and various relief agencies to put together a long-term plan to help the entire island recover.

“I know the Puerto Rican people who work at Medtronic are suffering too,” said Virgen Colon. “I know they are experiencing many of the same things that I have. All I can say is thank you all, for all you are doing for Puerto Rico. And for my son.”