It took four days after Hurricane Maria hit to get ahold of his family in Puerto Rico, but Smyrna, Ga.-based Chef Andre Gómez finally got through.
By that point, Gómez had already jumped into action, using his restaurant – Porch Light Latin Kitchen – as a platform to support the country that had been his childhood home.
“I was feeling helpless,” Gómez explains. “People here need to know that our people in Puerto Rico need our help. They can’t just get in their cars and leave. They don’t have that choice.”
Gómez knew he had to take action.
In collaboration with two other Atlanta-area Puerto Rican eateries, Porch Light Latin Kitchen (a longstanding
The restaurants have since collected nearly eight trucks worth of donations, which will travel via a donated cargo plane to Puerto Rico, where they will be distributed through local channels.
This outpouring of generosity has replenished Gómez’s hope – hope, which he says is now written “in capital bold letters.”
“The hurricane has destroyed the whole island, but it is not destroying the hopes of anyone,” he said.
Gómez is proud of how his Atlanta community has come together to help his Puerto Rican community, as is his family thero. “Being able to hear my mom’s sense of pride in her son and everyone else who is helping… it’s overwhelming,” he said. “What I do for a living is I run a restaurant... I cook food, and through food I am able to make people happy. And, now, because of that platform I am able to help.”
And he doesn’t intend to stop.
Though he's no longer accepting donations, having received far more than can fit in his restaurant, Gómez is now encouraging volunteers to help him take an inventory of the items to better distribute them. Once donations are fully distributed, his focus will turn to raising funds for those impacted by the storm so people on the ground have the power to purchase what they need.
“We’re in the process of helping restore Puerto Rico," he said. "At the end of the day, the story is ongoing.”
Immediately following Hurricane Maria, the company donated 34,000 bottles of water to Puerto Rico, and The
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