As Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Happy Guadalupe, a Coca-Cola employee of 19 years, was thinking of his family.
Guadalupe lived in Puerto Rico until he was nine years old, and much of his family remains there. With vast power outages on the island and communication lines down, it took him a full week after the storm to confirm their safety.
He decided the best way to support his loved ones was to send them essential items they could not access on the ground in Puerto Rico.
But he didn’t know how to get the goods directly to them.
The Coca-Cola Family
Guadalupe’s Coca-Cola family stepped in to support his efforts to deliver life sustaining items.
His cousin lives close to Caribbean Refrescos, Inc. – a Coca-Cola production facility in Puerto Rico – and he plans to send four boxes of water, canned foods and baby supplies to the plant specifically for his family to pick up as part of a larger shipment of donations being sent by The Coca-Cola Company.
Guadalupe helps load donated rain barrels with chlorine tablets onto a Coca-Cola shipment bound for St. Croix
Coca-Cola employees in Atlanta have spent the past few weeks gathering donations from other colleagues, as well as community and business partners to send to impacted Coca-Cola employees, many of whom have been rendered homeless by the hurricanes, in Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Richard Peregoy, a 29-year Coca-Cola veteran, is helping lead these efforts. He estimates that they have already shipped about 82,000 lbs. of donated items and expects to double that by the end of their efforts.
Peregoy helps process relief donations
Peregoy is amazed and inspired by the outpouring of support his team has received as they’ve collected donations. “It’s important that we support associates impacted by the hurricanes because they’re our brothers and sisters," he said. "They’re just like us
He continues, “We all work for the same company – a company that has enabled me to feed my family, send my son to school and save for retirement. We’re not going to leave my brothers and sisters.”
Beyond Donated Goods
Peregoy’s team plans to spend the next few weeks continuing to process donated goods, but recognizes that such donations are only part of what it will take to help get those impacted back on their feet.
“We’re going to continue to support the communities in Puerto Rico for a long time,” he says. A big part of that is restoring commerce-potential through the local bottler.
He plans to visit some of his impacted colleagues next week to assess the damage and gauge what they will need from Atlanta in order to begin fully operating again.
Additionally, impacted employees have the opportunity to apply for grants through the Coca-Cola Employee Disaster Relief Fund, which helps provide financial relief to associates facing hardship immediately following a natural disaster.
Monetary donations to support the fund and the Coca-Cola associates it benefits can be made here.
These efforts are a reminder to associates that Coca-Cola is more than a system, but a family.
Reflecting on his 19 years with the company and the past few weeks spent collecting and loading donated goods, Guadalupe is grateful for Coca-Cola’s willingness to, in turn, support him and those he cares about. He concluded, “I’m happy my Coca-Cola family is taking care of me.”
Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling employees load trucks of donated beverages and food packages.
Additionally, Coca-Cola Puerto Rico Bottling (CCPRB) and employees from Coca-Cola North America (CCNA) who work on the island traveled to some of the hardest-hit communities as part of a caravan effort to donate beverages and food packages to people in need. Teaming up with well-known Puerto Rican artists, CCPRB and CCNA associates distributed more than 4,000 packages as part of ongoing relief efforts. Without electricity, communications or other essential supplies, members of the Coca-Cola family in Puerto Rico continue to show tremendous generosity and hope after the hurricanes.
The Coca-Cola Company's philanthropic arm, The Coca-Cola Foundation, pledged a $1 million grant to the Salvation Army to help provide immediate resources for necessary food and shelter in areas impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria across the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Read more.