Boston - The Boston Foundation and Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico today announce the final grants have been distributed from the fund, which was launched in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. In all, the Fund raised and distributed nearly $4.1 million from more than a 1,400 Massachusetts foundations, businesses and individual donors, in support of relief efforts and long-term recovery on Puerto Rico, as well as to support the needs of thousands of island residents displaced to Massachusetts by the hurricane.
“Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico was a manifestation of the state’s generosity and recognition of the tremendous challenges facing the island and its residents after Maria,” said Aixa Beauchamp, co-chair of the fund. “From leaders like our honorary co-chairs – Governor Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez – to the scores of individual donors who held fundraisers, wrote checks and spread the word about the fund, it was a truly universal effort that made a difference both here and in Puerto Rico.”
The Fund made its final round of major grants in the late spring, totaling $912,000, with the hopes of bringing together funders and nonprofit partners this fall to recognize their contributions, but that gathering has been shelved due to COVID-19.
“The past three years have been both inspiring and heartbreaking, as we watched Puerto Rico cope with not only the devastation of Maria, but earthquakes, COVID-19, and the continued lack of federal investment in a just and equitable recovery,” said co-chair Juan Carlos Morales. “But we have drawn strength and inspiration from the nonprofit partners here and in Puerto Rico who every day demonstrate care, determination, creativity and innovation to push past obstacles and solve problems.”
In the initial months after Maria, the Fund focused on the immediate needs of communities hardest hit by the hurricane, with an eye toward rural and underserved parts of the island that were not receiving support commensurate to their level of need. In addition, the Fund worked in Massachusetts to identify the nonprofit partners statewide who were working most closely to help Puerto Rican residents who were displaced to Springfield, Holyoke, Lawrence, and other gateway cities as well as Boston.
“Looking at the full roster of work during the three years of Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico, we are proud to say that we were able to connect the generosity of people from across Massachusetts to communities and organizations doing remarkable, innovative work in every corner of Puerto Rico,” said MUPR co-chair Vanessa Calderón-Rosado. “We are so thankful to all the donors, the members of the Fund Advisory Board who brought their expertise and knowledge of the island to bear every day, and to the nonprofit and philanthropic partners in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico, for their work strengthening and building the response.”
The final round of grants from the Fund, which was co-sponsored by the Latino Legacy Fund at the Boston Foundation, were disbursed this May to 13 organizations focused on green energy, sustainable agriculture and economic innovation across the island. The list of grants and project descriptions is below.
Unidos por Utuados (Utuado): $140,000:
Funding is for two parallel projects: Hidroenergía Renace and ReEnFoCo. The first involves the acquisition, restoration and management of hydroelectric plants in Caonillas and Dos Bocas. The co-op retains a 55% controlling stake in the energy consortium being created. The second project seeks to install 1,250 rooftop photovoltaic systems at businesses, community centers and residences placed strategically throughout the region.
Resilient Power Puerto Rico (Ponce/Toa Baja): $80,000:
To support the organization's work in establishing toolkits related to climate vulnerability and community impact investments and their project to solarize pharmacies and local businesses while continuing to document best practices to inform public policy around green energy.
Casa Pueblo de Adjuntas (Adjuntas): $50,000
This project increases the number of solarized homes in Adjuntas by 10%, install green energy equipment into a community-led school of agriculture and to build out an educational campaign around solar power.
El Puente de Williamsburg (San Juan): $50,000:
This project supports the organization's work alongside a multi-sector energy coalition to foster energy education for low-income communities in San Juan through energy efficiency workshops; guidelines designed for rooftop solar system installation and the promotion of mutual aid practices.
Puerto Rico Conservation Trust (Para La Naturaleza) (Humacao/Yabucoa/Maunabo): $132,000:
Foster generative agriculture practices through establishment of experimenting farming plots in collaboration with selected farmers. This includes in depth training in applied agroecology, development of innovative bio inputs, and providing technical assistance on farm design, crop integrations and farm materials.
Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust (Isabela/Barceloneta): $50,000
This project focuses on facilitating the cacao production among farmers operating smaller-scale projects through the use of two agroforestry farm model schools. These schools are in a two-acre reserve that mimics a forest and adapted for expedient harvesting. This project includes a capacity building program offering technical assistance to participating farmers.
La Colmena Cimarrona (Vieques): $50,000:
La Colmena Cimarrona’s work centers on agroecology and preserving beekeeping in an effort to increase food sovereignty in Vieques. Funding for this project includes the following: constructing a marketplace based on their informal food exchange, outfit and upgrade their community agricultural center with solar energy, food storage and distribution and obtain a community plow.
P.E.C.E.S. Programa de Educación (Humacao): $50,000:
Funds will be used to develop Sustainable Agriculture Research Center to train students in the research and development of cultivation techniques. This will be in collaboration with UC Davis College of Agriculture and Science And Tech Trust which will help with the research and monitoring of this project.
Causa Local (San Juan/Islandwide): $140,000:
This project is focused on establishing a local impact investment fund which will deploy needed capital to small and medium sized entrepreneurs working in the areas of sustainable agriculture, green energy and innovation.
Grupo Guayacán (San Juan): $50,000:
To support the organization's work in adapting its successful I-Corps Puerto Rico program towards specific needs related to Puerto Rico's recovery; the Innovation Corps program allows new businesses to rigorously test their ideas against consumer feedback; the next cohort will focus on projects related to green energy, resilient housing, sustainable agriculture and/or community empowerment.
Iniciativa de Ecodesarrollo de Bahia de Jobos (Salinas): $50,000:
This project is to preserve the cultural heritage of the Aguirre community while fostering the economic development of the area.
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (San Juan): $50,000:
To support a cultural tourism initiative in with the School of Environmental Affairs at the Ana G. Mendez University. This initiative also includes habitat restoration of the Ciénaga Las Cucharillas Nature Reserve, beautification of public spaces through artistic commissions, building out a nature immersion center, and emphasizing other gastronomic and cultural assets in Cataño.
Fundación Sila Maria Calderón (San Juan): $20,000:
To provide general operating support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the life of the Fund, Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico made 107 grants totaling over $4 million. The funds distributed include three grants to Foundation partners that were then awarded to nonprofits in Puerto Rico through their own programs and partnerships, and a grant to the Latino Legacy Fund at the Boston Foundation for distribution to nonprofit partners across Massachusetts serving Puerto Rican populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In all, MUPR funds were used for more than 120 grants to nonprofit organizations in Massachusetts and Puerto Rico.