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Utah Lawyer With Puerto Rican Roots Organizes Relief Effort

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A Puerto Rican-born Utah lawyer is heading back to the island for her visit since Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory — and bringing with her supplies donated by people from across the Beehive state.

Dorany Rodriguez-Baltazar was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but has lived in Utah since graduating from Brigham Young University in the early '90s. She still has lots of friends and family on the island.

After the Sept. 20 hurricane left the people of Puerto Rico without power, water and the most basic necessities, Rodriguez-Baltazar sprang into action.
“A group of friends, we called each other and we said, ‘What can we do to help our people?’ And we immediately said, ‘We have to do something,'" she says. "So about two days after Hurricane Maria went through the island, we started the relief effort.”

She says besides an initial supply drive, they’ve raised close to $250,000. But she’s worried the tepid response by the White House and recent comments by President Trump may slow relief efforts down.

“People are dying,” she says. “People don’t have access to the most basic necessities. It concerns me when we have a leader saying, ‘This is not as bad as what happened in Katrina or any other hurricane.’ We’re just worried, and I’m saddened as well.”

Rodriguez-Baltazar is returning to Puerto Rico this week to help deliver some of the supplies she’s collected.

Her goal is to keep raising money, which she wants to use on solar generators for the island as it begins the slow process of rebuilding.

 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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