Helping Puerto Rico by helping the farmers

- Stacks and more stacks of applications for help line the living room of Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder, the founder of the Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce of Florida. 

"We have about 90 new ones," she said. 

Since September, she and her Sarasota-based group have dedicated their time to helping the farmers of Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria wiped out the island’s agriculture industry.  Now, it seems, the recovery is leaving the farmers behind. 

"It's like out of sight, out of mind," Cuevas-Neunder said. 

Six months after the storm, Cuevas-Neunder says many in the mountains remain without water, electricity and everyday needs. 

"Right now, we have a serious dilemma because everything is destroyed," she continued. 

Her group has made two trips to bring money and supplies to farmers.   Last month, 25 farmers received $25,000 in grant money and 23 pounds of seeds to plant.   Now the Chamber of Commerce is partnering with other groups to send containers full of food and basic supplies. 

"The farmers are the first responders. They are the ones who feed the communities, they are the ones who know the neighbors, they are the ones who know the need. Through them, we can get and pinpoint the problems where they are," Cuevas-Neunder continued. 

On any given day, Cuevas-Neunder receives about 15 new applications for help.  The need is overwhelming, but she is up to the task.  She's already helped 53 farmers and expects to help 500 by the end of the year. 

"We are here for the long run," she said. 

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