VENTNOR — The local community is rallying to help families still without shelter, water, power and food after Hurricane Maria's 150 mph winds ripped through Puerto Rico.
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Inspired by a friend who lives in Florida but still has family in Puerto Rico, local resident Michael Einwechter, president of the nonprofit Amazing Ventnor, is organizing a fundraiser to help the storm-ravaged U.S. territory.
“I wanted to do a fundraiser for one of the hurricane-damaged communities, and my friend inspired me to do it for Puerto Rico,” he said.
Einwechter, who organizes many of the city’s festivals and street fairs, posted the idea of holding a fundraiser for Puerto Rico on his personal Facebook page. At first he was expecting a few people to respond, but within two days, he had 300 people clicking the “attend” button.
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“We were going to hold it in the parking lot at Annette’s next door to Ventnor Coffee, but it just snowballed,” Einwechter said. “I got a little scared about holding it in the parking lot, so I contacted Ventnor Emergency Management Coordinator Donna Peterson about the possibility of holding it at Ski Beach. The city got on board in making the event happen.”
Ventnor’s Puerto Rico Relief Benefit will be held 3-9 p.m. Sunday at Ski Beach at Dorset Avenue and the bay. The event includes a car show, live music, face painting and a buffet. Entertainment includes Latin dancers and Carnival-costumed entertainers taking pictures with attendees.
“Vagabond (Kitchen & Tap House in Atlantic City) is offering on-site equipment to keep the food cold and hot, and other restaurants have stepped up to provide food offerings,” he said.
A silent auction will offer more than 40 prizes, including a back-bay fishing boat from Bass Pro Shops, a bicycle from AAAA Bike Shop and concert tickets, he said. The organization is still collecting auction items.
Einwechter is setting a $30,000 goal and is confident that amount can be raised.
“As a result of the response we are getting, we expect about 3,000 people,” he said.
Live music includes salsa, reggae, island-beat and funk bands, such as DeTiera Caliente, Ill Rendition, Funk Daddy, The Burnsiders and Cintron Band, a Carlos Santana tribute act. Guest speakers include Ventnor Mayor Beth Holtzman, Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian, Assemblyman Chris Brown and Atlantic City Councilman Moisse Delgado.
Admission is a donation of $5. The cost for the buffet is $10 for adults, $5 for children. Additional donations will be accepted.
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All of the proceeds will go to the United for Puerto Rico organization, the official donation organization for the Government of Puerto Rico.
“It’s the biggest group in action for Puerto Rico," Einwechter said.
Because everything at the fundraiser is being donated, all of the money will go to help families recover from the devastation of Maria, he said.
Einwechter said the bands are playing for free and all of the sound and lighting equipment and stage have been donated. HammerFiber donated $700 to pay for print materials, and DiMeglio Septic donated four portapotties. Amazing Ventnor is paying for social media marketing.
“We have no expenses, everything is being donated, so 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the fund,” Einwechter said.
For more information about the event, or to find out how you can help, see amazingventnor.com or call Einwechter at 609-816-7883.