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Northfield concert Sunday to raise money for Puerto Rico relief efforts

  • The First Parish of Northfield Unitarian Church Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Magda Ponce-Castro with some of the solar powered inflatable lamps she collected to send to Puerto Rico to help recover from the recent hurricane. October 19, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Volunteer Alex Melendez Feliciano (at far right) distributes solar lights to residents of Maricao, Puerto Rico, who are currently without electricity following Hurricane Maria. Photo contributed by Magda Ponce-Castro. —Contributed photo



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

NORTHFIELD — Taking the lead from Magda Ponce-Castro, fellow Northfield residents are banding together in support of Puerto Rico residents impacted by Hurricane Maria.

The First Parish of Northfield Unitarian Church is hosting a benefit concert Sunday starting at 2:30 p.m., with money raised supporting the purchase of blankets, sheets, pillows and hygiene products for people in Ponce-Castro’s hometown of Maricao, Puerto Rico.

Ponce-Castro started raising money in October to buy solar lights, as Maricao continues to be entirely without electricity. Coordinating distribution with her Presbyterian church and her mother, Juanita Castro, Ponce-Castro said volunteers have distributed about 350 lights.

When she put out a call for donations on the Nextdoor social networking website, Ponce-Castro received an unexpected response from fellow Northfield resident Eveline MacDougall, who offered to organize a benefit concert. MacDougall is the founder and director of the Amandla Chorus, and a member (with Douglas Reid) of the duo Fire Pond.

Though the idea was temporarily put on hold so Ponce-Castro could focus on solar light distribution, it’s now coming to fruition. Both of MacDougall’s music groups will play, and Ponce-Castro’s longtime friend Lourdes Noemi Cruz, who was displaced to Denver following the storm, will read a poem about her experience.

“We may not have 20 bands, but it’s going to be very touching,” Ponce-Castro said.

The First Parish of Northfield Unitarian Church’s youth group is getting involved, too, Ponce-Castro said.

“The cutest thing is the youth group from the church, they did a tag sale last week … and all the money is going to go to the fundraising,” she said. “They’re going to present the check at the concert.”

Calla McKeon and Jinx Hastings will sell Christmas ornaments made from recycled paper not only during the concert, but at Saturday’s farmer’s market (also at the church) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ponce-Castro said the two hope to raise over $200 for her cause.

“This has not just been my effort,” Ponce-Castro said of her fundraising, which has totaled over $5,000 so far, “but a community effort of hundreds of people.”

Though admission to the concert is free, Ponce-Castro hopes to raise money through donations, which are tax-deductible thanks to an arrangement with the Greenfield YMCA. Checks, she said, can be written out to the Greenfield YMCA, with the memo line directing money to Puerto Rico relief.

After the concert, Ponce-Castro said she plans to place another order for more solar lights, aiming to distribute over 500 in all. As for buying blankets, sheets, pillows and hygiene products, Ponce-Castro said she’ll send money directly to her Presbyterian church, which will purchase the goods in Puerto Rico.

“At the same time they’re helping the economy,” she said. “The more money we raise, the more families we’ll be able to assist.”

Doors to the First Parish of Northfield Unitarian Church will open at 2 p.m., with the concert being held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and parking is available across the street behind Town Hall.

In addition to raising money, Ponce-Castro said she hopes guests will leave the concert with a better understanding of what’s happening in Puerto Rico.

“Even though things are not in the news anymore, there’s still people suffering,” she said. “I want to make it real that there’s still people struggling, not just in my hometown but on the whole island.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at:
sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 257