North Shore family brings holiday cheer to Puerto Rico

North Shore family brings holiday cheer to Puerto Rico
From left, Linda Valentin-Sabolboro, Dr. Walter Sabolboro and their son Blake traveled to Puerto Rico twice in December to bring donations to families affected by Hurricane Maria, which struck in September. (Photo courtesy of Linda Valentin-Sabolboro)

A North Shore family spent much of December organizing and delivering donations of toys and home essentials to Puerto Rico.

Blake Sabolboro and his family brought five huge boxes of toys from New York to Arecibo, Puerto Rico.(Photo courtesy of Linda Valentin-Sabolboro)

Linda Valentin-Sabolboro of Roslyn, whose family lives in Puerto Rico, said she was devastated by the news footage of the island after Hurricane Maria decimated the island, and wanted her 7-year-old son, Blake, to have a chance to help.

“I knew that I had to do it,” Valentin-Sabolboro said. “I was so impacted by it that I wanted him to have the experience of going there to help people who really needed help, from giving kids a toy because who knows if they’re going to have Christmas that year or giving these much-needed supplies.”

Along with her husband, Dr. Walter Sabolboro, and Blake, a student in the Herricks school district, she began collecting money and donations of toys for their first trip to Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on Dec. 9.

Sabolboro, a dentist at Forest Park Dental in Glendale, Queens, and Smile L.I. in Franklin Square, also donated 1,000 toothbrushes and toothpaste for the parents.

Arecibo’s Chamber of Commerce co-hosted a community event, giving away toys to hundreds of children. (Photo courtesy of Linda Valentin-Sabolboro)

Valentin-Sabolboro contacted her family in Puerto Rico to help arrange a party, and Arecibo’s Chamber of Commerce co-hosted an event in the town square, inviting hundreds of children for a day of hot dogs, ice cream, face painting and pictures with Santa, and Blake was tasked with choosing a toy for each child at the event.

“I thought it was important for Blake to do something like that because he has all the comforts he needs,” Valentin-Sabolboro said. “He’s got unending electricity and water, and these people haven’t had any for more than 100 days. In Morovis, even the supermarkets are shut down. When we went to a plaza that should be bustling, it was a ghost town.

“I wanted him to go there and see all our comforts are a blessing because there are people who have nothing, not even walls.”

Blake Sabolboro and his family helped deliver toys and supplies to families in need in Puerto Rico. (Photo courtesy of Linda Valentin-Sabolboro)

Once they came back to the mainland, Valentin-Sabolboro said, her husband, who is a member of the Kiwanis Clubs of Glendale, Queens, and Franklin Square, was asked by fellow members how they could help.

Sabolboro said he would match any donations dollar for dollar, and the family planned a second trip to Puerto Rico after Christmas.

With approximately $2,000 to spend, the group went to Home Depot in Puerto Rico to buy bleach, bug spray, bottled water, paper towels, toilet paper, gas tanks, batteries, lanterns, dish soap, deodorant, baby supplies and more before taking the multi-hour drive through the mountains to the small town of Morovis.

Once there, a local woman helped Valentin-Salbolboro and her family divide the supplies into boxes for each household and Blake went door to door with supplies for local families, some of whose homes were missing walls or entire floors.

The people of Modovis have been without electricity and water for more than 100 days.
(Photo courtesy of Linda Valentin-Sabolboro)

“Yes, people are impacted very much by the storm, but people aren’t victimizing themselves,” Valentin-Sabolboro said. “They’re working with the abilities of what they have. When we went to their houses, they were surprised. They were thankful. They were welcoming. They were smiling through all of that and wanted to feed us despite having almost nothing for themselves.”

Valentin-Sabolboro said while in Puerto Rico, they saw Consolidated Edison electric company trucks, the same that are often seen around New York City, and she met a man from the Bronx who was on a five-week shift helping bring power back to Old San Juan.

“Puerto Rico is ready for business again,” Valentin-Sabolboro said. “For the second trip, we were also there for a mini-vacation, and restaurants are on generators — but they’re open. The beaches are open. The stores are open. People are rebuilding.”

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