Orange County

How a taste of Puerto Rican food in Chapel Hill will aid Hurricane Maria recovery

A damaged Puerto Rican national flag spray painted with the words “Together as One” hangs from the facade of a business, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 27 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
A damaged Puerto Rican national flag spray painted with the words “Together as One” hangs from the facade of a business, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 27 in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. AP

Forgive Greg Pfaender for caring a little more about the recovery efforts taking place in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Pfaender’s girlfriend Jennifer Salome has relatives there.

“It's important to get out there and remind people that these are American citizens who are suffering, too,” Pfaender said. “A lot of people think about Puerto Rico only as a vacation destination and not necessarily an island of three and a half million American citizens. We’re just trying to do our little slice of something good.”

It has led him, Salome and a pair of UNC students to organize a fundraiser at Al’s Burger Shack in Chapel Hill on Sunday to aid Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts.

“The idea began by Al (Bowers) asking Jennifer after the hurricane how her family was doing,” said Pfaender (pronounced fender). “And the idea actually sort of popped into his head that he wanted to do some benefit work for Puerto Rico. Al’s got a long history of being very philanthropically minded. He does so many things to support both our local community here and those in crisis and in need.”

They’re hoping to raise at least $10,000 for United For Puerto Rico, Pfeander said. They chose that organization on the recommendation of UNC student Charlie Carpenter, who is one of the organizers and also has helped with other Puerto Rico aid efforts.

“Charlie recommended we support this organization, which was founded by the first lady of Puerto Rico,” Pfaender said. “After doing a little bit of research, it seems like the money will be put to good use and it was a good charity.”

Instead of the usual menu of burgers and fries that made Al’s famous, they’re going to be serving up authentic Puerto Rican delicacies including smoked chicken and roasted pork with mojo sauce, black beans, yellow rice with pigeon peas and tostones. Plates cost $10. All proceeds will be donated to the charity.

There also will be live music outdoors from Pete Joyner Quartet (1 p.m.), Loose Lucies (Grateful Dead covers, 2:30 p.m.) and Liquid Pleasure (4:15 p.m.). Neighboring businesses also are getting in on the action — The Baxter Bar & Arcade, 108 N. Graham St., Beer Study, 106 N. Graham St., both in Chapel Hill, and Belltree, 100 Brewer Lane, Carrboro, will have drink specials and offer an opportunity to donate to the cause.

Additional donations also will be accepted in festively decorated jars in each establishment.

Video: Safe Haven for Cats was one of several local animal rescue agencies to take a planeload of animals evacuated from hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. Animals were being evaluated, treated and readied for adoption at the group's facility in Nort

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews

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