Do Good

Weathering It Together for Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Effort/Alex Ray Humanitarian Trip
October 12-21, 2017

Our owner Alex Ray traveled to Puerto Rico from October 12 - 21, 2017 to lend a hand in feeding residents still struggling without basic necessities after the destructive Hurricane Maria.  Alex worked with other volunteers in "pop up" kitchens in space donated by restaurants that cannot currently operate because of the power outage. The crew cooked about 2,000 meals a day and delivered them to residents in villages outside of San Juan.


While Alex was volunteering there, our Common Man family held a week-long fundraiser to support hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.  During the “Weathering It Together” fundraiser, any guest who donated $10 or more to our Common Effort fund received a $10 Do Good Bonus Card. The benefit raised more than $21,000, and our Common Man family is matching the donations made.  Alex will determine the best allocation of the funds and make a return trip to Puerto Rico before Thanksgiving. 

WMUR-TV caught up with Alex before he left New Hampshire. Click the video box below to view the story.



View media coverage from Alex's trip to Puerto Rico in our online newsroom here.

Alex sent back photos and blog updates while he was volunteering. You can scroll down to read his blog and check our Facebook page, Instagram and Twitter for posts made on our social channels.

Thank you for your continued support of our efforts to DO GOOD here at home and in our communities across the globe.

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Back in NH
October 24, 2017


Back home in New Hampshire and reflecting on our time in Puerto Rico.
 
We met so many positive people with can-do attitudes. They accepted us and let me come in and cook and help organize large-scale feeding operations. We didn’t always have the right ingredients or tools, but everyone pitched in to cook meals and get them out to the villages each day. I felt good about being able to piece something together, but we were pretty stressed at the end of each day wondering how we’d do it again the next day.
 
On the second to last day, we traveled to a town called Toa Baja, a very poor area with small, one-story homes next to each other.  They had a storm surge 6-10 feet high, so the homes were flooded.  Some streets were totally full of items that had washed out of the houses. What was left in the houses was mud in the first floor that had to be taken out by shovels and wheelbarrows. We distributed more than 300 meals to the town that day, going block to block with a community leader.
 
The heat at night was 92 degrees with no air conditioning, no fan, and no lights. We were cooking all day in hot kitchens with no fans or exhaust. That was hard, then I saw Toa Baja, and I felt lucky for what we had.
 
It was rewarding for me to do a good job, and send updates back so that our friends in New Hampshire could understand the need, and to help us raise funds to help individuals get a new roof, or door, or tools, and to give to organizations to help others. They have a mess there and looking forward, it’s not pretty. These people won’t have jobs for six to eight months because businesses are closed, there’s no power or water.  Some will never re-open because there will be no tourists for a year.
 
I’m proud to say that our guests and staff helped us raise more than $21,000 for relief in Puerto Rico. Now, I have to think hard about how to best distribute it. The hardest thing to do is to give away money, to make sure it’s being used where it’s most needed.
 
The next thing I want to do is hire some employees and bring them up here to New Hampshire. There’s a mass exodus from Puerto Rico because businesses are closed and there are no jobs. Many don’t even have today’s food. They are U.S. citizens and I’m going to try to help to organize a way to get them back here and back to work for us. I plan to return for a few days before Thanksgiving, and hopefully organize this job force. The economy is good in NH, I think we can house people and get them back to work.
 
Thanks for being on the journey with us, and for your support.  More to come soon….Alex


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Puerto Rico
October 19, 2017


There is such a cross-section of people volunteering, it's amazing. 

Some are cooks, some retirees. One is a commercial architect, we had fun trying to talk in my broken Spanish and his broken English.  

Rafy, the organizer of this food operation, is a restaurant guy who works at a frenetic pace. I thought I was frenetic! He has amassed a lot of support. High end stoves donated, and new pop up kitchens opening. 

There is mass concern about people needing jobs similar to after Katrina. I did hire someone named Marcus to come cook for us in NH. I may hire a pop up kitchen guy named Carlos who has been great to work with. He has been donating his time and skill every day, but like many, as this lack of power and water drags on, savings accounts and credit lines eventually dry up. People need to earn their income to support their families. That's probably the toughest thing. 

There may be a line to wait in to get water or to get a hot meal, but the longer these communities go without basic utilities, the longer stores and businesses don't reopen to give people back their jobs.

I'm back at the El Psycho Deli today to prepare another 500-600 meals to go out. We are lucky in San Juan to have water or we wouldn't be able to cook.

So good to hear about the generosity of our friends in New Hampshire. Good to know we are all doing what we can to help. These communities need it. 

Thx to everyone. Headed home soon…Alex


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Puerto Rico
October 17, 2017



We were in Old San Juan today, set up in a smaller kitchen with our new friends Carlos and Anthony.


In our kitchen, we prepared 480 meals to go towards the 2,000 being distributed to the hills around the coast of the north shore, to Loiza and Toa Baja. Anthony is very competitive, and puts out the most meals from the smallest kitchen! We took some time to regroup and boost the morale of the crews who have been working tirelessly to help others.

Rafy (in the turquoise shirt), who organized this herculean food effort, likely thought this would last for a few weeks, but it will probably go on for months because of the need.


The restaurant where we gathered had its generator go dark about every five minutes. It’s very weird, almost post-apocalyptic. 

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Puerto Rico
October 15, 2017


We came across a line for food and water in Rincon on the western part of the Island. There is a daily limit on food and water. 


The town has no water and limited diesel access for generators. Ninety percent of the island is without power, 10% of the remaining people and businesses have generated power. People are leaving the island because there are no jobs in the foreseeable future. Going to be a good six months for the electricity to be back because they’re not going to repair, it will be a totally rebuilt system. A lot of people also don’t have water, they can’t get water from their wells because they have no electricity.


 
Stopped in a grocery store today and the only items in the cases were eggs! Helicopters are flying around dropping supplies, like you see in the movies.


 
 

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Puerto Rico
October 14, 2017

The chalkboard sign in front of this restaurant says, “Our spirit is intact and we will come out on top.” 


 

The restaurant is closed due to being without power. Some are open one day, closed the next, because they don’t have the diesel fuel to power the generators.

Cooked with volunteers again today, making beans and rice with chicken, a local staple, and packaged up the meals for delivery to those in need.


 

Met two guys from a restaurant in Brooklyn called Mofongo, named after a uniquely Puerto Rican dish. They came down to help the Fundacion El Plato Caliente. 


Power lines are down everywhere, we’re driving our car under them to get around.  Traffic moves well even without the power, because everyone is polite and letting each other go at the intersections. 
 

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Puerto Rico
October 13, 2017

Even as the plane landed, I could see trash and trees and buildings stripped of their walls.

 

The roads have power lines hanging over them, mostly dead, but you can’t count on that. Driving through San Juan is difficult because the traffic lights aren’t working. With little exception, the only power is from generators, so getting fuel for them is top priority and hard to get.


 

 

Went to my first meeting this morning with some chefs and kitchen leaders for a job. Found the “Hot Plate Foundation” or Fundacion El Plato Caliente, and I’m working with them to cook meals in San Juan that will be delivered to remote areas in the center of the island like Toa Baja and Utuado. The restaurants aren’t open but have donated space for these volunteers to cook the meals and deliver them to remote areas with no infrastructure and lesser means. They are cooking up to 2,000 meals a day in large batches, cooking all day, with volunteers picking up every two hours to distribute.

  

There was a two-hour line to get into Costco for supplies, and once I was inside, I found the supplies to be very limited. No fresh vegetables. We met Nora, the manager of a locally-owned grocery store, who helped to get us bulk produce when the bigger chains had nothing, and offered to order more just for us. It is hard to get food here, long lines.  We were lucky to meet up with Michelle, a PhD student who became our personal guide. She’s helping us acquire food, fuel and with our language skills.


 

 

We worked on a “pop up” kitchen in another donated space in Calle Cerra, at the El Psycho Deli. Tomorrow, we’ll be cooking in three kitchens in San Juan. As darkness nears, curfews take effect and cooking stops until morning.  

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Haiti Earthquake Relief - 2010

In January 2010, upon learning of the devastation caused in Haiti after a massive earthquake, our Common Man family of restaurants in New Hampshire put forth a "Common Effort for Haiti" event, donating 50% of all food sales at 15 of our locations to disaster relief efforts.

Partnering with New Hampshire chapters of The American Red Cross and Partners in Development, a non-profit which has been working in Haiti since 1991 to transform communities so they may be self-sufficient, the Common Man family raised more than $60,000 thanks to the help of our generous guests.

But for our owner Alex Ray, well-known for his commitment to community, resourcefulness and willingness to help, it was simply not enough.  So, as he did when the tragedy of September 11th happened in New York, and when Hurricane Katrina struck in New Orleans, Alex packed his bags and headed to Haiti to offer his support.

Joined by local nurse Carolyn Brown, Alex set out for Haiti on Tuesday, January 26 with medical supplies, emergency equipment, a digital camera, Flip video camera and laptop.  We will chronicle his journey here as he is able to send communications back to us, so that we may take you along this "common man's" journey to help our fellow man.

We will also post updates to our Facebook and Twitter pages at www.facebook.com/thecommonmannh and  http://twitter.com/thecmannh where our fans, followers and friends can post messages back.  We will make every effort to get your questions, comments and notes of support to Alex and the New Hampshire team working in Haiti.

As you follow his journey, please consider whether you've taken a chance to "Do Good" today!



Monday, February 1, 2010

I am sorry it has taken so long for an update. Technology is just not working for me here, but I will keep trying.

We arrived in Port-au-Prince Sunday, January 31, after an all-day drive from Jimani in the Dominican Republic. We had to drive over the border into Haiti, it was risky. We’re going into town to meet people there and go into city to get acclimated.  Today we hope to make it to a home called Children of the Nations, which is a shelter that existed here before the tragedy, but obviously the demand and need is much greater after the quake.

Since arriving last Tuesday, we spent the first four or five days in Barahona, on the south coast on the Dominican Republic, about three hours east of Santo Domingo. I am with John and Cathy Bentwood and Carolyn Brown, all of New Hampshire, and trained medical professionals. There is a clinic there run by Children of the Nations, and they are only treating children. We mostly saw children who were severely injured, though our team wasn’t doing any major operations, but things like setting broken bones, giving post-operative care to amputees. 

It is unfortunate that many children had crush injuries and there wasn’t proper medical care to treat them. They handled almost a 1,000 operations in a clinic in Jimani, and did very hasty operations because they didn’t have other choices. They used hand tools and had unsanitary conditions. Helicopters were coming in to Barahona and taking some children away who needed more advanced care.  I helped the medical teams run patients out to the helicopters on stretchers.

On Thursday we drove to Jimani. There’s a large hospital that was a rehab center but turned into a crisis center. At it’s height they treated hundreds, they are now down to about 200-300 patients there. We worked with about 100 doctors from all over the world. 

We traveled on Saturday into a very simple village in Haiti on the north side of the lake near Port-au-Prince, with about 200 residents, and I’m telling you it’s like aborigines, very simple, never seen anything so basic. The children are malnourished and ill, we spent time with them giving food and vitamins and treating infections. We had lines for two or three hours, doing triage and taking care of skin infections, things like that. We gave away a lot of the food we brought for ourselves, we just felt so bad. It was chaotic, they are so hungry. There is a pastor there and they sang songs and said thank you to us.

They told us they had noticed the lake they live on had been rising, and no one knew why. They now wonder if it’s because of the shifting earth that led to the quake.

We got to Port-au-Prince on Sunday and used the US Embassy as a meeting place. They were very good to us and the other people from the shelters came to meet us. Because I am not part of an official medical team, I cannot stay at the shelters designated for doctors and nurses, even though I’ve been working with them. It was very scary for me learning that the place where the medical team is staying would not take me. I was fortunate to meet a Haitian family we worked with at the hospital in Jimani, who has been serving as translators and almost security guards for us. They have taken me into their home on the top of a hill in Port-au-Prince, and let me stay with them. Their home was not damaged by the quake, though a large cement gazebo outside of their home crumbled. Since then, their nine year old daughter will not sleep in the house. She is still scared.

I am working mostly as a “resource man”, organizing and getting food and supplies together when I can. We had a funny incident where the coffee bean grinder broke, and for 200 volunteers working around the clock, to hear there’s no coffee, that’s like a crisis to them. I took the beans outside, wrapped them in cloth and smashed them with a cinder block. And we had coffee! It was a little gesture, but whatever I can do to help, I will do. 

I want to feel like I’ve done something and I guess I’ve been pretty menial, but we’re working to keep the group going. It’s hot. Nothing works. Cell phone and laptop having problems. It’s going to be a long haul down here.  The whole city has no electricity. There’s so much damage.  No public water. I don’t know where you start. Huge amount of trucks - Red Cross, etc.  Airport is strictly military shipments coming and going. Pretty hectic. 

More soon…Alex



Monday, January 25, 2010

Some insights from Alex about why he embarked on this journey:

"At this point, I have waited a week or so to make sure my going is valuable.  A team of friends I know from this area have been down there for five days, and we've been communicating about what the needs are, what supplies I should bring, and I've organized that from here with the help of many.

I am experienced in resourcing teams in the food service area, and think I would be of help.  There seems to be no infrastructure in the disaster area right now for people to be fed.  Emergency crews need to be fed, victims need to be fed, teams need to be organized to take the drop shipments and products and turn them into something.  They are receiving huge drop shipments but they have to be put together, made into something to eat.  I can do that!  I may cook, I may set up a kitchen, make some stew, whatever it is I can do, I am willing to do.

I feel like I can find a place where I can fit. When I went to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and New York City after 9/11, it became my job to organize things. Pots, pans, plates, products and teams to help get people fed.  I believe I can be of help by being a resource on the ground.

I also hope my first-hand accounts sent back to New Hampshire and posted here will cause more people to realize the effect this disaster has had on the people of Haiti, and inspire them to give back in their own way.  I hope I can encourage and bring home the need as we articulate it.

I knew nothing about New Orleans before I got there, and the same is true now.  When I get there, I can learn and adapt to the needs of those around me.  I honestly have no idea what I'll be doing, but I'm going there to work."

Flying Monkey


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