Metro-East News

Longtime Belleville teacher having fundraiser for family members starting ‘all over again’

Elba Valdes, left, Ivonne Escoda, middle, and Jasmin Escoda, right, pose for a photo. The three women fled their homes in Puerto Rico right before hurricane Maria hit.
Elba Valdes, left, Ivonne Escoda, middle, and Jasmin Escoda, right, pose for a photo. The three women fled their homes in Puerto Rico right before hurricane Maria hit.

A longtime Belleville teacher is asking the metro-east community to help her Puerto Rican family rebuild their lives after narrowly escaping Hurricane Maria with little more than the clothes on their backs.

Zaida Coil, who taught Spanish at Althoff Catholic High School for about 50 years, is having a fundraiser trivia and silent auction event beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Luke Parish Center, 301 N. Church St. in Belleville.

She said her sister, Elva Valdes, and her adult daughters, Ivonne Escoda and Jasmine Escoda, made it onto a Delta Airlines plane in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and flew to New York City a week after Hurricane Maria hit.

“It was a miracle because you couldn’t get out of that island,” she said. “You just couldn’t. They live in a valley in the middle of the island; there was no access to town. They would have not gotten out. What would they drink? What would they eat?”

Coil noted her sister suffers from medical conditions that would have made staying in Puerto Rico even more dangerous.

Now the three women are in Arlington, Va., with a family member. However, Coil said her sister and nieces need to find an apartment of their own, which requires money.

“They are at the mercy of someone else,” Coil said. “So we decided to do this fundraiser. Whatever we raise, we give them the bare necessities, and the rest we will donate to the Red Cross.”

She said trivia participants will have a chance to win silent-auction items — donated from businesses and community members — and enter a 50/50 raffle. She said registration will begin at 6:30 p.m., and attendees can purchase beer, wine and soda at a cash bar.

“My sister is 85. Do you know what it is to start all over again? My goodness, it’s terrible,” Coil said.

The retired teacher said she fears that money donated to various relief efforts doesn’t always get directly to those in need, which is why she is having the fundraiser.

“They are crying because they lost important papers, memories and pictures. It’s just terrible,” Coil said of her family.

If you go to the fundraiser:

When: Friday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: St. Luke Parish Center, 301 N. Church St. in Belleville

What: Fundraiser trivia night with raffle and silent auction

Cost: $15 to play trivia, cash bar for beverages

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