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Pirates, FedEx Ground Deliver Aid to Puerto Rico Hurricane Victims

In early October, a large group from the Pirates that included players, coaches and front office staff collected more than 450,000 pounds of supplies during a two-day drive at PNC Park that was designed to assist the people of Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. 

The response from Pirates fans and team partners was overwhelming and heartwarming. Thousands of Pittsburghers came to the North Shore to drop off donations of bottled water, canned goods, baby care items, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and more. Pirates Charities purchased generators and batteries, food and other items that were also donated. In addition, monetary donations from Pirates players, corporations and fans raised more than $200,000 to assist with the relief efforts. 

Pirates Charities and project partner FedEx Ground delivered the much-needed supplies to the people of the island on October 5, and oversaw the distribution of goods to those in the most need. The Pirates contingent that made the trip to Puerto Rico included Chairman Bob Nutting, President Frank Coonelly, Third Base Coach Joey Cora, current players Sean Rodriguez and Francisco Cervelli, former players John Candelaria and Omar Moreno, and Mike Gonzalez -- who serves as a special assistant to General Manager Neal Huntington in the area of cultural initiatives. 

"We cannot thank FedEx, as well as our other partner organizations, enough for their help in making this all possible," Nutting said. "This effort was inspired by the memory of Roberto Clemente and the fact that the people from his home country are in such desperate need for help. I feel Roberto would be proud to see the Pirates and the people of Pittsburgh rally together so strongly to assist in the relief efforts."   

Candelaria grew up in New York City. However, he is of Puerto Rican descent and played a lot of basketball on the island during summer breaks when he was in high school. He also played winter baseball there for five years as a professional. Because Puerto Rico is dear to him, Candy proactively called the Pirates and asked if anything was in the works to aid the victims of Hurricane Maria. When plans for the relief effort were announced, the former All-Star pitcher drove to Pittsburgh from his home in North Carolina to help. 
"It hurt me to see what the hurricane did to the island, so I wanted to do anything I could to help," Candelaria said. "It was amazing to watch car after car, the SUVs, the vans, and all the people that came forward and dropped off supplies. The people of Pittsburgh really turned out in a huge way.

"And the Pirates front office people, geez, they worked their tails off. I was proud of them. Bob Nutting should be proud of the people who work for him, and I'm sure he is."

What Candelaria witnessed when he arrived in Puerto Rico was even worse than what he had seen on television news reports.

"We couldn't go too far because of the conditions, but they took me and Omar and Cervelli on a quick, little trip and there was devastation everywhere," he said. "There were some places in San Juan where people were working and restaurants were open, but in a lot of other places it was the middle of the day and there was no activity. It was tough to see, but still, I'm thankful that the Pirates family asked me to go."
FedEx Ground and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank were saluted for their work on the Puerto Rico relief effort during the Pirates Charities partners recognition event at PNC Park in early December, as were Cervelli, Rodriguez, Cora and Gonzalez.
"They (the Pirates) said a huge thanks to FedEx and the Pittsburgh Food Bank that night because, wow, they came through big time," Rodriguez said. "Those are the kind of people you've got to show a lot of love to. They stopped what they were doing to help out the way they did. We were just trying to do our part. That's all. 

"The way I was raised, we're all family in essence. Right? I believe we're all of the body of Christ. We're all brothers. We're all sisters. We're going to agree or disagree sometimes, absolutely. But when you see a brother or a sister down, you try to help them out. Same race. Not the same race. It really doesn't matter. It's just someone in need, and you fill that need as much as you can. That's what you try and do. And honestly, that's what I felt."

"We're so grateful to everyone in our organization, our corporate and non-profit partners, and most importantly our fans, for making our Puerto Rico relief effort an experience we will never forget," Pirates Senior Vice President of Community & Public Affairs Patty Salerno added. "When we got the incredible news that FedEx was giving us a cargo plane, we were concerned that we wouldn't be able to fill it. To our amazement, we filled that plane, plus another, plus seven more tractor trailer loads. The generosity of Pirates fans and the citizens of our community was overwhelming. It was an honor to be involved."