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Co-workers rally to send Puerto Rico native home after earthquakes

Erick Rodriguez felt helpless when the earthquakes rocked Puerto Rico earlier this month.

The 22-year-old Best Buy employee moved to Medford, Oregon, from the island last June. So, he was now thousands of miles away from his mother and two sisters.

“It was heartbreaking,” he said. “For the first couple of days I couldn’t get in touch with anyone down there. I was assuming the worst.”

His family was safe, it turned out, but their home was damaged and they were sleeping in his mom’s car. For several days, they had no electricity or running water.

Erick wanted to be with them, but he had already sent his family his entire savings. So, Best Buy and his store co-workers rallied together to help send him home for a week.

The company paid for a plane ticket and rental car, and his managers donated some of their own vacation days so he wouldn’t have to miss any pay. Meanwhile, a fellow store employee organized a donation account to help his mom repair her home, which she had only recently rebuilt following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“I teared up when I heard about it,” Erick said. “They went above and beyond — and so much further — to help me and my family.”

Providing support was not a question

After learning about Erick’s situation, General Manager Chris Folgate reached out to his leaders to ask if there was anything the company could do to help. The answer: A resounding yes.

Within hours, they made travel arrangements.

“There was no question whatsoever that we were going to help him,” said Colleen Jacques, a market human resources manager for Best Buy. “The fact that he gives everything he has to help his family says a lot about his character.”

The response was above and beyond what Chris expected.

“I’ve worked here 15 years, and I’ve heard stories about the company helping its employees,” he said. “But to be living it in the moment is different. For me, it’s one of the highlights of my career.”

Erick’s co-workers also were eager to help. Several volunteered to cover shifts while he was away, and another, Monique Amato, set up the donation account. So far, 21 donors have contributed a total of more than $1,000.

“We’re very, very close. It’s just the culture we’ve built at our store,” she said. “We do what we can to take care of one another.”

Erick plans to send the money to his mother so she can repair cracked walls and other damage. He also plans to keep a small emergency fund in case he needs to make another trip home.

But, more importantly, the outpouring of support provided a ray of hope during an otherwise difficult time.

“It still shocks me,” Erick said. “I’ve only worked here for five months, but everyone went out of their way to help me. It truly feels like I’m part of a bigger family.”


(Pictured above: From left, Chris Folgate, Erick Rodriguez and Monique Amato)


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