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Denton residents come together to aid family in Puerto Rico

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Julia Falcon, For the Denton Record-Chronicle

The smell of Puerto Rican foods filled the air at Dan's Silverleaf on Sunday afternoon during "Denton Hearts Puerto Rico," a fundraiser for Hurricane Maria victims on the island. 

Tony Donate moved to Denton from Puerto Rico in 2009 to work with FEMA. As soon as he heard about how the hurricane damage affected his family, he wanted to help them become stable again. 

"My Denton family helped me a lot," Donate said. "I thought of others here who are from Puerto Rico, too."

Donate said his family is still waiting to get power and water back, and the money raised from Sunday's event will go toward sending generators to those in need. 

Jose Aponte & Caribe Club perform during "Denton Hearts Puerto Rico" at Dan's Silverleaf on Sunday. Aponte, a UNT professor who moved to Denton 22 years ago, has family in Puerto Rico.DRC
Jose Aponte & Caribe Club perform during "Denton Hearts Puerto Rico" at Dan's Silverleaf on Sunday. Aponte, a UNT professor who moved to Denton 22 years ago, has family in Puerto Rico.
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Donate has helped raise money for disaster victims before. In 2015, he coordinated "Denton Hearts Nepal" to help the victims of a devastating earthquake.

On Sunday, live music, tables full of silent auction items and donation tables filled the bar. Jenny Bosley organized the silent auction in an effort to help her friends in need. 

"We are specifically raising money for families of UNT professors and others with family in Puerto Rico," Bosley said. 

Insect spray, baby wipes, baby food and cleaning supplies were some of the things Bosley has already sent to Puerto Rico.

Jose Aponte, a professor in the University of North Texas College of Music, said all of his family members in Puerto Rico are trying to survive with what they have left. He performed at Sunday's fundraiser with his band, Caribe Club.

Aponte moved to Denton 22 years ago to begin pursuing his master's degree, and after the storm he tried to convince his mother and sister to move here with him. 

"The situation of my beloved country is so bad," Aponte said. "My family keeps me updated. We stand up and work with what we have."

The interior of the island is having the hardest time, he said. Communications are barely coming out, and supplies are just now making it out there. 

The first few boxes of supplies trickled into Puerto Rico after two weeks, and wiring money to someone takes up to eight days. 

"It is emotional for me seeing all of the images from the hurricane, knowing those were the places I grew up," Aponte said. "I am happy Dan's gave up this space [for the fundraiser] — it means something very special."

Donate's family is more stable now, and he said they are taking it day by day. 

"In one word, the help we are getting is amazing," Donate said. "Love is big, and there is a lot of appreciation for this gigantic support."