Helmsley Charitable Trust Grants $1.3 Million to Support Recovery and Resilience for Puerto Rico’s Underserved Healthcare Centers

Grants to The Solar Foundation and Direct Relief will bring solar power and better infrastructure to health clinics, ensuring continuous care for Puerto Rican communities in need

New York, August 2, 2018 – Today, The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announced new funding to The Solar Foundation and Direct Relief to ensure continuous access to healthcare for communities in Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Since the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s electrical grid has faced a power crisis, significantly affecting critical healthcare centers and hospitals. Remote areas are hardest hit by unreliable power, including unexpected outages. Two new Helmsley grants will help healthcare centers in these underserved communities continue to provide essential health services during outages, as well as prepare for future disasters.

“Months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s lack of power has meant a lack of life-saving medical care. These grants are critical to building health infrastructure that can last,” says Stephanie Cuskley, CEO of the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “The Solar Foundation and Direct Relief share Helmsley’s commitment to supporting Puerto Rico’s recovery and resilience to ensure continued access to healthcare for those who need it the most.”

A new grant to The Solar Foundation will support their Solar Saves Lives (SSL) initiative, which has partnered with major humanitarian relief organizations to install solar and battery storage equipment on healthcare centers across the island, bringing reliable, clean power to medical clinics. SSL, in partnership with the Puerto Rico Primary Care Association Network (PRPCAN), has identified several dozen priority health clinics for solarization, and Helmsley support will pay for installation at six of them.

A second grant to Direct Relief will focus on health center infrastructure, supporting repairs and maintenance to temperature-controlled storage to ensure access to life-saving medicines. Where practicable, Direct Relief will connect newly installed refrigeration units with solar power outlets to ensure continued cooling of temperature-sensitive medicines during power outages.

“Solar and battery storage technologies will allow these community health centers to continue providing vital services even when the power grid goes down,” said Andrea Luecke, President and Executive Director of The Solar Foundation. “This generous grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust supports our work to use solar energy to build a stronger, more resilient Puerto Rico.”

A study published in May by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health estimates the death count after Hurricane Maria at 4,600, mostly due to delayed medical care. This pair of Helmsley grants is intended to address the urgent need for reliable power and cold storage, so that life-saving care and treatment are not hampered by severe weather. Advancing clean energy in Puerto Rico is also an important way of building a more resilient power grid for the future and will reduce electricity bills for the health centers.

“We are deeply thankful for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s expansive commitment to Puerto Rico,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO of Direct Relief. “Helmsley has a long-standing record of supporting and giving back to communities in need, and it is a privilege for Direct Relief to work with them to extend assistance to people and communities still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Maria.”

“Building a resilient Puerto Rico requires collaboration and cooperation across sectors, especially philanthropy,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. “This is exactly why we supported the recently released ReImagina Puerto Rico strategy – to ensure that there was a north star that all interested parties can work towards. Helmsley’s funding to The Solar Foundation and Direct Relief responds to a key priority in the strategy, and it’s great to have new support for this critical effort.”

About the Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $2 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. For more information, visit www.helmsleytrust.org.

About Direct Relief

Established in 1948 with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies, Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical resources throughout the world—without regard to politics, religion, ethnic identities, or ability to pay. With operations spanning more than 85 countries and all 50 states in the U.S., Direct Relief is the only charitable nonprofit to obtain Verified Accredited Wholesale Distributor (VAWD) accreditation by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Among other distinctions, Direct Relief earns a perfect score of 100 from independent evaluator Charity Navigator, was listed among the world’s most innovative nonprofits by Fast Company, and has received the CECP Directors’ Award, the Drucker Prize for Nonprofit Innovation, and the President’s Award from Esri for excellence in GIS mapping. For more information, please visit https://www.DirectRelief.org.

About The Solar Foundation®

The Solar Foundation® is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate adoption of the world’s most abundant energy source. Through its leadership, research, and capacity building, The Solar Foundation creates transformative solutions to achieve a prosperous future in which solar and solar-compatible technologies are integrated into all aspects of our lives. Learn more at TheSolarFoundation.org.


Silan Akgul, sakgul@helmsleytrust.org, 212-953-2854