Family owned supermarket welcomes Hurricane victims with open arms

MANCHESTER – A family owned supermarket is helping Puerto Rican families impacted by Hurricane Maria, start a new life in Connecticut.

ShopRite of Manchester and East Hartford is providing jobs for several people who came to Connecticut following the devastating event.

“They opened a very big door for us,” Employee Yahaira Falcon said.

Yahaira Falcon spoke to FOX61 in January when she found out FEMA told the state it would no longer be providing 36 Puerto Rican families with aid through February 14th, as anticipated. Those families were staying at the Red Roof Inn, in Hartford.

That night, Falcon said she and others were trying to get apartments to move out of the hotel, but needed more time to work and make money. Falcon shared that she would be starting a job at ShopRite, praising the owner for giving her the opportunity.

“It means a lot to me, now I can get an apartment, I could save money to buy a car, I can buy some clothes, I can go shopping,” she said.

Falcon said prior to getting her job at ShopRite, she and many others had a hard time finding work.

“A lot of places when they do hiring they say they’ll call you but they never call you or you needed experience or a high school diploma,” she said.

She said the language barrier created another challenge; however, ShopRite is providing job opportunities for the Spanish-speaking.

President and Owner of Waverly Market’s Shoprite’s of Manchester and East Hartford Jordan Coe said she hired six people and was in the process of interviewing more. She is providing translators for the interviews.

Coe said a friend within the Puerto Rican community told her there were people in need of help.

“Originally I thought we’d be helping with providing food and other types of assistance,” Coe said. “Then, there was the call for jobs and we just said what can we do?”

Coe said many of the new employees are working overnight, stocking, cleaning and doing maintenance which helps them have their days free to look for apartments and attend other appointments.

“If they’re gonna be overnight they have an opportunity to work on their language skills while working, there’s a lot of reading and labels that can get them more comfortable and then we can bring them during the day and see how they interact,” she said. “But we would never want to make them feel uncomfortable during the day, especially when its more hectic.”

Coe said providing these jobs is also a way to make these families feel welcome in Connecticut.

“I think we have an opportunity certainly to reach out to individuals that are in need,” she said. “One of the things that I always have to think about is, what happens when you are literally ousted from your home and you’re in a place that doesn’t feel comfortable to you and you’re not necessarily welcomed or have the resources you need?”

Falcon said since she got her job at ShopRite, she has been approved for an apartment. Her goal is to bring her other family members in Puerto Rico, to Connecticut, to start a new life.

“I feel stress free, I don’t cry anymore because we don’t have an apartment, we don’t have a job, I wake up happy now,” Falcon said. “People tell me, you’re always smiling.”

Mayor Bronin’s office told FOX61 the state’s 211 system is paying for the families rejected an extended stay by FEMA through February 14. After that date, it will go on a case by case basis.

Bronin reached out to FEMA mid-January, but has not heard back, according to a spokesperson.