Honduras Kitchen mobilizes to aid Honduras after devastation left by Hurricane Eta

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Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune

Elena Murillo, a volunteer at the Huntington Park location of Honduras Kitchen, sorts through boxes of food on Monday, Nov. 9.

The images of children and women being evacuated from inundated homes is a reality Honduras and other Central American countries have been grappling with since Hurricane Eta made landfall on Tuesday, Nov. 3 with a Category 4 rating.

According to La Tribuna, one of Honduras’ major daily newspapers, as of the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 10, the number of reported deaths due to the hurricane stood at 58. The same article reported eight persons missing as of Nov. 10.

In a November 3 bulletin issued at 7 a.m. Eastern time, The National Hurricane Center, listed maximum sustained winds near 145 mph and stated that it expected 15 to 25 inches of rain in many parts of Honduras.

Approximately 2,082,885 persons in Honduras have been affected by Hurricane Eta as of publishing time and 88,034 persons have been evacuated, according to The Permanent Contingency Commission of Honduras (Comisión Permanente de Contingencias) or COPECO, Honduras’ National Emergency Response Agency.

Seeing all of this unfold from home, Rafael Larios III, who runs Honduras Kitchen in Long Beach, put together a donation drive that began making the rounds on social media late last week.

“[This was] a matter of people kind of seeing an opportunity to help out, people decided to be part of something bigger than themselves,” Larios said of putting the donation drive together.

Honduras Kitchen is accepting donations daily from 11:00 a.m.- 8:00 p.m. at both their Long Beach and Huntington Park locations. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

“Nobody likes to see their neighbor or friends be in dire need,” Larios said. “A lot of us still have family members out there.”

Larios’ grandfather and uncle are in Honduras and have been confirmed to be doing well, however, the family of Larios’ wife has been one of the thousands of families that have been severely affected by Hurricane Eta.

“They are one of the people that you would have perhaps seen on the rooftops looking for support,” Larios said in a statement to the Signal Tribune.

COPECO listed that 50,120 persons had been rescued as of publishing time, 16,751 homes had been affected, 364 damaged and 52 destroyed.

The effort to collect and send aid to Honduras is a family and community effort, Larios said.

Alongside Larios is his sister, his brother, and about 20+ dedicated volunteers in both the Long Beach and Huntington Park locations of the restaurant, respectively, organizing the donation drive.

Both locations have high volumes of donations, with mountains of black bags filled with goods and walls of water bottles and other donations, lining the walls and floors of the restaurant. Volunteers opposite each other move swiftly, as if choreographed, as they sort and load the clothes and food donated; their eyes fixed on the blouses and sweaters they’re folding.

Carmen Bonilla (left) and Fanny Montoya (right) are volunteers who spent their afternoon sorting through donations at Honduras Kitchen. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

If it seems like Honduras Kitchen has done this before, it’s because they have.

In 1998, Larios’ parents, who started the business, organized a similar effort to help people in Honduras after the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, one of the deadliest hurricanes in the Atlantic. According to the Panamerican Health Organization, Hurricane Mitch left 6,600 people dead in Honduras, 8,052 disappeared, 11,988 wounded and 70,000 dwellings affected in its wake. In total, across Central America, 9,975 people died due to the hurricane.

“To be 100% frank with you, it feels like back in 1998, when I was younger, because the hurricane mission was very similar,” Larios said of the current donation drive.

“I remember seeing our house full of clothes and stuff that had been donated, it feels like a repeat of that again one more time,” he said. “We’ve always been in touch with the [community] and always try to stay close and give a helping hand when we can.”

A variety of donations have been coming in to both the Long Beach and Huntington Park locations, including clothes, cases of water bottles, and canned food. (Karla M. Enriquez | Signal Tribune)

Honduras Kitchen has been around for over 25 years and has become a staple in the community.

“Whether it’s through food or whether it’s been through music events, or other events, people have come to recognize us as an area where they can come and look for any kind of guidance or support,” Larios said.

The support is evident through social media, with several Instagram story posts from the Honduras Kitchen account showing people shopping to deliver donations to the establishment while others do their own small drives within their communities in order to deliver batches of donations.

Larios stated that donations geared toward helping people recover from the hurricane would be appreciated in order to help them rebuild.

Among the donation items needed are:

•Batteries
•Tools
•Blankets
•Sleeping Bags
•Toilet Paper
•Soap
•Toothpaste
•Toothbrushes
•Femenine Hygiene Products such as sanitary pads
•Diapers
•Baby wipes
•Facemasks
•Antibacterial gel
•Beans
•Rice
•Coffee
•Cornflour/wheatflour

Donations are being received daily at both restaurant locations from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with addresses as follows:

Long Beach 1909 E. 4th St Long Beach, Ca. 90802
Huntington Park 2409 E. Slauson Ave. Huntington Park, Ca. 90255

Honduras Kitchen shared a GoFundMe on Nov. 11 through Instagram, whose proceeds will be used to ship out and transport the donations that have been gathered, along with a message stating that after many discussions and requests from the community, they will not collaborate with government agencies in Honduras to send or distribute the donations. As of publication time, they raised $1,135 of their $30,000 goal.

The caption to the statement posted originally in Spanish said: “With this, we do not want to imply that the Honduran consulate is our competition. On the contrary … they do what they can and have orders to follow. Let’s work together for our country and help our people move forward.”

Although Honduras Kitchen has not shared the reason for their decision, claims made on social media coming from people in Honduras say the government is allegedly mismanaging rescue efforts. One of those claims came from Honduran soccer player Carlo Costly.

Overall Larios is grateful for the support from their community, “We appreciate the support that we’re getting from the community and the volunteers that are helping us out because, without them, we would totally be by ourselves, and it’s not just us, there are other restaurants, the consul[ate], trying to do their part, so I think we’re all trying to do our part.”