Abby Carter, lecturer of mathematics, is selling T-shirts to raise money for victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, specifically for the families of two former Troy students, Carla Casillas and Jonathan Valdez, who are now married.
“I co-own a T-shirt company called Betty Brand Tee Co. with my best friends from Troy, and when we heard about the hurricanes — Harvey in Texas, Irma in Florida and Maria in Puerto Rico — we wanted to be able to do something to help,” Carter said.
“So we decided that we would come up with T-shirt designs and sell them to raise money for people affected by the hurricanes.”
Carter and the other two co-owners of the company started selling the T-shirts on Sept. 11, but it was a week later that they decided they wanted the money to go to the families of Carter’s former students.
“Five years ago, I taught Carla Casillas and Jonathan Valdez in one of my math classes, and I have always stayed in touch with them ever since,” Carter said.
After Maria, she heard that Valdez’s brother’s family had lost everything.
“That is when I decided where I wanted the money to go—to their families,” Carter said.
According to Carter, as of Monday, $664 has been raised, and all the money will go to Valdez’s family.
“We wanted it to be more personal than just donating to an organization; we wanted to help someone who really needed it,” Carter said. “Since this was the family of two people I really cared about, I felt that it was the best way to go.”
According to Carter, the money raised will be given to Casillas to give to their respective families so they can spend the money on whatever they need the most.
According to Casillas, they have not been able to communicate well with their families because of bad cellphone signals and their conversations being constantly interrupted.
“It is a very difficult situation that my family and so many other people in Puerto Rico are in,” said Valdez. “We are very grateful for what Ms. Carter did for my family.”
Valdez’s family bought a generator with the money Carter sent them. Although it was not powerful enough to power an air conditioner, his family is able to operate fans with it.
“It is so much better than having to live without any electricity and fans, especially when it is 105 degrees,” Casillas said. “People there need baby products, towels, non-perishable foods, basic medicines like Tylenol that we can send from here.”
According to Casillas, they are living day-by-day with basic supplies.
“I don’t really know what their needs are right now; I just know that Jonathan’s brother’s family lost everything and has a 1-year old daughter to take care of,” Carter said. “I hope that this will make other people want to help.”
Casillas teaches at Pike Liberal Arts School and Valdez is a baseball coach at Ariton High School. According to Carter, many people in the community who know the couple supported her when they found out where the money was going.
“I think a lot of people don’t do anything because they feel like they are just one person and what they do is not significant,” Carter said. “Think of how many of us there are; one person may not be able to do a lot, but together, it adds up.
“Don’t do nothing; do something.”
These T-shirts can be found at Confetti Crate in downtown Troy or online at bettybrandteeco.com.
People interested in donating to Puerto Rico can contact Carla Casillas at email@example.com, where she can provide the address in Puerto Rico of her mother, who will then take them to the nearest shelter around her.