Luis Molina and Haydee Ortiz, from the nonprofit group Hijos de Borinquen, donate items to the Carmelite Home in East Chicago. | Jerry Davich~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 25, 2014 6:06AM
Luis Molina unloaded several boxes of household items and basic toiletries, not having a clue who will receive them.
“It doesn’t matter to us,” Molina said with a shrug. “We just want to help.”
Molina is vice president of the Asociacion Benefica Hijos de Borinquen (Sons of Borinquen Benefit Association), a Puerto Rican organization known by its members as the Hijos de Borinquen.
Last Monday, when much of Northwest Indiana was preparing for St. Patrick’s Day festivities, Molina and other Hijos members visited the Carmelite Home in East Chicago. Under the radar of any public recognition, they quietly made yet another generous donation to strangers in need.
“We help who we can,” shrugged Molina, of Gary, who’s been a group member for nearly 30 years.
On this day, they helped babies and girls at the nonprofit Carmelite Home, one of the best residential child care facilities and emergency shelters in the state. Since giving refuge to one frightened child nearly 100 years ago, the Carmelite sisters have opened their hearts and homes to children in crisis.
“Oh, my goodness, oh my goodness!” exclaimed the facility’s administrative assistant who checked in the latest donation. “The sisters here are going to be thrilled with these items.”
“You have no idea how much we need this,” she said, choking back emotion while pulling out a copy of the home’s wish list.
Hijos members Tony Torres and Jorge Lebron, both of East Chicago, smiled proudly while unloading more donations.
“We also have a $400 check for you,” said Haydee Ortiz of Gary, who helped Molina, Torres and Lebron.
This is a perfect illustration of the group’s long-unheralded efforts in East Chicago and across Northwest Indiana. Its members give their time, their money and their compassion to those in need.
“If they’re legitimate,” Molina firmly added.
The Hijos de Borinquen is certainly legitimate, with a proud history.
Founded in 1958, the organization’s name came from the ancient island of Puerto Rico. Before the Spanish arrived and renamed it Puerto Rico, the indigenous Indians, or the Tainos, called the land “Borinquen,” meaning “Land of the Valiant Lord.”
“Puerto Ricans arrived in East Chicago to work in the steel industry,” said Frances Vega-Steele, associate vice chancellor of student affairs at Ivy Tech Community College — Northwest. “They were recruited, brought over and many of them stayed, making Northwest Indiana their home.”
Vega-Steele was the Puerto Rican organization’s first female vice president last year and she now serves at its board of directors trustee.
Although the group’s founders began its mission addressing the needs among Puerto Rican families in East Chicago, it has expanded to help others across the region.
“They are absolutely free of discrimination and they help everyone in need, whenever possible,” Vega-Steele told me.
The group also offers its hall for public meetings, assists several youth groups, and makes regular contributions to a variety of organizations, including the March of Dimes, the Lions Club and many local churches.
“The majority of our members are senior citizens who enjoy the time spent together and helping others,” Vega-Steele said.
The organization recently sponsored a Hobart High School sophomore, Maya Villabos, for the South Shore Youth for Community Engagement (SLYCE) program, operated by Leadership Northwest Indiana.
“Of course, the Hijos agreed to sponsor a student,” Vega-Steele said. “I am honored to be a part of this loving, distinguished organization.”
Have you ever heard of this organization? I didn’t think so. Neither had I until last week. Shame on me. If you know of other unheralded organizations in Northwest Indiana that do such great work, let me know.
To contact the Hijos group, contact Vega-Steele at 879-9137, Ext. 6251, or at email@example.com.
Perfect bracket, anyone?
Psst ... are any other college basketball “March Madness” junkies forced to watch the games on the sly while at work, school or even at home?
If so, have you heard about the NCAA.com “Boss Button,” allowing viewers to flip back and forth between a game and something innocent, like a spreadsheet or email program? You can find it here: http://www.ncaa.com/march-madness-live, in the upper right-hand corner of the page.
Also, with so many upsets already ruining most fans’ bracket predictions (curses to Ohio State and Duke!), I doubt any readers have a perfect bracket at this point.
Just imagine these odds at the start of the 63-game tournament for a perfect bracket at its end: One in 9,223,372,036,854,780,000 (or, 1 in 9.2 quintillion). I’m told it’s the equivalent of having a fair coin come up “heads” 63 times in a row.
If you still happen to have a winning bracket, the easiest part is over, sports statisticians say. On average, favorite team predictions in the first round have a 78 percent chance of winning. Not too shabby. But that probability sinks to 68 percent in the second round and 61 percent for the Sweet 16 and beyond.
And when that national championship game is played on April 7 in Arlington, Texas, your odds of still having a perfect bracket — and winning Warren Buffet’s promised $1 billion — are 1 in 6 billion.
Maybe that’s why it’s called madness.
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