As Puerto Rico dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Columbia resident Jeremy Polley watched the news coverage of its recovery from his living room. The incessant occurrence of recent natural disasters and tragic events struck him hard.
“It felt like the world was on fire. And I just kinda went numb for a moment, then I snapped,” Polley said.
This was when Polley decided to put a fundraiser in motion that would provide monetary aid to the people affected by Hurricane Maria. Columbia Rocks for Puerto Rico, which will take place at the Music Farm this Sunday afternoon, is where his idea will come to fruition. The event will span several hours in which those attending can play games, listen to local bands and participate in a silent auction.
Music and money are two major components of the event, and Polley is familiar with both. As a former employee of the nonprofit theater Trustus, he has previous experience with charitable work. Additionally, Polley is now the head of the music industry department at South Carolina State University and teaches a fundraising course there.
Yet, even with knowledge of how events such as these work, it has been challenging to pull everything together in less than a month.
“I wish I had more time. I wish I had two more weeks to get more donations. You know? I wish I had three more hours with the Music Farm to bring in three more bands,” he said.
Polley says that time matters in these situations because catastrophic events eventually drift into the public’s periphery. He knew that he needed to get the event off the ground quickly if he hoped to make an impact.
"Something happens, people need help. You can't drag your feet on it. You have to move," he said.
Another of Polley’s priorities was choosing an organization that would get the money to Puerto Rico as efficiently as possible. He settled on One America Appeal, founded by the five living former presidents.
“It’s the most direct shot I could find to get down there, short of jumping on an airplane and flying down there with a suitcase full of cash,” he said.
Some of the major obstacles in Puerto Rico that Polley cited are power grid failure, access to water and access to money, which is why he was so adamant about partnering with the right charity organization.
Polley has also spent a lot of time working closely with local businesses to bring in more funds for the cause; he spoke highly of their support.
“To go into every business in the Vista, to go into every business down in Five Points and try to talk to them about donations, they’ve been so good,” he said. “They’ve been so willing to give.”
This shows that Polley’s dedication to helping hurricane victims is mobilizing others to do the same, just as he hoped it would.
“I’ve got to do something, you know, because I don’t know if anybody else is going to," he said. "But if I can do something, then maybe somebody else will do something as well."