A relief effort to make everyone proud

Good news is healthy for the soul.

When that news is about the company you work for, it makes it even more enjoyable.

This week my spirits were lifted after I learned about a special fundraising project recently conducted by the Pittsburgh Pirates to aid hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

For those of you who might be unfamiliar, The Alpena News and the Pittsburgh Pirates share the same owners — the Nutting family. The umbrella of Ogden Newspapers Inc. is a broad and diversified one. While newspapers certainly are the backbone of the company, today other interests, like resort destinations and real estate also are part of its make-up.

Which is great for me, having grown up in the Pittsburgh area. These days my sports loyalties first center around Detroit professional sports teams, but I keep close tabs and still root for all things Pittsburgh as well. Thus, hearing about what the team, its fans and our owners did for Puerto Rico residents was wonderful.

Last week the Pirates began a massive campaign to gather together needed supplies for Puerto Rico residents. Consulting with their third base coach and Puerto Rico native, Joey Cora, everyone started collecting water, food supplies, household cleaning items, health supplies, diapers and clothing. Then, joining together with FedEx, the Pirates loaded all the supplies onto FedEx’s largest cargo plane and flew the donations to the island.

“In the end, thanks to the hard work of Pirates employees from every department, we collected more than 340 pallets consisting of more than 450,000 pounds of bottled water, canned goods, baby items, cleaning supplies, and hygiene products during a two-day supply drive,” said Robert Nutting, Pirates board chairman and CEO of Ogden Newspapers.

In addition, Nutting said Pirates Charities also purchased needed generators and additional batteries, while also raising more than $275,000 from Pirates players, corporations and fans to further assist with the relief efforts.

“The response from our staff, our fans and our community was truly overwhelming and inspiring,” he said.

The connection between Puerto Rico and Pittsburgh is special one, where the bonds run very deep. As I grew up my baseball idol was Pirates superstar Roberto Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico and the first Hispanic player inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

One of the most vivid memories I have is watching Clemente roam right field in the confines of old Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Literally I can still hear the sounds of his cleats dragging across the “fines” of the warning track there as he snagged a deeply hit fly ball just feet away from my seat in the stands.

As great a ball player as he was, however, he was also a humanitarian who championed people in need.

Tragically, it was while doing that work — taking supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua — when the supply plane he was riding on crashed and he died Dec. 31, 1972.

“The effort (last week’s hurricane relief fundraising) was inspired by the legacy of Roberto Clemente and the fact that the people from his home country are in such desperate need for help,” Nutting said. “I believe he would have been proud to see his Pirates and the people of the Pittsburgh region rally together so strongly to assist in the relief efforts. I know that I certainly am.”

As am I.

Today there is an extra bounce in my step and a smile on my face.

Good news is healthy for the soul.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.