Caterpillar Restores Power to Culinary School in Puerto Rico

Class is in Session

Caterpillar Restores Power to Culinary School in Puerto Rico

For weeks on end, the students and staff at Monteclaro Escuela de Hoteleria y Artes Culinarias in Puerto Rico bathed in a nearby river. The cooking and hospitality school, a non-profit community organization for at-need girls, was without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and there was no running water for the students and teachers who live there. This school is very important to the community because it offers hope to many wayward girls in the area by teaching them cooking and business skills.

Unlike many organizations on the island, the school had prepared for a potential power outage, and had a backup generator on site. “It was a generator that we bought 10 years ago,” said Wendy Maldonado, school director.

But when days passed after Hurricane Maria, the power never came back on, and the old generator couldn’t keep up. It died, leaving the school in a difficult situation.

“Everything was running through my mind, what are we going to do now? There is no getting help from anywhere else,” said Maldonado. “We especially needed electricity for food storage as a culinary school. This was a huge problem and we didn’t know what to do with all of the food. We unloaded the freezer and fridge and gave the food to other food service locations so that it wouldn’t go bad.”

To make things worse, without electricity, their water pump didn’t work, leaving the school without running water for drinking, cooking, or bathing. They bathed in the river during this time and continued classes taught by daylight until, eventually, they were suspended.

The students and staff who lived on-site scrambled to take care of the basics, taking turns traveling to locations where the government was handing out drinking water. “The lines were always long,” says Maldonado. “Sometimes we stood for hours.”

It was during this time that school president Claudia Flores met a Rimco Cat employee through a mutual friend. Their conversation sparked an idea and Flores launched a campaign to raise funds to purchase another generator.

“We decided we were going to buy new this time,” said Gertrudis Romanach, a teacher at the school. “And we were going to buy from the Rimco Cat dealer because of their excellent customer service.”

Once they had the funds, school staff went to Rimco and met their new Caterpillar sales rep, Moises Colon. “From then on, he worked for us 24/7,” said Romanach. “He moved heaven and earth for us to get us our generator.”

Normally, procuring and installing a new Cat® generator set wouldn’t require excessively heroic efforts, but the prolonged power outage on the island in the months after Maria meant that demand for gensets was high and lead times were long. Initially, the school was told they wouldn’t get their generator until March, nearly six months after the hurricane. But knowing the desperate situation the school faced, Colon worked with other Rimco customers and was able to deliver the new 200 kW generator to the school three months ahead of schedule.

Installation day was a celebration. Four months later, the Cat generator and Monteclaro were both going strong around the clock.

“To be honest, I never know that the generator is running because it is so quiet compared to the old generator,” said Romanach. “And it’s really nice to know we have our Cat generator and it’s reliable.”

While the path hasn’t been easy, both women agree that their old generator failure could have been a blessing in disguise. “Because now we have our Cat generator!” explained Maldonado. “The electricity goes out all the time and we don’t have to worry now.”

“Bring on another hurricane because now we have our generator!” Romanach joked. “Not really, but we feel really prepared.”

Rimco Cat was essential in getting crucial power back to the island.  They put together dealer inventory, swapped units with many dealers in the U.S., and had their units shipped directly to Puerto Rico from the factory. The school has even purchased additional generators for other parts of the business through Rimco because of the excellent service and support they have provided.


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