Pay It Forward
Puerto Rico Native and New Orleanian, Monica Lepretre, is Working to Pay It Forward
Born and bred in San Juan, local businesswoman Monica Lepretre fondly remembers the white sand and clear blue water of the Puerto Rican beaches.
“Most Sundays my family would go to the beach,” she says. “It was the best place for relaxing and visiting with other family members and friends.”
Lepretre spent this past Sunday collecting donations to help out her family and friends who are surviving the destruction of Hurricane Maria. She collected four carloads of items.
“I was so pleased to see so many friends wanting to help,” she says. “I also got a lot of help from the Sirens of New Orleans.”
Lepretre’s family is still in San Juan, where they are safe and as well as can be expected. Their house suffered some minor damage but Lepretre says it is still a struggle.
“It is a hard life right now,” she says. “The island needs help. It is a sad situation, but the people of Puerto Rico have a great attitude and I know they will make it.”
In 1990 Lepretre came to New Orleans to attend Loyola University. She planned to return after graduation but love intervened. She met her husband and soon became a New Orleanian through and through. Seven years ago, she and her husband started a business, the Gabnic Group. It is named after their two children, Gabriela and Nicolo. The company serves several purposes. She uses it for her medical and court translation business and for home renovation and rentals.
The Lepretres renovated a double in the City Park area, which they rent as a short-term rental property. They recently hosted an unnamed actress who was in town working on “Sugar Queen," which airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
“The house was a shambles when we bought it,” Lepretre says. “I enjoyed every part of the construction and renovation of it. I liked working with the contractors and translating their needs to the workers. We hope to buy another property in the near future.”
After Hurricane Katrina she and her family evacuated to San Juan. She ended up there for about five months staying with family and friends.
“Puerto Rico was wonderful to us,” she says, “so it’s pay-it-forward time.”
Though her family is doing relatively well, Lepretre says the main thing needed are batteries of all kind, especially rechargeable ones.
Lepretre’s been working with Gypsy Cheverez- Schneider, one of the founders of Puerto Rico Relief Donations.
“We just filled a plane that took off yesterday for Puerto Rico with donations,” Cheverez- Schneider says. “We had supplies leftover so we hope to be filling more planes soon and we still need donations.”
She is asking people to donate such things as batteries, wipes, Lysol and diapers. They will be collecting again this weekend and collection sites will be announced soon. To get more information go to their Facebook page or call her at (504) 231-2887.
Lepretre’s organization is working closely with Cajun Airlift, a group of New Orleans pilots who recently flew supplies to Texas and who have now turned their attention and hearts to the people of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
“I have faith that Puerto Rico will come back better than ever just like New Orleans did,” Lepretre says. “And I want to thank all who are generously helping us now,”