A state lawmaker is leading a major charge to rally Minnesotans behind a cause near and dear to her heart: Puerto Rico.
DFL Sen. Melisa Franzen, of Edina, was born and raised in the city of Aguadilla, which is in the northwestern corner of the island.
Now, in the wake of Hurricane Maria – which devastated Puerto Rico – Franzen is calling on Minnesota to help the long recovery effort ahead.
On Monday, the senator's office announced the formation of the "National Effort Demanding Urgent Action in Puerto Rico," a coalition that includes Minnesota's U.S. Congressional representatives Keith Ellison and Tim Walz.
It's aimed at "coordinating a massive effort to heighten awareness of the crisis engulfing Puerto Rico," and demanding "a massive response from military and government relief agencies to prevent a humanitarian crisis on the island of 3.5 million U.S. citizens."
Locally, those efforts will include at least one demonstration and a fundraiser (more on that below).
At a Monday morning news conference in the State Capitol rotunda, Franzen and her fellow coalition members demanded the federal government deliver swift relief to Puerto Rico.
Franzen's personal efforts
For Franzen, who attended the University of Minnesota and the Hamline University School of Law, helping her native land has become an intensely personal mission.
Her personal Facebook account is filled with posts about the poor conditions in Puerto Rico, as well as some criticism of the troubled relief operation.
Franzen is not alone in that criticism; some Puerto Rican leaders – like San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz – have slammed the federal government for what they say is a lackluster crisis response.
And as the New York Times points out, the Trump administration's handling of the situation has become a "heated political issue."
But at home, Franzen is using social media to spread the word about two local gatherings aimed at helping Puerto Rico.
One is part of a "National Day of Action for Puerto Rico," and will involve a demonstration at the U.S. District Court building in Minneapolis on Wednesday.
Organizers are encouraging participants to bring signs, flags, musical instruments, and friends as they "demand short- and long-term action to rebuild" the island. You can get the details on that event by clicking here.
The other event is "Fuerza: A Fundraiser for Puerto Rico" Thursday night at the Kitty Kat Klub, a bar in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis.
It promises "a night of music, art and resiliency," starting at 10 p.m. and going until closing time. There's no cover, but donations will be accepted (more here).
Want to know how you can help? Check out this article here.