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Utah company rescues employees from devastation in Puerto Rico


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah company with an office in Puerto Rico is feeling the need to help their employees any way they can after Hurricane Maria. But instead of just sending supplies they did something a little unconventional.

Zurixx, a financial education company based in Cottonwood Heights, decided to fly all 15 employees of their Puerto Rican office and their families to Utah.

Sarah Velilla and her 8-year-old daughter, Ava, were among those brought to Utah. Ava was in tears Tuesday as she talked with her mother about the devastation in their native home.

“Today, Ava found out her best friend’s house was destroyed in the hurricane,” Velilla said. “It’s something a young girl shouldn’t have to deal with.”

The story is one of many the family has received after Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm, hit the island last month. The family rode out the storm in their home, which was damaged by strong winds and heavy rains.

“The aftermath is horrible because when you go out, you don't see anything,” Velilla said. “There is nothing left."

She said it was through pure luck that her phone got service hours after the storm, and it was then that an important text from her employer came through.

“I got the text saying: Hey, you need to contact this number. You need to call. They are getting everybody out of the island,” Velilla said.

A total of 25 people were flown by Zurixx to Utah nearly two weeks ago and have been placed in temporary housing around the Salt Lake Valley.

“Once we realized the severity of the situation down there, we realized we needed to take action,” Zurixx co-founder Jeff Spangler said.

Spangler would not say how much his company has spent on room and board for the families, but he is confident the temporary move was the right thing do.

“Obviously, there are costs to do these things. But these people are family,” he said. “We are committed to do what it takes to make sure they are taken care of."

It was an act of kindness Velilla and her family are grateful for.

“This is one step further than what normally an employer would do,” she said.

None of the 15 families is sure how long they will be in the state. They continue to work while they in Utah, but their ultimate goal is to get back to family and friends in Puerto Rico to help rebuild.

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Ashley Moser

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