Las Carolinas Community Hub: Unifying Progress with El Centro de Apoyo Mutuo

Project Sponsor: Centro de Apoyo Mutuo, Las Carolinas – María Arroyo and Dimarie Fontánez

Team Members: Francisco Diaz, Abigail Johnson, Madison Quattlander, and Benjamin Turner

Project Advisors: Dr. Grant Burrier, Dr. Scott Jiusto, and Dr. Sarah Molinari

Project Files:


Puerto Rico has faced many challenges including economic, environmental, and political. Often the insufficient response from the local and federal governments generates immense demands for community organization and resilience. In 2017, after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Rosario González, and other residents of Caguas, broke into the abandoned María Montañez Gómez elementary school of Las Carolinas, Caguas and opened a food kitchen for her community in crisis. Over the years, she and a team of volunteers have come together to provide food and services for the elderly. Our goals are to assist the CAM in planning with the municipality for future directions, provide outreach for their space, and generate resources for their promotion and growth. We realized these objectives by creating a presentation and brochure, budgets, databases, a real-estate catalogue, and painted a parking lot for the cultivation of their organization. After accomplishing these goals, we were able to leave them with valuable contributions to the evolution of their organization and place of operation.


Executive Summary

For the last few decades, Puerto Rico has struggled with economic strife, outmigration, political unrest, and natural disasters. The government has suffered an ongoing recession since 2006, when tax breaks were revoked, and people and foreign business fled the island (“Why Puerto Rico Is in Trouble,” n.d.). In addition to the financial desperation, Hurricane Maria, and Irma in 2017, did roughly $90 billion in damages to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (Hurricane Maria’s Devastation of Puerto Rico | Noaa Climate. Gov, 2018). The government has scrambled to try to mediate their situation by cutting funding to necessities like schools, health care, and social work (Analysis | People Are Fleeing Puerto Rico, Guam, and Every Other u. S. Territory. What Gives? 2022).

This modern landscape has forged large movements of community self-reliance among the people of the island. This resilience is highlighted across hundreds of organizations that occupy space in the developed and underdeveloped areas of Puerto Rico. One of these community centers is CAM, or El Centro de Apoyo Mutuo of Las Carolinas in Caguas. Las Carolinas, a small community in the heart of Puerto Rico, suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Fiona, like the rest of the island. Out of the rubble came members of the area who refused to let their neighbors, friends, and family succumb to the poor provisions from the government. Six weeks after Hurricane Maria, Las Carolinas was still without water, power, and easy access to food. The single road in and out of the town had been damaged, making the aid even more inaccessible. This is when CAM Las Carolinas was created, as an initiative to help provide food for members of their community.

Since its formation, their operation has greatly expanded, and the leaders of the CAM will soon be acquiring the building permits from the Municipality of Caguas. Through these developments, they have added health care services for the community, a secondhand clothing store, and a fermentation center.

Our Mission and Our Objectives

The goal of our project was to collaborate with El Centro de Apoyo Mutuo in Las Carolinas, Caguas, and the Municipality of Caguas to assist in developing their community center for their future. We accomplished this goal through the following objectives:

  • Creating Content for Donor Opportunities
  • Advertising their space
  • Generating Post Title Acquisition Resources
  • Improving their physical space

Creating Content for Donor Opportunities

Through close collaboration with the leaders of the CAM, we were able to identify the need of creating content to advertise their work. We developed a brochure that highlights the early history of the CAM and shows their current abilities. The brochure also highlights their desire to expand into new avenues and how to contact the leader. Along with the brochure we prepared a presentation that contains more detailed information about the center. The purpose of this presentation is so that the leaders can quickly explain to potential new partners or donors what is done in the CAM and how they could collaborate with them to support the needs of the community. This presentation will also be used in a conference at El Centro de Convenciones de Puerto Rico so they can spread awareness about their organization and the needs of the community.

Advertising Their Space

As a blooming organization, they needed a way to encourage community interest in their available spaces. To facilitate this, we created a catalog for their available classrooms and workspaces. To get the room information, we measured the dimensions of the rooms and took notes of what is already available. Using this information, we modeled the entire school and mapped out all the rooms and we marked which ones were open for new partners. Once identified, we took pictures of each of them and added them to the catalog. We also used quotes from the interviews we hosted in our promotion for CAM. The rooms were also named according to the wishes of the leaders, using names that honored previous members of the CAM and current members too. The rooms also had 3D models generated to show how they could potentially look in the future, these are not meant to limit the user but inspire them about how the room could be transformed.

Post Title Acquisition Resources

The CAM is currently in a transitional period where they are about to receive their nonprofit status, as well as the building permit from the Municipality of Caguas. The current vision for their future is that they will be able to fully use the space they operate out of now for renting the space and generating their own funding. With nonprofit status, they will also be able to apply for federal and private grants. We wanted to leave them resources for their future development, so we created the following deliverables.


Having a strong network of like-minded individuals and organizations is extremely valuable to new nonprofits like the CAM. To facilitate an expansion of this, we invited Oscar Berrios to have a conversation about his organization, PICC, with our sponsor. PICC is another rescued school operation in Caguas that is well-developed and a great inspiration for other community centers. The meeting led to the exchange of a lot of important tips and information for the leaders of CAM.

Budget Sheet

To ensure their future, they must be able to keep an organized record of their spending and funding. The Municipality agreed to pay for the building’s utilities for the first year of their building permit, however, after that it is their personal responsibility. To help plan and manage these financial liabilities we created a multi-faceted budget sheet that can detail their yearly expenses and requirements. It includes revenue from grants, federal funding, donations, and acquisitions from their rental agreements. It also will help predict their operation costs for food, maintenance, utilities, and other purchases.

Improving Their Physical Space

A final aspect of our deliverables was being able to assist in organizing and improving their space. As a part of our real estate catalogue for them, we decided to paint parking lines, so they could use them for rental perks, as well as to make the space seem more professional. We also used extra paint to name each of the rooms on the premises. After conversation with the leaders, we decided to use the names of those they wanted to honor and remember. Some of them being of those who have passed and those who have contributed time and energy for the CAM


Throughout our project we actively took note of other avenues for projects and analyzed where we could take the deliverables of our project with more time.

Use of Donor Materials

During the creation of the brochure and presentation for the donor convention, we tried to prioritize our sponsors being able to use them after. They can be used for future avenues of donation and grant purposes.

Further Networking

We would recommend that our sponsors continue to pursue networking opportunities within the area of Caguas and other parts of Puerto Rico. Either through the Municipality or through other project opportunities that the WPI project center offers.


This was the second project that was done in collaboration with El Centro de Apoyo Mutuo in Las Carolinas. Over the course of the semester, we got to work with and for the leaders at the CAM and were touched by their incredible character and work. Through the deliverables and accomplishments of this project we were able to support the growth and future directions of the CAM. This project continued and nurtured the growing relations between CAM Las Carolinas and the WPI Puerto Rico Project Center. Throughout the project we strived to create a trusting relationship with the sponsors, as well as future partners the sponsors might have. We hope that the groundwork we established serves as footing for future projects, especially in the search of potential organizations that might want to set up their headquarters in the CAM campus.

Our team is grateful to have been given the chance to work with CAM Las Carolinas and the WPI Puerto Rico Project Center. We are eagerly waiting to be a part of the development of future projects that will advance the development of CAM Las Carolinas. We hope that our project outcomes serve as steppingstones for future projects and that they are of use for our sponsors. We expect that the Centro de Apoyo Mutuo de Las Carolinas will serve as a beacon of hope for community members and an example for the rest of Puerto Rico.