LAKELAND – Representatives of Polk County’s social-welfare safety net outlined plans Monday for embracing Puerto Ricans seeking relief from the ravages of recent hurricanes.

More than a dozen experts in the fields of health care, education, transportation, child care and other sectors participated in an informational symposium at Southeastern University.

The afternoon event, sponsored by the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County, attracted a handful of Puerto Rican residents who already have transitioned to new homes in Polk.

Some spoke of how easy it was to enroll children in public schools, but public transportation has been a challenge.

Another recent transplant from the Caribbean island that remains a commonwealth of the United States said she was motivated to seek better medical care, something that remains elusive back home.

A good number of Puerto Ricans who will be flooding Central Florida and other parts of the country will face a language barrier, some panelists said at Monday’s symposium. They sought to ease concerns by speaking both English and Spanish during the presentation and by providing a litany of special services, many free of charge, to people fleeing the island.

Host Ana Rivera, president of the Hispanic Chamber and a former resident of Puerto Rico, said the first wave of Puerto Ricans includes some 140,000, most of whom have chosen Florida as their new home. Many more are expected, she said, and a sizeable number will be choosing to settle along the Interstate 4 corridor, which cuts through Polk.

“We need to be proactive before it all comes down on us,” Rivera said.

Rivera presented her agency’s initiative called Bandaid 4 Puerto Rico, a multi-phase plan for preparing for the influx. Already the initiative has collected relief supplies that are being shipped to the island to help alleviate the ongoing suffering related to a lack of electricity and clean water.

A goal is to raise $15,000. A little more than half already has been pledged through a GoFundMe account. Visit www.prhccpc.com for details.

The Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber also is hosting a fundraiser Dec. 3 from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at Hunt Fountain Park, 2020 Duff Road, Lakeland, to assist its mission of assisting storm victims.

Representatives of the Polk School District provided notice of a Dec. 9 job fair at Lake Marion Creek Middle School in Poinciana to address a teacher shortage. Officials hope to attract bilingual teachers who have moved from Puerto Rico to Polk, whose teaching certifications will, in most cases, be accepted automatically.

Polk Commissioner Bill Braswell said he anticipates a smooth welcome for Puerto Ricans, given the county’s experience in growth-related services.

“We’re used to this sort of thing,” he said. “Whether it’s jobs, school, whatever it is.”

Lakeland Commissioner Justin Troller also affirmed that the city stands ready to assist in the migration.

“It’s important that we pool our resources,” he said. “Lakeland is poised to receive these folks ... Anything we can do to help.”

For more information, contact the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 863-838-2084, or email prhccpc@gmail.com.

Eric Pera can be reached at eric.pera@directgates.com or 863-802-7528.