HURRICANE RECOVERY

CBCC’s Hurricane Recovery Services and Accomplishments

CBCC in the News:

Univision News, a national network for Hispanics in the US, heard about the work that CBCC did after Irma and Maria hit the island. They traveled to St. John to meet with us and featured our organization in a multimedia project that followed Irma and Maria’s path in the Caribbean. The focus of their project is how islands are rebuilding with resiliency in mind so they are better equipped to resist future hurricanes.

Here is a link to their final project: https://www.univision.com/univision-news/world/life-in-the-eye-of-the-hurricane

If you want to jump straight to the portion about Coral Bay, visit: https://www.univision.com/univision-news/world/us-virgin-islands-free-wifi-networks-to-avoid-being-forgotten-by-the-united-states


On September 6, 2017, Coral Bay experienced being in the eye wall of Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes in history. On September 20, Hurricane Maria–a second category 5 Hurricane–hit us, along with two months of heavy rains. The combination of these events resulted in damage to 90% of all structures in Coral Bay.

Coral Bay Community Council has been hard at work on the ground helping survivors get the resources they need and navigate the challenges of life after back-to-back natural disasters. In the weeks and days before Hurricane Irma, CBCC offered hurricane preparedness tips and shared announcements from official sources through its newsletter, website and Facebook page. The day before Irma, this email was sent to our CBCC members.

Fortunately, the building housing the CBCC office survived well and became a central gathering site for the community. On Friday, September 8th at 11:00, over 100 people walked through debris-strewn roads to attend the first meeting. With the staff and site available to serve the community’s needs, CBCC was able to immediately begin its crucial role in both the short term relief efforts and ongoing recovery work for residents and property owners. As a nonprofit community agency, we have been collaborating with other relief groups including FEMA, VITEMA, The Bloomberg Group, Global DIRT, Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation and the St. John Community Foundation, Rotary, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.

CBCC has served a variety of roles since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, including as:

Information Center

When phone, internet and cellular communications lines went down, getting information was extremely difficult. CBCC hosted daily meetings in the weeks following Hurricane Irma. Each day, 50-100 Coral Bay residents attended these meetings, led by Sharon Coldren, volunteer President of CBCC, to learn the most recent news and facts from government agencies and relief NGOs. Our Office Manager, Michelle, was available 5 days a week for residents and property owners seeking support, resources and answers to their questions.

CBCC continues to support economic recovery by sharing announcements about the progress of recovery efforts, status of businesses and beaches reopening, and relevant news articles.

Sharon Coldren leads a daily meeting post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria at the CBCC office

Communications Center

Contacting friends and family was a priority for survivors. CBCC had a satellite phone in operation beginning two days after Hurricane Irma. Residents who were cut off from cell service and internet were able to make one-minute “I am okay” calls, which provided much-needed relief to friends and loved ones. More than 300 people made phone calls. CBCC also allowed people to write their names on poster board and shared these photos online.

CBCC became the voice of our community during the communications “void” in Coral Bay. Our first email to CBCC members was sent on October 6th when internet service was available in Cruz Bay. In mid-November, St. John Rescue worked with the NGO Global DIRT’s IT team to get a point-to-point air-fiber connection to Coral Bay, which meant better WiFi and more reliable WiFi phone calls. Electricity was restored to our office on December 7th.

 

Donations and Distribution Center

Individuals from around the world who love Coral Bay were seeking ways they could contribute to our community’s recovery. In addition to the donated goods that we housed and distributed, CBCC has received tax-deductible charitable donations of funds to support our organization’s continuing operations and ongoing hurricane relief and recovery of Coral Bay.

CBCC played a significant role in the early weeks in getting FEMA and VITEMA and military assistance to Coral Bay, including water and food, healthcare evacuations and other immediate support.

Initially, CBCC has used funds donated for hurricane relief to fill gaps in the many larger official programs and respond to immediate needs and opportunities to help the community.

CBCC ran a contributed goods distribution center for survivors in Coral Bay. Donations came in from humanitarian organizations, travelers, and by mail from our members and other individuals, including:

  • Food and water
  • Cleaning items
  • Personal goods and toiletries like toothbrushes and diapers
  • Solar lanterns, flashlights and batteries
  • Drinking water filters
  • Generators, inverters and gas cans
  • Chainsaws and work gloves
  • Pet food

 

Vanessa and Sara volunteered their time to organize and distribute contributions.

     

 

We would like to thank:

  • The Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • FEMA and VITEMA
  • Virgin Islands Relief Fund, Inc.
  • The Bloomberg Group
  • Love City Strong
  • The Rotary Clubs of St. Thomas
  • Kenny Chesney and the Love for Love City Foundation
  • Virgin Islands – Relief, Recover, Rebuild (VI-R3)
  • Many more…

The Adopt-A-Family program founded by the Jureidini family was featured on Good Morning America with Robin Roberts, which resulted in a surge of donated care packages for needy families throughout the Virgin Islands. Through this program, which directly sent over 400 packages to Coral Bay from caring families all over the U.S., CBCC was able to distribute holiday boxes containing personalized notes, gifts, and much-needed supplies for daily living to residents affected by the storm.

Our CBCC members and friends from off-island overwhelmed us with hundreds of wrapped gifts for the holidays, which Santa distributed to children during our Mini Bizarre Bazaar event on December 9th. So many families are focused on rebuilding damaged residences and businesses and their financial situations have changed drastically. Thank you to Dr. Bob De Bonis and Leslie McKibben for organizing this program that brought holiday cheer and memories to children who experienced trauma and may not have otherwise received anything this season.

CBCC also helped fund free daily meals at Indigo Grill for about 5 weeks after the storms, providing much-needed food, relaxation and community caring for residents.

Evacuations

CBCC helped coordinate evacuations directly from Coral Bay to St. Croix after Irma thanks to Matt and Sarah Ridgeway and their program, “Virgin Islands – Relief, Recover, Rebuild (VI-R3),” originally known as “Irma Relief for our Sister Islands.” Matt owns Caribbean Sea Adventures charter company, and his powerboats made several trips between Coral Bay and St. Croix to drop off relief items and transport people flying in and out of St. Croix after the airport in St. Thomas was closed.

Community Spirit and Events

We pride ourselves on being “Coral Bay Strong!” On November 22nd, CBCC helped support Ken Yolman’s annual Thankspigging potluck dinner. The Coral Bay Yacht Club did not miss its annual regatta on November 24th. This year’s event was called the Notalotayachtaregatta, or “Not-a-Lot-a-Yacht-a-Regatta!”

On December 9th, we hosted a mini version of the holiday Bizarre Bazaar and CBCC Annual Meeting. Traditionally a fundraiser for our organization, we offered this event as fee-free this year. We had a fabulous turnout from residents and visiting workers who enjoyed music, food, art and crafts from local vendors, smiles and a visit from Santa.

 

Providing Links

Our daily meetings served as a way to link skilled laborers to residents who needed help rebuilding. We set up a “Bring Some, Take Some” for clothing donations outside the FEMA disaster center on the ground floor of our building. We hope to soon set up places for household goods, building supplies and furniture to be shared with others.