|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 eyewall of Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes in history. On September 20, Hurricane Maria–a second category 5 Hurricane–hit St. John, along with two months of heavy rains. The combination of these events resulted in damage to 90% of all structures in Coral Bay and destruction to buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation across the island.
Your contributions, both monetary and material, allowed Coral Bay Community Council to get Coral Bay up and running immediately after Irma. Our office became a central location for meetings, information, and communications, donations and distributions. Thanks to support from our members and the public, we were able to coordinate evacuations to St. Croix, link homeowners who needed help with laborers needing work, and host community events that lifted spirits during the holidays.
As a nonprofit community agency, we collaborated with relief groups including FEMA, VITEMA, The Bloomberg Group, Global DIRT, Love for Love City Foundation, St. John Community Foundation, Rotary, the Red Cross, and the Salvation Army. We are grateful to our landlord, Elizabeth Ford, for everything she did to accommodate CBCC and residents after the storms.
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.
When phone, internet, and cellular communications went down after Hurricane Irma, CBCC became the voice of our community during the communications “void” in Coral Bay.
Using donated dollars, we purchased a satellite phone that we had in operation beginning two days after Hurricane Irma. More than 300 people who were cut off from cell service and the internet were able to make one-minute “I am okay” calls to friends and loved ones.
In the weeks following Hurricane Irma, 50-100 Coral Bay residents attended daily briefing meetings outside our office led by volunteer President of CBCC, Sharon Coldren. Our Office Manager, Michelle Bransom, was on island from October to December, providing continuous information and distribution five days a week.
As often as possible, we updated our website with current, pertinent relief information.
Donations and Distribution Center
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. 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.
Individuals from around the world who love Coral Bay sought ways to contribute to our community’s recovery. As donations arrived from humanitarian organizations, travelers, and by mail from our members and other individuals, CBCC ran a contributed goods distribution center for survivors in Coral Bay. Donations included essentials like:
- 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.
The Adopt-A-Family program founded by the Jureidini family was featured on Good Morning America and resulted in a surge of donated care packages to the Virgin Islands from caring families all over the U.S. Generous donors mailed more than 400 holiday boxes containing personalized notes, gifts, and much-needed supplies for daily living, which CBCC distributed to needy families throughout our community. We also used donated dollars to assist Connections, our local mail center, with handling packages.
Our CBCC members and friends from off-island overwhelmed us with hundreds of wrapped gifts for the holidays, which Santa distributed to children during the December 9th Mini Bizarre Bazaar. This program was organized by Dr. Bob De Bonis and Leslie McKibben and brought holiday cheer to children and families.
We set up a “Bring Some, Take Some“ station for clothing donations outside the FEMA Disaster Center on the ground floor of our building. We also organized a series of “Stuff Depots“ (a.k.a. Coral Bay K-Mart) that has allowed residents to sell, swap and buy things they need and have to give.
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…
CBCC helped coordinate evacuations directly from Coral Bay to St. Croix after Irma in partnership with Virgin Islands – Relief, Recover, Rebuild (VI-R3). 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 closed.
Community Spirit and Events
CBCC hosted events and offered outlets for residents to socialize and relax. Funds were provided to Indigo Grill to serve free meals for about five weeks after the storms, providing much-needed food, relaxation, and community caring for residents.
On November 22nd, CBCC helped support Ken Yolman’s annual “Thankspigging” potluck dinner.
The Coral Bay Yacht Club was able to put on its annual regatta on November 24th. This year’s event was called the Notalotayachtaregatta (or “Not-a-Lotta-Yacht-a-Regatta”).
On December 9th, residents and visitors attended 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 great turnout from residents and visiting workers who enjoyed music, food, art and crafts from local vendors, smiles and a visit from Santa.
Funding Local Needs
Through the support of our members and donors, CBCC has been able to extend help to local residents for relief-related projects and necessities. We purchased equipment and to make improvements at Julius E. Sprauve Elementary School., including supplying basketballs and volleyballs for P.E. and paint for the guidance counselor’s room. Funds were also granted to a local beekeeper to use to restore his operations, and to Carolina Corral for animal care.
Infrastructure Improvements Planning
CBCC commissioned a report in mid-December to get a snapshot of post-storm drainage and road conditions in Coral Bay. It will serve as a useful baseline for discussions about critical access and mitigation efforts with local and federal recovery groups and agencies. The report is in draft form now, and we intend to add additional information, photos, and roads/neighborhoods.
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.