What is a “culture of readiness”, and why is it important? We often hear about building a culture of preparedness, in the context of emergency management. However, as a community recovers from a disaster impact they must not only be prepared, they must be ready for and open to change. The same is true for a society in the throes of a pandemic, learning the “new normal”. Change is inevitable, and a resilient and ready community embraces this truth.  The Influence of Culture All people are influenced by cultural factors that shape their decisions and viewpoints. Each of us grow up learning how to value certain ways of doing and perceiving things. Culture is the ultimate cross-sector exercise, encompassing economics, belief systems, family structure, child-rearing, nature, and even risk management. Even seemingly unrelated areas of our lives are tied together by culture. In small, close knit communities like the US Virgin Islands, and St John in particular, culture influences decisions daily. A Culture of Preparedness  One of the reasons that a grassroots approach to preparedness and readiness is so important is that if community engagement does not align with the community’s culture, the effort will not be sustainable. FEMA identifies the four guiding principles of culturally informed preparedness initiatives as Trust, Inclusion, Cross-Cultural Communication, and Support for Local Practices and Successes. Given these four components, a community can build sustainable preparedness practices.  FEMA’s stated goal of building a “culture of preparedness” is centered on achieving a certain level of cultural buy-in about preparing for disasters. Often, communities who have not been impacted don’t share the sense of urgency that characterize communities in recovery. A shared culture in this area would normalize the conversations necessary to increase preparedness before an impact, rather than after the fact. However, the question remains: Is a “prepared” community also necessarily a “ready” community? Beyond Preparedness, to Readiness A culture of readiness embodies not just preparedness but a willingness to move towards something different. This openness then enables healthy and sustainable change. Whether you’re building a change-ready organization or community, remaining open to feedback, is a critical trait. Feedback, whether in the form of questions, challenges, or disagreement, often helps to drive meaningful change. Challenging your own assumptions can result in more effective solutions. An organization or community can benefit from discussion in the same way, often identifying unmet needs, underserved populations, or underperforming sectors through public engagement. Therefore, it is important, within a culture of readiness, to establish structures that allow people to be actively involved in decision making processes, bringing in the right stakeholders at the right level at the right time. When the whole community feels included and heard, change feels less stressful and more intentional.   Our goal at Love City Strong is to build a culture of readiness within our community. As we recover from the twin Category 5 hurricanes of 2017 and emerge from the last two years marked by global pandemic, the Virgin Islands community truly understands that preparedness and readiness go hand in hand. We must be prepared for future climate related crises, and we must also be ready for the rapid period of change in which we find ourselves. 
As 2021 comes to an end, I find myself filled with gratitude for our team, our supporters, and our partners. Our team accomplished so much this year. We helped the VI Department of Health with community vaccinations, VITEMA with sandbag distribution for the island’s seniors, and many other departments and private organizations on projects great and small. I feel fortunate to work alongside such a hardworking, dedicated group of individuals. Our donors were more generous than ever in 2021, especially our monthly donors. I am continuously humbled by the kindness you show and the trust that you place in us. Your kindness makes our impact possible.   Additionally, we were fortunate to have strong community partners who assisted us with fundraising. I’d like to especially thank St. John Hardware, St. John Brewers and High Tide. With their help we’ve been able to continue repairing and rebuilding homes, care for the island’s seniors, and train our team to be better first responders. In 2022, our commitment to housing recovery will continue with the expansion of the Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI). The program will include more clients for small repairs and even more full rebuilds. We are also welcoming new additions to our management team and to our Board of Directors. I know that they will help us grow even stronger in the years to come. From all of us at Love City Strong, Happy New Year! Meaghan Enright Executive Director meaghan@lovecitystrongvi.org
Administrator working at her desk.
Pierrette Clendinen, Love City Strong’s Foundation Administrator.
The Administrative Team primarily works in our office and helps Love City Strong from behind the scenes. They are not as visible as the Go Team and the Ops Team, but their role is still crucial! Who are the Admin Team? The Admin Team are a team of two who report directly to our Executive Director: The Foundation Administrator and the Development Director. Each person has separate duties, but they both work together to keep us funded and ensure that we’re spending our funding responsibly. What does the Admin Team do? The Foundation Administrator handles our accounting, record keeping, and compliance. They record our donations, and get our employees and partners paid for their work. The Administrator also ensures that we are transparent and up to date with local and federal requirements. They renew our licenses and keep our records up to date.  The Development Director’s job is to make sure that we are funded, and inform our donors about what we’re working on. When they’re not busy staying in touch with our donors via handwritten notes and personalized tours of our work, they write our grant reports and seek out new funding opportunities. They’re also tasked with keeping the public informed with our blog, social media, and newsletter. Helping Us Help Others We couldn’t support our community if the Admin Team didn’t support us. While not always visible in the community, they are still critical to the smooth operation of our projects. Support their hard work and donate today.
In the last 4 years we’ve accomplished so much thanks to the support of our Board, the generosity of our donors, and the partnerships that we’ve built. Your kindness and trust has made our impact possible. As we enter our fifth year, we wanted to take a moment to summarize our work thus far and share how we create our different programs. From 2018 to now, Love City Strong has:
  • Rebuilt 36 homes.
  • Installed 70 water filtration systems, serving 223 people. As a result, we replaced the consumption of 2,680 plastic water bottles per month.
  • Remediated mold in over 100 homes.
  • Made or replaced 200 address signs for seniors and families.
  • Pre-staged MREs and boxed water across the island to last 5,000 people for one week after a disaster.
  • Delivered sandbags to an average of 75 seniors per year.
  • Trained more than 50 people across multiple first responder programs, like CERT and Stop the Bleed.
  • Delivered 12,000 meals directly to seniors and families during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Distributed over 4,000 reusable masks throughout the community.
  • Supported mass-vaccination efforts on St. John for 8 weeks, helping hundreds of residents and visitors to get their shots.
All of our programs serve those with the highest risk for health and safety challenges in the St. John community, first and foremost: Seniors, persons with a disability or chronic health condition, and families with young children.
When our team gets together to brainstorm a new program, we start by asking ourselves the following 6 questions:
  • What issue caused by a disaster does the program address, and/or what issue are we trying to prevent from happening in the future?
  • Does the program serve the most high risk individuals in our community, and can it be replicated by those who have the means to provide it for themselves?
  • Who are our partners locally that can support us?
  • How can we center local businesses and skilled individuals in the U.S.V.I. in our program work so that funding we receive stays in the territory?
  • What data can we gather during the course of the program, and how can this data be used in the future?
  • Is the program scalable to the other islands in the territory, other communities in the Caribbean, or rural communities globally?
Using the Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI) as an example, the answers are:
  • We are addressing the massive loss in permanent low and middle income housing suffered as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Moreover, we want to rebuild homes so that they’re more storm resilient in the future.
  • The program serves seniors, families with children and infants, and individuals with a disability or a chronic health condition. All of our clients are typically underserved by existing hurricane recovery/rebuild programs.
  • We identified the St. John Community Foundation to help us with case management and All Hands and Hearts (who were on an extended mission in the USVI at the time) to help with on-site labor via their volunteers.
  • We hired St. John-based construction companies and licensed contractors to perform all rebuild work, purchased our supplementary tools and equipment from businesses on St. John and St. Thomas when possible, and ordered building materials either from local suppliers or from Puerto Rico.
  • We keep track of all of our expenses for each site to help federal partners like FEMA. This facilitates a better understanding of the true cost of housing rebuild on St. John; factoring in volunteer labor, shipping, and more.
  • With local case management who live in and are a part of the community that they serve; strong partnerships with local contractors and suppliers; and access to both private and government funding, this program can be replicated in communities similar to St. John.
As a newer nonprofit organization, we are grateful for the faith that our community, our donors, and our partners have put in us from day one. We truly could not do this without you. We hope that by sharing some of our results, along with the methodology behind the work that we do, we will continue to earn your trust. For LCS to keep building our impact, funding is critical. Donate today to support our ongoing programs, and help us create new ones. With your help, we can continue to have a big impact for St. John.
Love City Strong Asset Manager Cutting Wood Shutters for Seniors
Devon Otto, the Love City Strong Asset Manager.
Our Operations Team plays a vital role in ensuring that we are prepared to respond to any kind of emergency that may arise. They are the backbone of our Disaster Preparedness programming. Alongside our Go Team, the Ops Team are the most visible members of our staff Who Are the Ops Team? The Operations Team (aka the Ops Team) consists of the Operations Manager and the Asset Manager.  These two hardworking individuals work in tandem to meet our supply and equipment needs, and have different assigned duties and responsibilities that keep all of our programs running smoothly from the back end. They are also critical in ensuring that we stand ready to support our community in a crisis. What Does the Ops Team Do? We definitely couldn’t do our jobs without the Asset Manager! At Love City Strong, we believe in striving to meet our clients where they are instead of asking them to come to our office. Our Go Team is constantly in the field visiting clients who are receiving program services and performing home visits for seniors. To make this possible, we are privileged to give our teams company vehicles to use during the workday. We put a lot of miles on these vehicles, and that means they often need a lot of maintenance. The Asset Manager keeps our vehicles clean and running, addressing any maintenance issues and conducting safety checks every month. This is critical to ensuring that we can keep providing personalized, curated experiences for our clients. The Operations Manager makes sure that we are receiving different first responder training every year. They research, coordinate, and provide the supplies for all of our staff training so that we are as prepared as possible to help others. Members of our team have received training in first aid, CPR, Emergency Medical Response (EMR), Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Point of Distribution (POD), Chainsaw Sawyer, and more thanks to our Operations Manager’s hard work and dedication. To better serve our community when there is a crisis, Love City Strong has 3 storage spaces across the island that house a variety of supplies. First aid supplies, road clearing supplies, portable solar lights, MREs, and boxed water are just some of the many supplies that we have ready to go if a disaster strikes. The Ops Team keeps these spaces inventoried, clean, and accessible if we ever need them. They also meet regularly to research and assess other potential hazards to the community, and create plans to address those hazards through the ordering and stockpiling of supplies and equipment. Our Ops Team was critical in ensuring that we had PPE like masks, gloves, hospital gowns, and hand sanitizer in our possession before the first case of COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands was ever reported. The forward-thinking of our Ops Team allowed us to give these supplies to healthcare professionals, first responders, and frontline workers immediately to ensure there were no supply gaps in the early months of the pandemic.  Our storage spaces also house supplies to support projects led by our government partners in the areas of preparedness and readiness. When we were asked to help with mass-vaccination efforts on St. John, we were able to respond right away with tables, chairs, tents, PPE, office supplies, and hand sanitizer thanks to our Ops Team. Key to Our Success The Operations Team stays busy making sure that the Go Team, the seasonal Go Team, and our contractors have everything they need to be successful. They have a wealth of knowledge and skills, and are always thinking about what we can do to run our programs efficiently and fairly. Donate today to ensure that our Operations Team has everything they need to support us, so that we can continue to support St. John.
LCS Employee and Client
Kenisha Small, our Community Relations Manager, leads the Go Team.
On St. John, you may see a group of people wearing bright teal shirts driving all across the island in a hurry. They can be spotted at community events, visiting seniors at home, or delivering emergency preparedness supplies to seniors and families. Who are these friendly, cheerful folks in their bright shirts? They are the Love City Strong Go Team! Why is it called the “Go Team?” Our Go Team was modeled after the group of volunteers that worked alongside our founders after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Together with Global DIRT, we enlisted over 50 individuals from all across the island to go into the community and help those in need. These volunteers were nicknamed the “Go Team” because they are always “on the go,” and the name stuck! For 3 months after the hurricanes, the Go Team delivered relief supplies from a variety of outside agencies, helped people clean their properties, connected individuals with resources, managed the massive amount of  in-kind donations arriving on St. John, and gathered data used by federal agencies like the US Army Core of Engineers’ Blueroof Program. Our Team Reflects Our Community When Love City Strong’s founders decided to form LCS into an official NGO, we knew that we wanted the Go Team to be a part of the organizational structure. We learned early on the value of disaster survivors seeing themselves reflected in the response and recovery process. People were more likely to accept help from their friends and neighbors than from outsiders who they didn’t recognize. From the beginning, we made sure that the Go Team reflected the diversity of the St. John community. Though its members and its size have changed over the years, the Go Team has always been made up of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, and from different areas of the island. All of our employees, including the Go Team, are either Virgin Islanders or transplants who have lived on St. John for at least 5 years. This has been crucial to our success as an organization. What Does the Go Team Do? During the Atlantic Hurricane Season, the Go Team spends their time going through extensive first responder training. They also execute our annual preparedness outreach programs, such as sandbag deliveries to seniors alongside the VI Dept. of Public Works. Every July, we hire a group of 10 to 15 seasonal members of the Go Team. They can be quickly deployed alongside our core team if a major disaster strikes. The seasonal members receive first responder training as well, and help us with a variety of outreach tasks throughout peak hurricane season. Throughout the rest of the year, the Go Team are the ones executing our preparedness and mitigation programs. They change filters for seniors involved in our Water Filtration program; drive seniors to their flu shot appointments; build and post address signs for homes that do not have visible addresses, and more. In 2020, they hand delivered hundreds of meals from World Central Kitchen to seniors and families every week from Cruz Bay to the East End of St. John. They also keep in touch with clients who are receiving program benefits from a contractor or business partner. For example, they make regular visits to those whose homes are being rebuilt through our Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI) program. They firmly believe in meeting our clients where they are, rather than making them come to our office. This allows our clients to feel comfortable and creates a more personal experience for them while they are enrolled in one of our programs. The Go Team is always ready to lend a hand to any group or agency for a disaster preparedness or mitigation project. For example, when the VI Dept. of Health and FEMA asked for our help with vaccination pop ups on St. John, the Go Team led the charge. The Core of LCS The Go Team are the heart of everything that we do. They provide familiar, friendly faces for our clients. Often take on multiple projects and tasks every month for LCS and for our partners. Nothing that we do would be possible without their hard work and dedication to our mission. If you are on St. John, and you see their teal shirts on the go, be sure to wave and say hello! The Go Team might not be able to stop and chat, but they’ve always got time for a smile. Donate today to help the Go Team keep doing their important work.
Love City Strong 2021 Prospectus Release

2021 Prospectus

This month Love City Strong is excited to share our updated 2021 Prospectus

This document outlines our organizational priorities and ongoing projects, including COVID-19 response and our continued efforts supporting vaccinations on St. John. In 2020, we shifted this document from its previous physical form to a living, online version in order to reach a larger audience.

What is a Prospectus?

A prospectus is a document that describes a school, organization, or potential project in order to attract or inform clients, buyers, or investors. For our purposes, the prospectus is a part of our efforts to keep our current and potential donors engaged in our activities and plans for the future. 

What is included in the Prospectus? 

The document revisits our core mission and values as an organization. In addition, it breaks down our accomplishments and upcoming goals for each of our ongoing projects. It specifies the impact that our projects have had on the community, highlighting measurable outcomes and progress. Finally, it identifies tangible results tied to various donation amounts, in each project area. 

How can I help?

This year, the Caribbean faces yet another active hurricane season, and based on recent evidence we know that storms are coming through more often and with more intensity. Community preparedness, which is at the core of the Love City Strong mission, is more important than ever. 

If St. John holds a special place in your heart and you’re emotionally invested in our recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the COVID-19 pandemic, please take a few moments to read through this year’s Prospectus and share it with your friends and family! 

If you are able, consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly donor, to help us build a stronger and more resilient community as we continue to recover. 

Disaster preparedness is at the very core of Love City Strong’s mission. Importantly, each May we highlight Hurricane Preparedness Week – this year, from May 9th through 15th. The week serves as a perfect time to assess your personal hurricane risk and preparedness. Predictions indicate an above average activity level this season but clearly, it only takes one storm to change your community.  Before hurricane season begins on June 1st, you should begin doing the following things:
  1. Determine your risk
  2. Develop your sheltering or evacuation plan.
  3. Assemble disaster supplies, or “Build A Kit” as Ready.gov says!
  4. Get an insurance check up
  5. Strengthen your home
  6. Help your neighbors
  7. Complete a written plan
If you’re a resident of a community at high risk for hurricanes, like the USVI, then you likely already have some or all of these components in place. Nevertheless, it is important to review your preparedness plans each year. Furthermore, once you’ve updated them, make sure your family and friends are aware of your plans.  Make sure to check in with your local emergency management agency (for the USVI that’s VITEMA) to learn about any changes to sheltering, evacuations, or other things that could impact your plan. You can also inquire about Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. CERT is available nationwide, and can help you to better support your community in the event of a disaster. Here in the Territory, VITEMA hosts these trainings regularly on St Croix, St Thomas, and St John. If you are interested in volunteering, you can check in with your local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), to learn about which local and national organizations might have volunteer opportunities in your area.  Starting Sunday, we will be focusing on a different area of preparedness each day. Tune in to our social media (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) to learn more! Additionally, you can visit our “What to Know” page here on the website for downloadable resources. 
Love City Strong employees Kenisha Small and Deborah Ramsay
As COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue in the US Virgin Islands and across the globe, many are wondering what to expect when they receive their doses, or are trying to decide if they should get vaccinated in the first place. We interviewed members of our team who have received the vaccine, and asked them to share a little bit about their experience before and after receiving it.  Kenisha Small, our Community Relations Manager (pictured above, left) and Deborah Ramsay of our Go Team (pictured above, right) were both vaccinated at the Island Health and Wellness Center on St. John in February.  Here’s what they had to say (responses have been edited for length and clarity): Why did you choose to get the vaccine? Deborah: I got the vaccine for three reasons: The work I do directly helping and speaking with St. John seniors; because my doctor advised that, since I am over 65, the possible side effects of the vaccine were likely much less severe than the side effects of getting COVID; and because my daughter and family said they would not want me traveling to visit them in the United States if I chose not to get the vaccine.  Kenisha: I got the vaccine to assist in keeping the seniors in my family and our community safe. Did you have any fears or anxieties about getting the vaccine? D: Yes! I am fairly anti-vaccine. I have never gotten a flu shot, for instance. I was concerned about the side effects and was unsure about how effective (the vaccine) might be. K: I was more surprised at the fact that they had already created a vaccine for something so seemingly new. What were some of the resources that you found helpful in answering questions about the vaccine? In other words, where or who did you turn to for information? D: My daughter, the internet, friends, colleagues, and my doctor. K: I turned to my coworkers at LCS for guidance and gaining knowledge to build my confidence; specifically our Operations Manager Stephen, who is also an EMT and our Executive Director, Meaghan. Describe your experience getting the vaccine. D: I went to Island Health & Wellness. We had to wait outside the office briefly. Once inside, there was a lot of paperwork to fill out. We were kept at a safe distance from each other. It took about 1/2 hour including filling out the paperwork and having to sit in the office for 15 minutes after getting the shot to observe us for possible immediate side effects. The shot took seconds and was hardly noticeable! And I HATE shots. They scare me and I can’t watch. But it happened so quickly I barely noticed! K: I got an appointment at 2pm for the vaccine at Island Health and Wellness. The entire process took about 45 minutes to an hour, which included arriving early, waiting in line, and remaining for 15 minutes after receiving the shot. Process was simple, somewhat smooth and quick once inside. Which vaccine did you get? D: Pfizer K: Pfizer. I’ve had my first dose and am due to receive the second dose on March 4th. Did you experience any side-effects after your vaccine doses? D: Yes. A slightly sore arm for a few days. The first night, it was hard to sleep on that side. After the first shot I felt a little sick that night and most of the next day. I had slight body aches, a bit of a headache, and low energy. After the second one, (I had) slightly less effects. Mostly just low energy.  K: I had a sore arm for a few days, and on the day of the shot I just felt lazy or sluggish afterwards; otherwise it went well! What’s one thing you think that everyone getting the vaccine should know? D: The shot itself is barely noticeable. At Island Health, they were very efficient. Plan to rest the day after! K: From what I can tell, it’s safe! For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, check out the Virgin Islands Department of Health’s FAQ page, the CDC’s vaccine information website, and this video from Johns Hopkins Medicine.
A graphic saying thank you to donors.
December 1 was Giving Tuesday, the global day of giving back. In the nonprofit world, there are so many smart and talented leaders, innovative and inspiring solutions, and extremely worthy causes. We are so humbled by the kindness extended to us this year from our donors. Nothing that we do is possible without you. This year, over $4,000 dollars was raised for Love City Strong on Giving Tuesday, ensuring that our efforts to create a more prepared St. John will continue in the years to come. Thanks to the GlobalGiving Foundation’s #MoveAMillion campaign, a significant matching contribution will be made from GlobalGiving to every one of their sponsored charities, including LCS! We would like to extend a special thank you to High Tide and St. John Brewer’s for their support this year, and in years past. Their teams worked so hard to help encourage people to donate on Giving Tuesday by hosting a special raffle event, with dozens of individuals either buying tickets or just donating what they could and asking nothing in return. Even in the midst of such unparalleled challenges, the small business community on St. John never fails to demonstrate their kindness and spirit. We would also like to thank Cruz Bay Watersports for generously donating two sailing trips as prizes for the raffle. For over 30 years, they have delivered premier recreational activities for visitors and residents of the US Virgin Islands, and supported many nonprofit organizations and charity events. We are so fortunate and grateful to be the recipients of their generosity this year. Congratulations to raffle winners Jessica Williams and Megan Folsom! We hope you enjoy a fun and relaxing day on the water. Amidst the upheaval that has impacted all facets of life, and the uncertainty of navigating our personal and professional future, Giving Tuesday was an important reminder of the inherent goodness in people. The connections created during this giving season, whether through kind words, shared messages, or donations to support our projects, have invigorated and motivated us to continue our work. From all of us at Love City Strong, thank you!