The Territory entered the 2020 hurricane season on high alert, facing the forecast of an active season paired with the COVID-19 pandemic. At Love City Strong, we began modifying and updating our preparedness and response plans early on, reaching out to our partners at Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA), the Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH), the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for guidance and best practices for responding to a disaster during a global health crisis.  Thanks to our work responding to the pandemic on St. John, our team was already used to wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and adhering to social distancing protocols. We modified our annual community outreach programs, becoming less reliant on public events and leveraging public and private partnerships in order to successfully respond to two significant weather events while keeping residents informed.  Tropical Storm Isaias impacted the Territory on July 29th, and our response lasted from July 25th through July 30th. This large system moved quickly, but did not turn into a tropical storm until it passed just south of St Croix. Our team remained on alert and executed pre- and post-storm wellness checks in the community, shifting from at-home visits to conducting them entirely over the phone. We assisted residents with downed trees and minor storm debris on their property, and brought resources like solar powered lights to those experiencing power loss. A wave of severe weather associated with Tropical Storm Laura impacted the Territory in the early morning hours of Saturday, August 21st. Once again, what was expected to be a significant rain event stayed to our south, resulting in a limited impact. Within 24 hours of the forecast impact, we knew that the path would keep Laura from being much of a threat to the USVI, but our team continued to execute pre- storm wellness checks, and helped several residents with boarding up and clearing their property. This hurricane season saw us working closely with VITEMA and our other government partners, as well as our sister nonprofits affiliated with Virgin Islands Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VI VOAD), to keep St. John prepared. Between storms this year, we delivered sandbags to over 100 households, and handed out blue roofing via a drive-through system alongside our partners. Both of these events would normally be done in the form of large public gatherings, but we were able to execute them successfully while still observing social distancing and PPE use. The 2020 hurricane season taught us much about the unpredictable nature of disaster preparedness, and emphasized the complex relationship between multiple disasters that share the same impact window. I am proud of the work our team has done this year, in the face of so many challenges. As the season comes to a close, we look forward to further refining our deployment plans, expanding our preparedness and resilience programming, and serving the community in the years to come.
Trunk Bay, St. John VI

Today, we wanted to take a moment to express gratitude to the many individuals and groups that have helped make Love City Strong’s progress in 2020 possible. Although this year has been challenging to say the least, we are overwhelmed by the constant kindness and support of so many different individuals and groups that have helped us remain true to our mission and purpose.

First, a huge thank you to our many donors and grantors for making our programs possible. This year we are particularly humbled by the generosity of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI), and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP). Each of these foundations allowed us to both extend and modify grant funding in order to address community needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their flexibility has been vital to our successes this year, and has helped us make real differences in the lives of hundreds of St. John residents.  Since the beginning, our Board has continuously helped fund our projects and has kept us on track so that we can continue making a big impact on St. John for years to come. Thank you Tom Secunda, John McInnis, Jarrod Bernstein, Ian Samuel, and Tenesha Keyes for your exemplary leadership and support especially during such unprecedented times. Thank you to our team for working so hard all year, and constantly pivoting to address multiple challenges while remaining supportive of each other and committed to your community. Your tireless dedication is a constant inspiration. There are dozens of St. John businesses and licensed professionals that help by lending their technical expertise to the work that we do. We would like to extend a special thank you to Big Planet, Cutting Edge Construction, J&D Woodworking, Joel Penn, Ralph Carbon, Rebecca Reinbold, and St. John Projects for working alongside us to make a difference this year, and in years past. Nothing that we do would be possible without key organizational partners in the public and private sectors. In 2020, we are so grateful for the support of the CDC, FEMA, High Tide, Island Health & Wellness Center, Love City Mini Mart, Papaya Cafe and Bookstore, Paradise Lumber, ShoreIQ, Skinny Legs, Starfish Market, St. John Brewers, the St. John Community Foundation, St. John Hardware, St. John Rescue, Sosa’s Food Truck, Tony’s Kitchen, the Virgin Islands Department of Health, the Virgin Islands Department of Human Services, the Virgin Islands Fire Department, and VITEMA just to name a few!  The challenges we faced as an organization in 2020 have brought our staff closer together, and renewed our commitment to our clients and supporters. This year has reminded us that life is full of uncertainties, and in order to be truly prepared, we must be flexible and willing to overcome obstacles by working together. We must also remember to be grateful for those in our lives who lift us up and support us in our time of need.  We encourage everyone to take a moment and extend your thanks to the important people and groups in your life. Take the time to express your gratitude, and in doing so, renew your commitment to making your community a better place.
In December 2019, the novel coronavirus changed lives on a global scale. At Love City Strong we have made every effort to react as quickly as possible; pivoting from what we had originally planned for 2020 to make addressing the issues caused by COVID-19 our number one priority. COVID-19 Response Timeline On March 6th, we began purchasing bulk supplies of PPE and sanitation products to give to healthcare professionals, first responders, and essential workers on St. John in anticipation of the global shortage. Our distribution of these supplies occurred throughout the month of March, a full two months before the national stockpile supplies arrived in the Virgin Islands. On March 10th, we began to distribute COVID-19 informational flyers in English and in Spanish across the island. These flyers were vetted by the Virgin Islands Department of Health and the CDC, and featured all of the information known about COVID-19 at that time. Over 500 flyers were distributed within 72 hours. On March 13th, one day before the first case of COVID-19 in the Virgin Islands was announced by territory healthcare officials, we made the decision to close our office to the public and either suspend or greatly modify our programs in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Our teams modified their procedures to either limit or cease in-home visits with our clients and increased regular sanitation of their work vehicles and supplies. We also encouraged all employees to work from home rather than in our office. As of August, these practices remain in place. On April 13th, we began partnering with World Central Kitchen to deliver hot and cold meals to seniors, families with children, and individuals with a disability or chronic health condition. We also delivered meals to healthcare workers and first responders every other week in addition to our household deliveries. Our relationships with the small business community were able to make this program more robust and efficient—We hired St. John Brewers to increase meal preparation and storage capacity, and Rock n’ Rolla Charters to provide both additional transportation for our team and a Spanish translator. Our Go Team delivered over 500 meals and snack packs directly to over 200 different households every single week for three months. In May, the CDC released new guidance regarding the importance of wearing masks in public. To encourage and normalize this practice, we launched a month-long social media campaign called “We Not Me.” During the campaign, we shared photos that were sent to us from people in the Virgin Islands and around the world wearing their masks. Each photo was accompanied by a short testimonial from that person with their specific reasons for taking this precaution seriously. You can view the entries in this campaign on our Instagram account by clicking the #WeNotMe story highlight. In June we partnered with St. John retailer Big Planet to provide free, reusable face masks to St. John residents and visitors. The first batch of masks were provided to households that we were delivering meals to, and to churches in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. We then set up small buckets of masks at several different businesses across the island, where they are available to anyone in need. The free masks will be provided at these locations from June through the end of August, and thus far approximately 2,000 masks have been given away. Our Mission Moving Forward At LCS, it has always been our philosophy to prepare for the worst and hope for the best through all hazards, and this has served us well during this unprecedented time. Through the early and decisive actions of our team, we have been able to continue serving the community of St. John through both our existing programs and new, short-term initiatives while keeping ourselves and our clients safe. Wherever you are, we urge you to continue to be vigilant and responsible as COVID-19’s impact continues. This isn’t over. Whether you are young or old; healthy or high-risk, we must all continue to do our part to take extra care with our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.