What we do
In December 2019, the novel coronavirus emerged as a new threat to global health and security. Before the first case had been reported in the USVI, our team began planning ahead for what we knew would be an unprecedented challenge.
In early March, we purchased bulk PPE to give to medical professionals, first responders, and essential workers in anticipation of the global shortage. Starting March 8th, we we able to deliver gloves, surgical masks, tyvek suits, hand sanitizer, antibacterial soap, and cleaning supplies to the Myrah Keating Smith clinic, Cruz Bay Family Practice, Island Health and Wellness, and employees of grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations across the island for 3 weeks, well before push packages of PPE were sent to the territory by the federal government. We continue to provide PPE to these groups when requested.
On March 10th, we began to distribute informational flyers in English and in Spanish across the island. The flyers were vetted by the Virgin Islands Department of Health and the CDC, and featured all of the information that was known about COVID-19 at the time. Over 500 flyers were distributed within 72 hours. On March 14th, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the US Virgin Islands.
In April, we partnered with World Central Kitchen and Gifft Hill School to deliver free hot and cold meals to seniors, families with children, and individuals with a disability or chronic health condition. We also regularly delivered meals to healthcare workers and first responders. More than 11,000 meals were delivered directly to 200 homes over the course of 3 months. Our relationships with the small business community were able to make this program more robust and efficient. We worked with St. John Brewers to increase meal preparation and storage capacity, and Rocknrolla Charters for additional transportation and Spanish translation.
In June, we began partnering with St. John retailer Big Planet to manufacture free, reusable face masks for St. John residents and visitors. The first batch of masks were delivered directly to the households that we were providing meals to, and to churches in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay. We then set up buckets of masks at several different businesses across the island, where they are available to anyone in need. Over 2,500 free masks have been given out through this program so far. Each mask is individually bagged, and each bag includes proper care and handling instructions.
For more information on COVID-19 in the US Virgin Islands, including informational flyers and videos, visit our What To Know page. Moving forward, we are committed to ensuring that responding to this unprecedented challenge is a top priority for our team.
Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI)
The Resilient Housing Initiative (RHI) was created in 2018 to help rebuild homes on St. John that were destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. It is now the longest running home rebuild program on the island, surpassing the existence of other federal and local assistance programs. Every home rebuilt through RHI is more disaster resistant and safer than ever thanks to the hard work of licensed Virgin Islands contractors and small businesses. To date, this program has rebuilt 35 homes across St. John.
Program eligibility and partners
The St. John Community Foundation’s Disaster Case Managers have selected all of the clients for the RHI program. All homes rebuilt by RHI belong to full time residents of St. John who are members of one or more of the following groups: Seniors, families with small children and infants, and persons with a disability or a chronic health condition. Additionally, all clients of this program must have received little to no federal, private, or local financial assistance with rebuilding their home.
During the course of RHI, we have proudly partnered with numerous community and international entities in the nonprofit and private sectors to combine resources, utilize complementary skill sets, and streamline project management.
Our current RHI partners are: The St. John Community Foundation, Cutting Edge Construction, and J&D Woodworking.
On each rebuild, Love City Strong is responsible for:
- Project management, general oversight, and site inspections
- Paying for all building materials and their shipping and logistics costs
- Paying for the labor of all licensed contractors, subcontractors, and vendors
- Paying for the tools and equipment needed on job sites
- Fixed assets used during construction, including a telehandler, a materials storage yard, and delivery trucks
Many homes on St. John do not have access to safe, potable water directly from their cisterns, and no way to determine the water’s condition. LCS assessed this community concern through widespread data collection after the hurricanes of 2017, and responded to the need by developing our multiphase Water Quality program. In 2018 we began the first phase, aimed at testing and raising awareness of cistern water quality. Water testing was conducted for residents whom, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), are considered high-risk for the effects of a severe waterborne illness: Seniors; pregnant women; families with young children and infants; and individuals with a disability or chronic health condition. Our team visited and tested the cistern water of over 200 homes, at no cost to the residents. Alarmingly, the vast majority of our tests showed a high presence of harmful E.Coli bacteria. Collecting this data allowed us to seek funding for long-term solutions.
In 2019, we received a grant from the Center for Disaster Philanthropy to provide and install new, three-phase UV and carbon filtration systems on 50 residential cisterns. These cisterns belong to individuals whose test results in the first project phase continuously showed a high-risk of harmful contamination. We completed 50 installations in 2019, and an additional 20 installations in 2020 thanks to the support of our donors, who have kept this program going. This program creates long term health benefits for the high-risk individuals who are affected, and may have larger, positive economic and environmental impacts via reducing individual dependence on bottled water and reducing the strain that disposable plastic bottles place on St. John’s fragile waste management system. Licensed plumbers and electricians living on St. John have been hired to perform all of the installations, further ensuring that the recovery dollars we receive stay in the community.
Through sharing our data and program methodology with the CDC and the Virgin Islands Department of Health, our team has been utilized to help conduct numerous scientific field studies throughout the Virgin Islands. We continue to assist federal and territorial agencies with their scientific data gathering needs, in addition to our normal duties, when ever possible.
Planning for future challenges presented by natural disasters is our primary goal and purpose. Our Disaster Preparedness program has three components which seek to ensure that St. John is more prepared than ever for all hazards.
We have established 3 secure storage facilities across the island that house a variety of response and recovery supplies.
We have established a standby road clearing team, who are ready to deploy in the event of a disaster and are trained in proper equipment safety and use.
We have established a standby expansion of our Go Team, who are ready to deploy for door-to-door wellness checks and supply distribution in the event of a disaster.
Our employees and our standby teams have received extensive training from BBC Electric, St. John Rescue, the USVI Department of Health, the Virgin Islands Public Safety-Support Foundation, FEMA, and VITEMA. We believe that regular training and professional development are key to making us more effective as first responders.
Every year, we assist the Department of Human Services and VITEMA to deliver hundreds of sandbags and blue roof sheeting to seniors and families. We also have an aggressive, annual public outreach program that involves amplifying preparedness messaging from VITEMA and FEMA via social media and making direct phone calls to seniors on St. John.
Our Go Team contacts over 200 individual households on St. John before and after every major weather event, and responds to any immediate needs that they may have to get prepared. You can read more about our responses to recent hazards, including tropical storms and the COVID-19 pandemic, by clicking here.
An issue that has long affected St. John is the delayed response to emergencies by the island’s hard working first responders. This is due to a variety of factors such as the island’s inherent topographical challenges; poor cell phone and data service; outdated mapping of public roads, parcels and land estates and a lack of mapping for the majority of private roads and structures.
To help connect St. John’s first responders with those in need, our Go Team has spent the last 2 years traveling across the island and going door-to-door, offering free services to residents that may make it easier for emergency workers to find them. These include providing custom address signs; easy to use, waterproof, emergency flashing lights; and File of Life cards. Our team is also collecting important data that will be used by first responders to locate residents after a natural disaster, with a special emphasis on high risk individuals such as seniors and persons with a disability or chronic health condition. We have been working with several stakeholders in the USVI to make use of this data via the development of a first responder mobile app.
When it comes to ensuring the safety and wellness of the St. John community, no donation is too small. Our teams are on the ground, working hard every day to make an impact. We can continue to do so with your support.Donate now