Published on Thursday, 21 December 2017 18:29
St. John's Recovery Team is off to the races! We welcome this opportunity to unite, rebuild, and improve.
Recovery teams are as varied in their structure as are the communities in which they work. The personality and operation of each group are unique and reflects local needs, available resources, cultural diversity, leadership style, and community support. No matter how a group is structured, the goal is the same: to unite recovery resources with community needs in order to ensure that even the most vulnerable in the community recover from disaster.
Recovery is not only about the restoration of structures, systems, and services – although they are critical. A successful recovery is also about individuals and families being able to rebound from their losses, and sustain their physical, social, economic and spiritual “well-being.” The goal of recovery is to bring a community back to a new normal after it has been devastated by a disaster.
The island held its first Recovery Team Meeting on November 9, 2017, at the Fish Trap Restaurant in Cruz Bay. We invited the public and private organizations/agencies to present their relief/response activity in the short-term phase and their vision of their role in STJ long-term recovery. We reviewed the phases of a disaster and the continuum of response. We introduced attendees to what a long-term recovery group is according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and we presented proposed Work Groups. We asked attendees for suggestions of who should be included in each of the areas of focus and asked them to sign up for one of the areas themselves.
At the second Recovery Team meeting on November 30, 2017, we expanded the invitation list to include over 90 individuals incorporating all the suggested invitees from the first meeting. The steering committee and Recovery Team advisers suggested individuals for Board nominations, and we asked for nominations from the floor. We received the By-Laws from St. Thomas' Recovery Team to use as template, and accessed others to formulate a draft of our own, and we presented sample mission statements; both will be worked on by the St. John Recovery Team Board once they are voted in at the next full Recovery Team Community Meeting on December 28, 2017 (to be held on the 3rd Floor of the STJ Marketplace in front of Sam & Jack’s Deli at 5:00 PM).
The Recovery Team is breaking into 8 main work groups and related subcommittees in the areas of Resources and Donations Management, Volunteer Coordination, Health and Social Services (including feeding, crisis counseling, youth services, and animal welfare), Disaster Case Management, Housing and Construction Coordination, Environmental and Cultural Sustainability, Economic and Workforce Development, and Community and Infrastructure Planning. These Work Groups and underlying subcommittees are comprised of all the public and private groups, agencies and the Angel Network of nonprofit organizations leading St. John’s recovery effort.
While the island still has a long road ahead of hard work to do, it has already come a long way since being struck by the hurricanes in September and we are welcoming tourists. The National Park Service has officially reopened 4 beaches and counting. Some of our most beloved hiking trails are cleared, restaurants have reopened, stranded vessels are being retrieved, commercial flights are being added, more electricity is restored each day, and the number of operating businesses and retailers dependent on tourism increases daily.
Evacuated residents are also now returning to what is left of their island homes in greater numbers. Many homes are still without power and running water and far too many individuals and families remain displaced. While some structures fared better than others, all property on the island took on rainwater that was forced in by the category 5 strength winds and require mold mitigation if not extensive and cost prohibitive repairs or rebuilds. Residents with varying degrees of disaster-related trauma are suffering from physical, respiratory, mental, and emotional aftermath-related health inflictions. We are still caring for residents living in the storm shelter with no home to return to.
The holiday season can often be a stressful time of year and while we are a resilient community working hard to maintain morale, spirits are suffering due to these ongoing hardships.So far, The St. John Community Foundation has earmarked over $200,000 in unrestricted grants to local organizations, including Gifft Hill School and the Christian Academy, who surmounted huge hurdles to open their doors to the St. John youth early in this response phase. Funding has been provided to support organizations such as Island Health and Wellness Center, Island Green Living, St. John School of the Arts, the Animal Care Center of St. John, and Dana’s Carolina Corral, The St. John Revolving Fund, Love City Pan Dragons, and Coral Bay Community Council, who are all directly responding to post-hurricane needs, and more are in the pike. We have facilitated funds for Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City initiatives and written checks to cover well over two million dollars of expenses such as medical supplies, meals, generators, evacuation fight fees and fuel, debris removal, and construction costs as rebuilding homes and businesses is underway.
If you would like to continue your support for St. Johnians suffering from storm-related losses this holiday season, please keep us in mind as part of your year-end charitable giving plans. Tax-deductible donations may still be made to the St. John Community Foundation at http://thestjohnfoundation.org/donate
, which directly gives to the island nonprofits providing aid.
We wish you a wonderful holiday season with loved ones. This year's island festivities include community parties, a benefit for an injured lineman who was deployed to help us with power restoration, Santa's workshop with gifts donated through Adopt-A-Family USVI for children and adults, and Santa's arrival by boat on Christmas Eve. Thank you again for your support, the holidays will be brighter on St. John they would otherwise be with every hope of achieving a new normal in 2018!
Thank you for supporting St. John’s recovery and helping us work collaboratively to help create our new normal!