More rain pelts struggling USVI

Faith community, nonprofits, work to feed survivors and help repair homes.

BY JIM SKILLINGTON | October 7, 2017

Hurricane survivors gather in the doorway to receive supplies from a volunteer at St. Thomas Reformed Church.
Credit: St. Thomas Reformed Church

Volunteers replace framing for this roof in St. Thomas.
Credit: St. Thomas Reformed Church

Day-by-day, volunteers arrive at St. Thomas Reformed Church (STRC) in the US Virgin Islands to distribute supplies to survivors of Hurricane Maria and Irma. Friday morning more 200 bags of supplies were distributed to residents in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Other survivors have come to the church for assistance.

Nearby, the cafe at My Brother's Workshop a local nonprofit, expects to serve 1,000 meals. More than 15,000 meals have been served to the needy since Maria hit the island.

While much of the US press has focused on the needs of Puerto Rico, residents of the US Virgin Islands are facing similar challenges with limited electric and water service. Gov. Kenneth Mapp said this week the government hopes to have 90 percent of the country's electric service restored by Christmas.

Like Puerto Rico, Federal aid to the islands has been criticized. Approximately 13,000 homes may be eligible for "Operation Blue Tarp," a FEMA program, implemented in USVI by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' (USACE) and private contractors provide fiber-reinforced sheeting to cover their damaged roofs until arrangements can be made for permanent repairs. However, according to Mapp, In the first eight days, just 47 temporary roofs were completed.

"I awoke this morning to another huge downpour and my thoughts and prayers immediately turned to those who are still living in homes without roofs," wrote the Rev. Jeffrey Neevel, pastor of STRC, wrote on the church's Facebook page Friday morning. "They are many. FEMA!!! They need tarps!!' Where are the tarps?!!!"

While government aid may be slow in coming, local and Stateside donors are assisting local nonprofits. STRC had run out of supplies to distribute to survivors late last week and on Monday they had to turn away survivors looking for help.

That all changed early Tuesday morning when an anonymous donor from Texas flew his own plane to the island with a cash donation and many of the supplies that were needed. "What a miracle!" the pastor exclaimed. The church has also been able to purchase pallets of water that were delivered to the cafe for its daily lunch. The Reformed Church of America's Global Mission program said on its Website that it will be partnering with the church to provide assistance.

St. Thomas is encouraging cash donations but is receiving boxes of donated goods in the mail each day.

Earlier this week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was at the church signing up people for assistance programs.

The Salvation Army provided tarps that the church could distribute and My Brother's Workshop in Tutu has been sending out crews to help survivors repair their homes.

Episcopal Relief & Development in collaboration with the Convoy of Hope provided emergency supplies including food, two portable kitchens, two refrigeration containers, 350,000 gallons of drinking water, 9,900 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, tarps, plywood and nails as well as hygiene and infant care kits to the islands late last month. The supplies were delivered to Tortola for distribution by clergy and volunteers from the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands.

"The damage is catastrophic throughout the Virgin Islands and people are greatly in need of the most basic necessities. Getting supplies to people on Tortola and Virgin Gorda has been a particular challenge and working with Convoy of Hope together with the Episcopal leadership has been a blessing," said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President for Programs.

The Salvation Army, supplemented by disaster teams from the US, has also been distributing clothing to hurricane survivors.

Related Topics:

Disaster work is life-changing

Slowly rebuilding after Irma

FL Irma recovery will last years

More links on Hurricane Maria

More links on Hurricane Irma


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