Oct 1, 2021

Checking Boxes in the Community Recovery Plan

Expert VISTA Videographer Joins Us!
Expert VISTA Videographer Joins Us!

As we write this report, the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season has communities throughout the Caribbean holding their breath. Serving an isolated, under-served Territory, St. Croix Foundation and all residents in the U.S. Virgin Islands are ever vigilant… and reviewing checklists of preparedness. The question before us is simple: are we more prepared today than four years ago to face a crisis like the 2017 Hurricanes or a global pandemic?

In August of 2018, FEMA’s Community Planning and Capacity Building Recovery Support Function published the St. Croix Community Recovery Plan, a 77-page report that outlines recovery and rebuilding initiatives for St. Croix in the wake of the Hurricanes. Using interviews, focus groups, public meetings, and data, the St. Croix Community Planning Committee, comprised of community leaders spanning the public, private, and civic sectors, outlined a plan to build resilience against future storms and lay the “foundation for a strong and successful future.” As FEMA’s lead partner on the Committee, the final plan identified three main priorities:

  • Recovery Projects to rebuild key community systems and repair facilities damaged by the storms in the short-term;
  • Resilience Projects to strengthen community systems to restore island services and prepare for future disasters, in the 1-3 year time horizon; and
  • Community Development Projects to advance the island as a whole, in the 3+ year time frame.

In the final report, and largely because of St. Croix Foundation’s unique philanthropic approach as a place-based community foundation, the plan manifested high-impact projects in a short period of time. Today, despite being a small philanthropy, serving an under-resourced community with no endowment, GlobalGiving’s support and partnership have enabled our Community to implement most of the civic-led projects outlined in the Community Recovery Plan.

Whether through our direct programming or grantmaking, we’ve been checking boxes! What we love about this story is that it’s about community, collaboration, and yes, accountability. It’s a story of nurturing hope, changing lives, and tapping into the innate resilience of a People and a Place. It is, quite simply, about activating philanthropy – the love of humankind.

And so, we invite you to sit back and review our checklist – because it is all of you at GlobalGiving who have made this possible.

Recovery, Resilience, and Community Development: CHECK!
Over the past four years, St. Croix Foundation has launched several comprehensive initiatives, all of which address multiple priorities identified by the St. Croix Community Planning Committee. In fact, in some areas, such as nonprofit capacity building, we have checked the box multiple times.

Energy Independence & Workforce Development

  • Enhance Job Training and Vocational Programs (Community Development)
  • Pilot Off-Grid Boxes for Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness (Resilience)
  • Provide More Resilient Support Services for Youth Following Disasters (Community Development)
  1. Community Center Solar Workforce Development Initiative: A two-pronged approach that leveraged resources for maximum benefit, we created new models for the Territory, meeting short and long-term needs outlined in the Community Plan. This initiative graduated 9 young adults with national certification in solar installation. As the Territory’s first cohort in green energy, we worked to ensure that 100% of our students were fully employed within 6 months of graduation. As part of their on-the-job training, our students solarized two local community centers, the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls and Flambouyant Gardens. As the second component of this initiative, SCF granted two solar systems to centers serving children and the elderly who are now able to provide more support with lower costs during blue and grey skies. Both centers take their 60% energy savings and reprogram those dollars into service and funding gaps.
  2. St. Croix Foundation also provided funding support to one of the new ranked Virgin Island Eagle Scouts, Kieran. Kieran created a mobile free-standing solar charging station that can be deployed in areas that have lost power generation and communication. Kieran hosted a workshop for Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI student to learn how to make this prototype.
  3. Update at a glance: To date, our two community centers have saved a total of $6,000 and 4 participants from the training program have been offered leadership positions and specialized training in solar installation such as Tesla Powerwalls.

Food Security, Small Business Development

  • Develop a Resilient Food System (Recovery)
  • Pilot Off-Grid Boxes for Neighborhood Disaster Preparedness (Resilience)
  • Establish Small Business Industry Clusters (Community Development)
  1. Farm Tienda Agriculture and Small Business Development Project: Recognizing that islands are vulnerable to widescale interruptions to food supply, and more so, isolated neighborhoods were cut off from relief supplies immediately after the storms, SCF zeroed in on supporting our farmers. As reported, this resilient food system has served throughout Covid-19, already proving the power of a network of micro-hubs – and checking even more boxes. Thanks to seed funding from Coca-Cola One and GlobalGiving’s support, along with a handful of local and national partners, St. Croix Foundation granted 7 farmers durable steel containers to serve as farm stands.  Committing to serve as resilience hubs, we not only helped these small businesses get back online but developed a new system of food security in our most remote and economically fragile neighborhoods.
  2. Update at a glance: In July, St. Croix Foundation met with several of our farmers to touch base on their Tienda’s operations and begin conversations on developing a comprehensive resiliency plan in grey skies.

Nonprofit Capacity Building

  • Develop Additional Local Organizational Capacity to Implement Recovery Projects (Resilience)
  • Protect Coral Reefs, Beaches, and Heritage Trees (Resilience)
  • Actively Promote Heritage Tourism to Diversify the Economy (Community Development)
  • Provide More Resilient Support Services for Youth Following Disasters (Community Development)
  1. AmeriCorps VISTA Program: As we reported back in June, our AmeriCorps VISTA Program is now a permanent site. The multiplier of this specific program is almost unlimited. By providing experts (local and off-island) to our nonprofits for a full year, the VISTA program ultimately supports every aspect of each nonprofit's work. Whether a cultural organization like Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism (CHANT) or one based in environmental stewardship like the St. Croix Environmental Association, here again, we checked several boxes!
  2. Update at a glance: We have 2 new VISTAs! Kevin is serving the St. Croix Foundation as our videographer, capturing the proof of all this incredible work to get the word out; and Nadea is at the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI to increase the visibility of the youth programs and services to donors and the wider Virgin Islands community. Additionally, we are pleased to report we have leveraged GlobalGiving’s support and have been approved for $20,000 in funding from AmeriCorps to support VISTA Supervision and Transportation.

Downtown Revitalization

  • Repair, Re-open, and Re-evaluate Community Spaces (Resilience)
  • Provide Solutions to Shelter Vulnerable Populations (Resilience)
  1. The Alexander Theater Renovation “Healing Humanities” Initiative: In February 2019, the Foundation was awarded a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant to renovate and retrofit the Alexander Theater in Sunday Market Square transforming it into a state-of-the-art performing arts center, convening space, and the only downtown Christiansted Community Disaster Safe Room capable of serving 300-600 people. A perfect example of the Foundation’s holistic approach to community development by leveraging scarce dollars for ripple impacts, the Alexander Theater will add to the territory’s depleted disaster shelter pool and will serve as an economic stimulus for Christiansted. This comprehensive project checks long-term resilience and community development initiatives in the Community Plan.
  2. Update at a glance: We are incredibly excited to report that we are now finalizing the RFP process for the selection of an architect for the design of this legacy project.

Grantmaking

  • Repair, Fortify, and Preserve Vulnerable Historical and Cultural Archives (Recovery: St. Croix Landmarks Society)
  • Provide Solutions to Shelter Vulnerable Populations (Resilience: Liberty Place, Christiansted Lighthouse Mission)
  • Protect Coral Reefs, Beaches, and Heritage Trees (Resilience: St. Croix Environmental Association)
  • Actively Promote Heritage Tourism to Diversify the Economy (Community Development: Crucian Heritage and Tourism)
  • Provide More Resilient Support Services for Youth Following Disasters (Community Development: FYR is LIT, Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls, Music in Motion, World Ocean School, CMCArts, St. Croix Montessori, Men’s Coalition, Leap & Learn Academy, Virgin Islands Volunteer Advocates for Children, Inc., and so many more!
  • Repair, Re-open, and Re-evaluate Community Spaces (Resilience: Clean Sweep Frederiksted, Christiansted Community Alliance; Mon Bijou Community Center)
  • Improve Access to Healthcare by Piloting a Client-Centered Care Program (Recovery: St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, Liberty Place, Frederiksted Health Center)
  1. CARE Fund Grantmaking: Through CARE, we have granted a total of $1.8 million to nonprofits Develop Additional Local Organizational Capacity to Implement Recovery Projects who were also checking boxes! Since our grantmaking is not restricted to programming, and we have cultivated close partnerships with local nonprofits, SCF’s grant supported operations for long-term building and short-term relief.
  2. Update at a glance: We are pleased to report that we just opened the 2021 CARE Sustaining Impact Grant for Nonprofit Consortium members! Although grantmaking represents only 20-30% of the Foundation’s work; when we do it, we do it right. The Sustaining Impact Grant is specifically designed to expand on earlier capacity-building awards (either through operations or programming) to fortify nonprofits on the frontlines of Covid-19 and ongoing resilience and rebuilding efforts.

Intersections with Care for Health, Community Building, Housing and Environment

  • Implement a Volunteer Check-up Program – (SCF Fiscal Sponsorship; Resilience )
  • Improve Individual Resilience through Community Mental Health Services (SCF Fiscal Sponsorship; Resilience)
  • Promote Solutions for Low-income Homeowners Resilience (SCF Nonprofit Consortium; Community Development )
  • Update and Enforce New Comprehensive Land Use Plans (Nonprofit Consortium; Community Development)

Our Unique Approach…As we report on this work, we can’t help but reflect on how it’s possible for such a small foundation to have such a big impact. We believe the “secret” to this success is twofold. First, as a place-based operating community foundation, we are rooted in our community and nonprofits. And because our portfolio is holistic - direct programming, fiscal sponsorship, and grantmaking – the outcome is that ALL of the Foundation’s programs and services, complement and intersect with CARE. That overlap has an exponential effect and the results are in: it works.

The second secret is encapsulated in the word “trust.” GlobalGiving saw in us a unique community foundation and trusted us to know what was best. With 31 years of service in our community, we live and breathe People and Place. We trust our local nonprofits, our grantees, sponsored projects, and program partners. And they trust us because of our commitment to collaboration, not competition.

Our partnership with GlobalGiving has allowed St. Croix Foundation to build organizational capacity for ourselves and for our larger civic sector- without competing. Together, we’re creating new systems and we’re meeting the mandates of the Community Plan.

In fact, we hope everyone in the GlobalGiving family knows that our partnership is indeed a model for our field – a model for equitable, collaborative, and sustained impact.

Thank you!

Jul 1, 2021

St. Croix LTRG: Spirit & Resilience!

A New Roof Becomes a Reality!
A New Roof Becomes a Reality!

The spirit and resiliency of a people are most strongly on display in the aftermath of a disaster—especially almost four years beyond. As we continue to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the unity of our community continues to be vital towards the achievement of a clear and concerted vision of a recovered and resilient St. Croix, USVI.

The St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group (LTRG) is a cooperative body that is made up of representatives from faith-based, non-profit, government, business, and other organizations working within St. Croix to assist individuals and families as they recover from Hurricane Maria.

The goal of the LTRG is to unite recovery resources with community needs in order to ensure that even the most vulnerable in the community recover from the disaster.  The LTRG officially formed under the fiscal sponsorship of the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development in 2015. Under the guidance of FEMA and the American Red Cross, members formed committees to carry out the work of the organization.

Meeting the Mandate
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us into changing how we continued to recover. We lost the opportunity to bring in volunteer teams to rebuild homes. Government programs focused on recovery came to halt as we weathered the pandemic storm. Despite these challenges, we accomplished so much in 2020 with new partnerships, stronger community engagement, capacity strengthening in technological communication, increased coordination with government agencies, and a renewed commitment from our member organizations to strive for a fully recovered island—and an island that will be prepared for the next disaster.

We have begun the process of formally folding the work of the LTRG into a new STX COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster) model which will ultimately be housed under the territory-wide VI VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster). As part of this process we are engaged in a formal membership campaign, asset-mapping of our 150+ member organizations to better understand where resources are located throughout the island and have occupied a seat at the Virgin Islands Emergency Management Council table, trained members to staff Points of Distribution Centers in times of crisis, offered volunteers to work emergency shelters, and carried out some initial discussions on community-based resiliency hubs that will be housed under the COAD. These hubs would allow for communities to survive in the immediate days following a disaster while we await additional outside relief—all in conjunction with the COADs on our sister islands.

Throughout all of this, we have not forgotten those in our community who are not back to a “new normal” from the storms of 2017. We still see the suffering of those without homes or a roof on their home almost four years after the storms. And we continue to do our best to bring relief to our community through our Disaster Case Managers and our Unmet Needs Roundtable. In addition, we are vocal advocates demanding that federally funded relief programs be expedited to operate at a much more efficient level. The recovery is not over! COVD-19 may have altered HOW we can help, but it will not stop us from helping all those that we can.

We are grateful for the support of the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development through their fiscal sponsorship and to our wonderful partners at GlobalGiving and Island Spirit Fund for their continued financial support.

With gratitude for allowing us to serve the St. Croix community and our sister islands, the staff of the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group:

Jay Rollins, Executive Director for National & Regional Relationships
Delia Richardson, Executive Director for Community Engagement
Christina Joseph, Executive Assistant
Rosalie Javois, VISTA

DISASTER CASE MANAGEMENT and UNMET NEEDS
During this reporting period, our DCMs continued to serve a total of 54 clients.

  • DCM program activity increased as the territory returned to a degree of normalcy after the extended COVID shutdown. Clients were supported by DCMs during the shutdown through frequent communication and sporadic home visits when circumstances warranted.  Many clients who were awaiting the Envision Tomorrow Program began receiving duplication of benefits notices indicating FEMA funds requiring repayment before they could move into the reconstruction/repair phase of the program. Of course, many did not have the resources necessary to repay, especially significant amounts.  DCMs assisted in multiple ways, including brainstorming with clients regarding potential lenders or grant availability, support with appealing their cases with additional evidence substantiating how money was spent, and seeking alternate avenues for home repair.  This new development was challenging for clients and created higher levels of anxiety. Most expressed a collective frustration about the pace of Envision Tomorrow as they continue to endure living in unstable conditions especially during heavy rainfall. Most do not have alternate living space and are trying to make their current living situation as comfortable as possible. Unfortunately, many of these clients are elderly and some are disabled.  And the transition of the Virgin Islands into hurricane season has not helped. To date, there is no indication or notification as to the actual start of construction of homes for clients in the program.
  • DCM staff began to initiate more direct communication with the management of the Envision Tomorrow Program to monitor client progress through the program more closely. DCMs were able to meet with Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) director and his Residential Disaster Recovery Management team to acquire more definitive information regarding potential repair timelines, obstacles as well as offer assistance and collaboration with the agency to help move the process along.
  • DCM had two clients that were undergoing the completion of repairs to their home. One client saw the repair of the entire home’s electrical system, replacement of most windows and some structural repair while the other client received a full kitchen refurbishment.
  • An additional 6 clients were submitted to Unmet Needs Roundtable for repair funding during this period and subsequently, 4 clients were approved totaling $32,838.88, 1 was denied and 1 is currently pending information from the contractor regarding potential structural issues that may require more funding.  Work on two of the recently approved clients’ home repairs has started.
  • DCM program was able to conduct debris removal from the client’s property to prepare for reconstruction to begin and was also able to fund roof tarp installation for another client—a total of $5,120.
  • Additionally, 2 other clients were able to get the repair to their damaged home started with insurance money received from hurricane Maria damage.   Although the money awarded was inadequate to completely cover the cost of repair, they lost confidence in the ability of the Envision Tomorrow Program to get underway as they have been paying rent for the past 4 years in anticipation of the additional assistance to bring their home to completion. Both DCMs have worked with clients and contractors to determine realistic repairs given the amount they have that will make the home reasonably inhabitable. They expressed exhaustion waiting on the program for the past 2 years and seeing no evidence of progress for any applicants.
  • DCM also worked with 3 clients with the application process to the USDA home repair grant program. Clients are still going through the application process and approval is pending. 

CONCLUSION
Although very delayed, DCMs continue to work with resident populations in getting their recovery needs met and support the implementation of territorial programs designed to assist home rebuilding as well as any other adjunctive services they may need.  Currently, our greatest allies in achieving these goals have been the Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) roofing program, STX/LTRG Unmet Needs Roundtable, the USDA & Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands.  We look forward to continued partnership with the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority and its Envision Tomorrow Program to witness the restoration of homes that are safe, sanitary, secure, and comfortable for program enrollees. 

METRICS: CLIENT CASE LOAD TOTAL: REPORTING PERIOD: March 5 – June 25, 2021

  • Total Clients Served: 54
  • Number of cases submitted to Unmet Needs Roundtable For Review: 6
  • Number of cases approved by Unmet Needs Roundtable: 4
  • Total enrolled in the Envision Tomorrow Program: 40
  • New Enrollments during reporting period: 1
  • Total Cases Closed: 4
Finally! A new kitchen, thanks to the LTRG and GG!
Finally! A new kitchen, thanks to the LTRG and GG!
A mountain of debris removed for health & safety.
A mountain of debris removed for health & safety.
Jun 25, 2021

Holding Space for Community through Civic Action

Virtual Town Halls Address Environmental Issues!
Virtual Town Halls Address Environmental Issues!

February 27 – June 25, 2021

In our last quarterly report, we told you about St. Croix Foundation’s work through the Nonprofit Consortium to create pathways toward greater engagement in the civic sector. In the several months since, and just as the 2021 Hurricane Season began and the world’s attention on climate focuses, the Nonprofit Consortium’s values of equity, collaboration, and community have never been more critical.

As we approach the Nonprofit Consortium’s 5th Anniversary this August 2021, St. Croix Foundation’s pledge to hold space for community action, to keep sacred the civic sector, and to empower local nonprofits has been put to the test and the importance of collective voice proven. In this last quarter alone, the Nonprofit Consortium has convened 19 times, with all four sectors represented: arts and culture, health and human welfare, youth and education, and the natural and built environs. In all, 20+ organizations sat at the table to continue vital case development while conducting community organization and advocacy around environmental justice.

The stakes have never been higher for our People. With no federal voting power, the voices of our civic organizations offer a voice and vision that encompasses sustainable, equitable systems--- of food, energy, education, and economics. To our family at GlobalGiving, we extend our deepest appreciation for sharing our vision!

Nonprofit Consortium Hosts Town Halls Around Environmental Justice
While many might not be able to pick St. Croix out on a world map, the U.S. Virgin Islands certainly has national relevance. In addition to being the only predominantly black jurisdiction (under the U.S. Flag) without any federal voting rights, this 84 square mile island was once home to the largest oil refinery in the world, based on throughput. It also has the distinction of enduring one of the largest (and quietest) oil spills in American history, to the tune of 43 million gallons that slowly leaked into the island’s largest freshwater aquifer. Because of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ vulnerability relative to climate change, striking a balance between environmental justice and sustainable development was a top priority to the Nonprofit Consortium from its inception. In fact, we began exploring new models of sustainability and excavating our past exploitive environmental injustices at our Environmental Forum in 2019.

In February of 2021, the 50-year-old refinery, which had shuttered in 2012, reopened under new ownership and within the first two months of operation, two chemical exigences occurred that rained oil onto people’s homes, cars, and into their cisterns (rain catchment systems located under most homes which serve as the primary water source for island residents). Having witnessed residents being left breathless for months from highly noxious gases wafting through downwind neighborhoods after the restart, St. Croix Foundation and members of the Nonprofit Consortium stepped forward. With little to no acknowledgment from the private and public sector and in the face of peoples’ pleas for help, we recognized that philanthropy had a moral imperative to lead courageously.

Empowering Community with Data and Resources
On Thursday, May 13th at 6pm St. Croix Foundation and Nonprofit Consortium Members from the Environmental Sectors - St. Croix Environmental Association, Crucian Heritage And Nature Tourism CHANT, & Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition - hosted its first Engage VI Environmental Virtual Town Hall to discuss recent environmental and health impacts from Limetree Bay Refinery.

Invitations were extended to Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC, US Environmental Protection Agency, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Virgin Islands Department of Health, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and the Legislature to provide information on EPA regulations, and individual agency scope and responsibility relative to health and safety. While refinery representatives were not present, legal experts and both local and federal agency heads confirmed and spoke at the Town Hall. The chat was full of questions about the scope of damages and their impact on individual and environmental health. In total, the NPC’s First Town Hall in this three-part series hosted over 300 participants in the live session, 860 views of the Town Hall recording, and nearly 200 engagements, amplifications, and reactions.

The following day, the EPA announced that the refinery would close for 60 days, citing an imminent health threat, invoking powers under the Clean Air Act which had only exercised eleven times before.

As shared in prior reports to our GlobalGiving family, one of the Nonprofit Consortium’s outcomes has been the development of an official website, EngageVI.org., which now houses vital community resources, including emergency contacts for community health reporting.

A live recording of the first Virtual Town Hall can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u52T08p8FU

Making Space for Marginalized Voices
One month later, on June 10, St. Croix Environmental Association, C.H.A.N.T., the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition and St. Croix Foundation hosted the second Virtual Town Hall, entitled, “Heavy Industry and the Food We Eat: Impacts on Agriculture and Fishers on St. Croix.”

This special Town Hall included speakers Dr. David Bond, of Bennington College & Mr. Olasee Davis, from the University of the Virgin Islands who provided a history of heavy industry on St. Croix and (ask Jonathan if he can summarize this in a compelling way with NPC at the center).

Once again, pre-prepared questions were addressed to the Department of Agriculture and the 80+ attendees  asked various questions, including:

  • Why was the island of St. Croix, as agricultural land, chosen to be a place to create such heavy environmental polluting and destructive industries?
  • How can we qualify for Superfund status to achieve levels of remediation?
  • I just purchased well water, with the comment generated today should I be concerned about possible hidden health concerns from possible contamination, is well contamination St. Croix wide?

With nearly 1000 views and over 113 engagements, the convening was well-received:

  • “Thank you all for organizing and bringing us together.”
  • “Thank you to all the presenters and to those who organized this forum to provide information. I am looking forward to hearing of a solution to this health issue.”

Creating a Sustainable Vision
The third and final session of the three-part Engage VI Environmental Town Hall series is scheduled for July 15, 2021. The discussion will center around articulating a community vision for a prosperous and sustainable future given the external environments, community values, health, all of the priorities represented by the Nonprofit Consortium’s four sectors. Making this convening that much more crucial was the announcement on June 21, 2021 that due to financial difficulties, the refinery may close operations permanently in September 2021. This development has been at the center of our dialogue around reimagining a future independent of heavy industry. We have also considered how dramatically this scenario mirrors the economic fallout of the initial closure of the refinery in 2012. What this demands of our community and, our sector, is a progressive and justice-focused reimaging that balances economic promise and environmental stewardship. As a result, the prospective theme of the final session is Reimagining A Sustainable Future: Balancing Economic Promise & Environmental Stewardship.

Holding the Vision
The work described here didn’t begin in response to the oil refinery nor Hurricanes Maria and Irma or even Covid-19. It began as a result of a deep understanding of what resilience in isolated communities can look like. Framed by the realities of political status, climate change, economics, geography, and rooted deeply in cultural heritage, the Nonprofit Consortium is coalescing civic power, empowering the disenfranchised, and giving Voice to the vulnerable. Our GlobalGiving family has made it all possible. THANK YOU!

Sharing health resources at the environ. town hall
Sharing health resources at the environ. town hall
The Foundation and NPC partners collaborate!
The Foundation and NPC partners collaborate!
 
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