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Jun 10, 2019

Closing Out, But Just the Beginning!

Friends are visited by an iguana.
Friends are visited by an iguana.

Project Close Out Report

There is a Norfolk Island Pine tree that stands just beyond our front porch, with half of the branches stretching 3 feet long, and the other half, lighter green and tender, measuring about 7 inches. It is impossible to miss. Whether I am standing looking out on the porch, readying my son for school, walking the dog back into our home, or looking up from my laptop - there is the pine.

Following the nearly two years since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, you often hear families reflecting on the power of nature – the raw ways it can uproot and disrupt every aspect of our community – as well as the resiliency, beauty, and hope the regrowth inspires in us.

This tree in my yard has been a consistent visualization of what it is like for a community, and our school, to experience the disaster of two Category 5 hurricanes, and then to persevere through rebuilding, to set our efforts on long-term recovery, and also maintain a degree of “normalcy” for our children.

The Joy of A Learning Community

As the director of St. Croix Montessori, I have had the intense joy of seeing children discover that they are capable and appreciated.

While preparing for end-of-year presentations, a group of students ages 6 to 12 practiced presenting research projects to peers. A parent observing kept on marveling that each student had created a project on their own, based on their interest. While the format varied – from games to poster boards to giving a mini-lesson or writing a book – the collaboration was consistent. As one student practiced Jawperdy – a quiz on sharks, complete with points from 200 to 1000 - his peers advised him: “Remember to speak up when someone gets the correct answer. We get excited by that.”

A younger student was advised by an older student during practice, “It’s okay – just read your notes to us so you can help yourself memorize what you want to say. We know you can do it.”

Yet another student, who took weeks to speak to the teachers following his family’s relocation back to the island, transformed when asked to help the class raise an orphaned chick. “Here,” he told us. “At night, you wrap the chick in a towel, like a chickburrito, and it just quiets and sleeps.”  He called a veterinarian to confirm the chick’s health and create a care plan, and developed guidelines for classmates to safely care for our adoptee. 

Two alumni, who began middle school this year, presented to families about what they learned from their 12 years in St. Croix Montessori, including how to prepare for the transition into middle school. “Don’t give up,” one stated. “You will make mistakes, and that’s okay. Because then you need to learn from them and figure out what works best for you. Then try it out and keep going.”

She added: “And parents, have patience.”

Restoring Balance

There are times where the fear, stress, and anxiety of parents takes on a feverish pitch, and they come to the school riddled with insecurity about parenting, their child’s friendships, and their child’s chances for future success. Even the best of our school’s team members have had those moments of doubt, whether it is about helping guide a child or family through a challenging time or trying to find the phrase or lesson that unlocks a child’s imagination and interest.

Aside from the trauma of the hurricanes, there are roughly 55% of families surveyed that acknowledged having personally experienced trauma in the past year (i.e. violence, loss of home, family separation). A recent study of the post-disaster impacts on children and families in the USVI reported that 60% of our children have depressive symptoms and there is a severe shortage of behavioral health professionals.

Which brings me back to our Norfolk Pine.

These pines are across the island. You will see many that look like the one outside my door. Many others are stripped bare, and only their dried trunks remain.

The pine has been a sort of measure – and reminder - of how lives progress after the hurricane.

Half of our lives are like those 3-foot branches: we have persisted. We continue to go on with the routines, rituals, and daily nuances of our families’ lives and life in a school.

The other half of our lives is like the newer portion of the Norfolk pine. It is flexible, growing, may never “catchup.” It gives us a new perspective on just how much we’ve accomplished, and what is needed and important in order to restore balance.

Overall, we are the entirety of this picture – aware that the world continues ahead, aware of our fragility, aware of our strength. The work to restore balance – in our schools, our homes, and our community – is the next phase.

So while we are closing out this project, because our most immediate and critical hurricane recovery efforts have been completed, we trust that the GlobalGiving community is engaged in our long-term efforts to restore balance to the St. Croix community by providing families sustained security for their children and ensuring equitable access to a quality education for St. Croix’s children exists for many generations and hurricane seasons to come.

Thank you for helping us restore the school!

To learn more about the long-term recovery and how we are building an equitable learning community across every area, policy, and practice of our school – from classroom to leadership – please follow our new project. We look forward to sharing the journey with you!

"I discovered cartography!" Student maps.
"I discovered cartography!" Student maps.
Day old orphan chick receives sugar water.
Day old orphan chick receives sugar water.
Nature reminds us that we are still recovering.
Nature reminds us that we are still recovering.
Alumni remind parents: ask questions, be patient!
Alumni remind parents: ask questions, be patient!


Jun 10, 2019

Establishing the Building Blocks to Recovery

22 organizations become members of our Consortium!
22 organizations become members of our Consortium!

Before Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the U.S. Caribbean, St. Croix Foundation couldn’t have known how critical our Nonprofit Consortium would become over the next several years. But as a nimble and innovative place-based community foundation committed to equity, resilience, and collaboration (even before the storms), we knew how important social infrastructure was for the overall health and welfare of a place. We had also seen the powerful impact of strong nonprofits. Initially conceptualized in response to the growing economic crisis on St. Croix, in September 2016 the Foundation launched our Nonprofit Consortium and for a year prior to the hurricanes had been steadily building unity and trust among over 35 organizations. When two Category 5 Hurricanes hit St. Croix in September 2017, nonprofits who’d been working together for a year launched into action, sharing resources - from information about conditions on the ground to labor, equipment, and office space - to get urgent recovery needs filled.

As another hurricane season stretches before us, for the Virgin Islands (and many communities just like ours) the stakes are high. With many residents still living under tarped roofs; with our only community hospital scheduled for a complete rebuild despite still being in limited service; and with the actual rebuilding of physical infrastructure just beginning, support from our global philanthropic community is now more important than ever before. For our community at this time, our social infrastructure is in fact equally (if not more) important as the capacity of local nonprofits (like our community health clinic) to serve and fill gaping service voids can literally mean the difference between life and death for our residents.

The Foundation’s June report is quite special to us because not only have we begun to formalize the building blocks of the Nonprofit Consortium, but we are pleased to report that the work, which has never stopped, is now honing in on targeted activities for a holistic community-based recovery. But first, we would like to pause and dedicate this special report to the many donors – corporate, individual, global and local - who have made the work of the Consortium possible, including our friends at GlobalGiving. Thank you, because from collaborative partnerships and words of encouragement to financial support, you have been a part of the work.

Formalizing the Nonprofit Consortium (NPC)
Today St. Croix Foundation is incredibly pleased to report that in April, 22 partners in our Nonprofit Consortium signed Memorandums of Understanding, becoming official members and pledging their commitment to work on building a system of nonprofit collaboration. The Memorandums of Understanding outlined roles and responsibilities of each member for the next year.

The first ‘official’ members of our NPC represent four sectors: Culture & the Arts, Youth & Education, the Natural & Built Environs, and Health & Human Welfare, and range from grassroots movements to formal 501(c)3 organizations. All members are firmly committed to the Foundation’s vision of a robust civic sector on St. Croix and throughout the territory. Over the course of the next year, the NPC’s goal is to expand formal membership to include the entire nonprofit sector on the island and in turn, grow to be an active coalition Territory-wide. Led by an Advisory Committee, comprising a broad cross-section of community stakeholders, consortium members will be provided targeted capacity-building support and from time-to-time convenings will be opened to a wider segment of the local nonprofit community.

The Foundation’s overarching goal is to leverage existing assets in our community into real social infrastructure in order to nurture a more sustainable and resilient recovery. The following organizations and civic projects are now official members of our Nonprofit Consortium and represent a holistic framework for the priorities of the Consortium, its expansion, and ultimately, its impact!

  • Christiansted Community Alliance
  • Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls
  • Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts
  • Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc.
  • Clean Sweep Frederiksted
  • Diane Hampton Breast Cancer Project
  • Fish with a Vet
  • FYR is LIT
  • Liberty Place
  • Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands
  • Music In Motion School of Higher Dance Education
  • Per Ankh
  • St. Croix Animal Welfare Center
  • St. Croix Environmental Association
  • St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group
  • St. Croix Montessori
  • Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center
  • Virgin Islands Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council
  • Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition
  • Virgin Islands Partners for Healthy Communities
  • Women’s Coalition of St. Croix
  • Yvonne A. Galiber Foundation

NPC Sustainable Development Goal Priorities
Today members of the Consortium and nonprofits are participating in a survey to target the top three priority areas for collaboration (shared resources, accountability, and tactics for addressing challenges) for multi-layered impact. Results will inform the work of the Nonprofit Consortium as it continues to build governing structures. The NPC’s Sustainable Development Survey – in alignment with the United Nations’ own Sustainable Development Goals - will begin to develop consensus around the priorities for the NPC’s own collaborative work. To date, the NPC has developed the following seven focus areas from which the Nonprofit Consortium will identify its priorities:

  1. Zero Hunger- The development of strategies for food sovereignty and a focus on the eradication of hunger and poverty is central to resiliency and sustainability.
  2. Clean Water & Sanitation- Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in.
  3. Affordable & Clean Energy- Reliable and equitable access to sustainable energy are central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity.
  4. Sustainable Cities and Communities- Resilient communities provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services such as energy, housing, education, medical care, and transportation.
  5. Climate Action- Climate change is a global challenge that affects everyone, everywhere.
  6. Life Below Water- Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
  7. Life on Land- The ability to sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss is critical to all life.

These priorities will serve to frame the Consortium’s programming and will help to lead the Territory in the first broad-based conversation about sustainability.

Environmental Forum
As the Foundation prepared this report, our Nonprofit Consortium was hard at work wrapping up its first Environmental Resiliency Forum. Like a growing number of island states throughout the region that are establishing audacious goals around climate resiliency and energy carbon neutrality, the NPC is developing its own comprehensive environmental vision for St. Croix.

St. Croix is indeed facing a set of unique challenges, including the restart of one of the world’s largest oil refineries directly after the hurricanes. As such, the Nonprofit Consortium hosted an Environmental Forum this May 31st entitled The USVI Environmental Landscape and Activating Community Around Sustainability and Climate Change. The forum was specifically designed to disseminate information, provide a platform for unheard voices, engage national philanthropic partners around environmental justice and advocacy, and build a shared vision for the future.

In attendance were over 30 local nonprofit leaders with expert scholar, David Bond, who presented on the history and context of major environmental impacts such as the building of the HESS Oil Refinery and the Alumina Plant. Attorney Jack Dema also presented data he compiled as legal counsel for the Virgin Islands Government to contest the environmental impacts of the Refinery.

Outcomes from the forum include the development of a community-based Environmental Vision for the Territory.  Video from the forum is also being circulated to provide a broader cross-section of our community with a deeper understanding of the real impacts of heavy industry on St. Croix’s environmental landscape.

We hope you’ll take a moment and contact us at 340.773.9898 for footage and interviews from the Environmental Resiliency Forum.


An important objective for the Foundation for the past year has been completing the process of applying for a 15-member VISTA Team to assist eight organizations (including St. Croix Foundation) on St. Croix who have been active participants in our Nonprofit Consortium. With the majority of our nonprofits reporting an increased demand for their services while they grapple with few resources – including staffing – an AmeriCorps VISTA Team on St. Croix will be a major step toward enhancing the capabilities of our nonprofits. In the spring of this year, St. Croix Foundation asked for a VISTA Supervisor to meet with all the organization who will be participating in VISTA Project. The VISTA State Director spoke about the program and compliance and a work session for developing the VISTA assignment descriptions for each position was conducted.

Representing approximately 400 staff hours to date in coordination of nonprofit candidates and the development of a comprehensive application that includes detailed scopes of work and objectives for each organization, this project will be led by St. Croix Foundation, which will also serve as VISTA Team Lead for seven organizations:

  1. Caribbean Centers for Boys & Girls of the Virgin Islands
  2. Clean Sweep Frederiksted
  3. St. Croix Long-Term Recovery Group
  4. St. Croix Montessori
  5. Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition
  6. St. Croix Landmarks Society
  7. Virgin Islands Historic Preservation Commission

The Foundation is pleased to report that we have completed the final submission of the application and, if reviews are favorable, our partnering nonprofits will be able to staff up and build infrastructure around programming and operations beginning in August of this year. This will be the first AmeriCorps VISTA Team to work on St. Croix in over 20 years.

Upcoming Activities
As always, we like to keep you updated on what we’ve got planned next, and the Foundation is currently working on our next convening already. We have invited Tuesday Ryan-Hart back to St. Croix for her second visit with our Nonprofit Consortium and community members, from June 19th-21st, Tuesday will be conducting more individualized trainings with nonprofits around collaboration and shared work.

Building off her first visit, during which she introduced our community to the concepts of Art of Hosting as a progressive pathway to sustained social change and collective impact, we are excited to nurture further capacity around the spirit of collaboration to address systemic issues.

Momentum for the Nonprofit Consortium
Over the course of the past year and a half, the GlobalGiving community has been integral to the Nonprofit Consortium’s momentum and impact. This work continues to be recognized as a progressive model for community resiliency and sustainable development. While more focus is typically directed at Physical Infrastructure in the aftermath of major disasters, what our Nonprofit Consortium has taught us is that, in reality, fortifying Social Infrastructure is oftentimes the most direct and rooted pathway to supporting vulnerable and marginalized populations. The Foundation is assured that our Consortium is a scalable model that can be replicated in other communities, especially since we have been asked to share our work and best practices with other island states in the region. The Consortium is also presenting us with a viable mechanism for building a broader network of social support systems nationally and throughout the Caribbean.

We are grateful for all of our Partners at GlobalGiving for sharing our vision. Thank you for believing with us that communities have the innate capacity to nurture and sustain resiliency from the inside out. We are just getting started and your partnership is simply invaluable to so many.

Scholar David Bond shares data at Environ. Forum.
Scholar David Bond shares data at Environ. Forum.
Our Environ. Forum draws diverse audience.
Our Environ. Forum draws diverse audience.
8 organizations receive VISTA training.
8 organizations receive VISTA training.
May 16, 2019

Preserving Community & Ensuring Holistic Recovery

Preserving Crucian Culture through StoryCorps!
Preserving Crucian Culture through StoryCorps!

Each year, many organizations, companies, and governments struggle through the challenge of ensuring that recovery from a disaster is balanced and community-based. At St. Croix Foundation, we believe strongly that place-keeping (as opposed to place-making) is one key component of holistic and sustainable community development because it is grounded in the recognition that no place is a blank slate. In the U.S. Caribbean, as with many other coastal communities devasted by a disaster, a sudden influx of contractors, relief workers, consultants, and developers can lead to new adversities after the initial impact. During this phase of the recovery, ensuring that existing assets in our community are not further compromised or lost completely in new development plans has been a primary priority for St. Croix Foundation.

As we now approach the 2019 hurricane season, we are ever mindful that because of your support, we have been able to make a measurable impact in a community that is still in the early stages of recovery. Despite virtually no media visibility on the impact of the 2017 storms on St. Croix, the Foundation remains committed to keeping our most vulnerable and marginalized residents (and the nonprofit organizations that serve them) at the forefront of all we do and every platform we stand on. And for that reason, GlobalGiving’s continued support, through our CARE Fund, has been integral to our recovery agenda. Not only has it provided programmatic support but also less restrictive operational capacity support to our local nonprofit partners. It has also enabled us to invest thousands of staff hours collecting data, developing comprehensive programming, and nurturing strategic partnerships that make our work possible. Below is a snapshot of some of the high impact projects that your support and our CARE Fund is supporting.

St. Croix Foundation has just been officially approved for Phase 1 of a Hazard Mitigation Grant through FEMA to renovate and retrofit our Alexander Theater in Sunday Market Square into a state-of-the-art performing arts center and the only downtown Christiansted Community Disaster Shelter which will hold upwards of 300 people.  A longstanding vision of St. Croix Foundation’s that dates to 1998 when we first became court-appointed receivers of several properties in Sunday Market Square, we’ve been working diligently over the past year and a half to develop a comprehensive application that will bring this historic theater back online in a truly innovative way. 

A perfect example of the Foundation’s holistic approach to community development and to leveraging scarce dollars for multiple impacts, the theater will become St. Croix’s first modern indoor performing arts and conference convening space in addition to adding to the Territory’s critically depleted disaster shelter pool. The project will also serve as a vital economic stimulus for our historic Downtown Center of Christiansted.

As we think about our Territory’s future resilience, the message we hope this project sends to our local and global community, is one of hope, of optimism and of the power of civic-led partnerships and place-based philanthropy to transform and strengthen communities for good and for all. The HAZ-MIT Grant will fund the architectural design and engineering study for the Theater!

Today, almost 2 years after the 2017 hurricanes, St. Croix is not just working to rebuild basic infrastructure, but in many cases, residents are still trying to recover financially from a severely depressed economy. For our local farming community, most did not just lose structures, they continue to be impacted by the loss of their entire (uninsured) businesses (livestock, produce and infrastructure) coupled by the loss of a whole growing season.

Underscoring the need for economic resiliency for small businesses and having assessed St. Croix’s most pressing needs immediately following the storms, the Foundation found that the critical nature of St. Croix’s agricultural industry relative to the Territory’s food security cannot be understated. Thus, working in concert, St. Croix Foundation, along with our sponsored project Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, and Coca-Cola customized a radical new concept to create small business container farm stands.

With few federal funding resources available to VI farmers and little philanthropic support directed at this vital industry, St. Croix Foundation committed immediately after the storms that struggling low resourced farmers would be a high priority and a critical component of our resiliency agenda.

In 2017, just months after the storms, with a $100,000 grant from The Coca Company, the Foundation began developing an initiative that would assist local farmers in building for the future and anchor them as community hubs in times of disaster. Launched on April 5th, through this grantmaking program, the Foundation is awarding durable, eco-friendly container farm stands, or “Farm-Tiendas,” to eligible farmers to help bring their businesses fully back on-line. Farm stands are made from steel containers that will also be outfitted with solar panels, Wi-Fi, and potable water to allow farmers to stabilize and expand their businesses while also providing community hubs in the aftermath of future disasters.

The Foundation hopes to award four Farm-Tiendas through this initial pilot that was modeled after the Puerto Rico project, “POP-Tiendas,” which provided container stores to Puerto Rican mom-and-pop small business owners who lost their businesses in the storm. By building partnerships that support resilience in our community, the Foundation is connecting stakeholders with resources to support relevant needs and pioneering new pathways of addressing long-standing issues that keep recovery grounded in Community.

We are also incredibly honored to report that we recently hosted StoryCorps, a national organization dedicated to the preservation of community voices and cultures representing diverse American experiences in early April.

Working in partnership with StoryCorps, Enterprise Community Partners, and the Urban Land Institute, the Foundation invited 30 Crucian residents and culture bearers to record and share conversations about resilience, about culture, and about the power of the human spirit through our legacy project entitled, “Crucian Conversations.” (Crucian is the word for people who come from St. Croix!)

During their visit, StoryCorps recorded 15 conversations between 30 Crucians, teaming mothers and daughters, friends, and teachers and students together to share their experiences in 40-minute conversations. From doctors, musicians, and chefs to community activists, each participant helped further awareness of the diverse landscape of the Virgin Islands while preserving their stories as a part of the Crucian cultural history. Through StoryCorps’ close partnership with National Public Radio (NPR), some of the recorded conversations may be aired on NPR and, with permission, archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The ultimate aim is to capture and amplify voices of everyday people least heard in the media.


Our CARE Grantees: Partners in Recovery
Every time we check in with you, one of our goals is to report on some of the work of our grantees, who the Foundation refers to as our partners. This is because our grantees are much more than recipients of financial support – they are our partners in data collection, and they help to inform St. Croix Foundation’s programming as well keep the pulse of community at the heart of our grantmaking.

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, in 2018, the Virgin Islands’ unemployment rate was soaring at over 10% and our homicide rate, at 49 per 100,000 people, required that the Foundation take action in supporting nonprofits whose mission is to educate our youth and transform the social fabric of our community. In 2018, the Foundation awarded the Men’s Coalition of the Virgin Islands a CARE Grant in the amount of $19,800 for a comprehensive, year-round program that is helping to save lives. 

 In total, the Men’s Coalition’s Rites of Passage Program engaged 11 of our young boys, ages 7-12, in nearly 150 hours of one-on-one individualized program sessions that gave students tools for anger management, conflict resolution, healing from trauma, and developing resilience. The program also provided academic enrichment in math, reading, and presentation and communication skills. This grant award didn’t just touch those 11 boys – the Men’s Coalition reported that these 11 young people became role models for new students and because of the data collection that the Foundation requires through reporting, is excited to use the information to expand the program in the future.

St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is Changing Lives
As part of our holistic approach to community development, St. Croix Foundation sponsors over 40 nonprofits at any given time, providing sound fiscal management as well as opportunities to raise funds under the Foundation’s 501(c)3 status. When the hurricanes hit in 2017, the Foundation knew that serving our own nonprofits would exponentially expand our impact throughout the community.

One of our sponsored projects, the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is steadily serving to support residents with unmet needs resulting from the 2017 Hurricanes. And to ensure the LTRG has initial start-up support, the Foundation continues to waive financial management fees and is providing discounted office space to the group so they can keep working while they build capacity. Today, the LTRG has completed major roof and hazard mitigation restoration on 35 homes.

Community Solar Program Enrolls Students!
We’d also like to give a quick update on our Sustainable Solar-supported Community Demonstration Project. We are excited to report that we have held one-on-one interviews with 10 prospective students from the first cohort of our training program. Once selections are made, students will be working, hands-on and in the classroom, to learn the skills necessary for NCCER national certification in Core Construction, Electrical and Solar installation. While total unemployment in the Virgin Islands was officially reported as 11% in January 2018 after the hurricanes, estimates by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund indicate that above 20% of our young people (ages 15-24) are under or unemployed. This makes the workforce development component of our Solar Demonstration Project even more critical.

As classroom space is being finalized, we are now ordering supplies and books for the class. Once our students and classroom are in place, installation of a solar PV system at the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls (which serves over 80 at-risk children daily) will begin. The PV-system will generate 6kW of power to offset CCBG’s critical loads and over time reduce their energy costs. This model of workforce development and energy independence housed at community centers is a comprehensive project that we believe will be a model for how broad-based community collaboration can have the deepest impact.

St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, just presented at the Council on Foundation’s Annual Meeting with Yoca Arditi-Rocha of The CLEO Institute in Miami, Dee Baecher-Brown of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands and moderated by Lindsey Linzer of The Miami Foundation.

As we work hard to keep the Virgin Islands and St. Croix’s incredible nonprofits on the national stage, we are ensuring that our rebuilding efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria serve and empower our community far beyond grantmaking. While we believe in an equitable, holistic philanthropic approach to community (re)development that includes grantmaking, we are more committed to developing projects that build progressive models of resiliency. Learn more about our work to rebuild sustainably and collaboratively at

The 2019 hurricane season is just a few weeks away, and although we still have so much work to do to recover from the 2017 hurricane Season, at St. Croix Foundation, we want to pause for a moment and thank the GlobalGiving community for all that it has done to support our work. The development of every success here marks not just an investment of money but of time, working to identify the partnerships needed for holistic community development, to build the program blueprint,  and to implement and evaluate our projects. This work simply wouldn’t be possible without the support of our global friends – you. We extend our deepest gratitude on behalf of the community we serve and hope you’ll continue to stay the course with us!

Theater will be Retrofit as Shelter & Arts Center!
Theater will be Retrofit as Shelter & Arts Center!
Farm-Tienda Grant Supports Agribusiness Recovery!
Farm-Tienda Grant Supports Agribusiness Recovery!
Our President Presents at Council on Foundations!
Our President Presents at Council on Foundations!
Men's Coalition Gives Boys Social & Academic Tools
Men's Coalition Gives Boys Social & Academic Tools


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