Feb 3, 2021

Proving the Power of Place

VISTA Volunteers Embrace St. Croix & Service!
VISTA Volunteers Embrace St. Croix & Service!

Today, as we usher in the year 2021, we are delighted to report that initiatives we launched in response to catastrophic hurricanes Maria and Irma are thriving. They are thriving because they are based in community, in place, and as such are relevant and therefore sustainable. Whether it’s around energy independence, food security, small business growth, workforce development, or nonprofit capacity support, St. Croix Foundation is investing in our People and our Place.

Together with our incredible GlobalGiving family and a network of civic, private, and public partners, we have successfully created equitable pathways for accessing basic services and resources for historically underrepresented populations. Together we are nurturing resilience in underserved communities and supporting often-overlooked components of our stakeholder community: farmers.  Ultimately, together we are proving the power of place-based philanthropy!

Solarizing Centers and Workforce Development: WE DID IT!
In our last report, we told you about the successes of our Solar-Supported Community Center and Workforce Development Initiative:

  1. The development of a green energy workforce with the graduation of the Territory’s first cohort of 9 nationally certified solar installers – all of whom are now fully employed in the field.
  2. The creation of a grantmaking model that nurtures community resilience through solarizing community centers serving vulnerable populations (children and the elderly) in remote locations.

Today, we can say that the Initiative is complete! Thanks to GlobalGiving funding, the solar system for Flambouyant Gardens has been installed! As of December 2020, this center, located mid-island and serving 56 senior citizens, is now fortified with a solar system. During blue skies, the center will save approximately 60% of its overhead and has pledged to reinvest their savings into programming for the center. During grey skies, the center will be a mid-island, resiliency hub for residents in nearby neighborhoods, providing a place to charge phones or store medication. Just like the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls, Flamboyant Gardens has committed to tracking its savings and reporting on usage to help monitor the return on investments, both qualitative and quantitative.

What’s next? As part of our mission, St. Croix Foundation is a “a catalyst for change.” Seeking to build upon this progressive Resiliency Model and the momentum of the work, St. Croix prepared comprehensive comments for our local Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program, which were submitted by one of our nonprofit partners, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, to support the expansion of a more comprehensive phase of our Solar Project in the amount of $9.25 Million.

Having incubated this high-impact program for several years, the Foundation has been very intentional in identifying a committed civic partner – and a sustainable funding source – to lead and maintain the work moving forward, for the long-term. If the comments are approved, the project is expected to serve 150 young people and solarize and harden 25 community centers. These comments were submitted to encourage the Territory to incorporate the solar project's expansion into the CDBG-DR action plan currently under development.

Farmers Receive Awards to Fortify Farm Tiendas
The Foundation is pleased to report that our Farm Tienda Initiative has already proven its worth! As we reported last October, all 7 Farm Tiendas are in operation and are serving our public through COVID-19 safely, supporting neighborhoods with fresh food as commercial supply chains slow and access through schools is limited.

Today, with all Farm Tiendas stabilized for hurricane season and outfitted with water buffalos, our next step is to solarize every Tienda for energy independence. During grey skies, solar units will enable farmers to assist their neighborhood with basics such as electricity, water, and of course, fresh food.

One of the elements the Foundation considered when selecting farms that would receive a Tienda Grant was location. Our main objective was to ensure accurate coverage of isolated communities, but in addition to this, the Foundation has sought to gather data on the utility Farm Tiendas themselves. What we have learned is that each farmer requires additional fortification of their Farm Tienda to reach its full potential of serving the community.

To allow our farmers the flexibility necessary to enhance their infrastructure, in mid-January, St. Croix Foundation, in partnership with Tides Foundation, awarded each farmer a $1000 mini-grant – a total of $7,000. Funds will support new shelving units, stainless steel tables, point-of-sale systems like cash registers, and fans to keep the space cool.

Community Building
In St. Croix Foundation’s October 2020 Farm Tienda Survey, all respondents reported that the Farm Tiendas had streamlined their operations. As a prime objective of the Initiative, the Foundation is eager to continue tracking this. But beyond the economics, community-building was another priority. Today, we are happy to report that Farm Tiendas are expanding opportunities for community-building. One farmer stated that “our area is further away than most from groceries, so the increase in access to fresh food for our neighborhood has been amazing. We are meeting all kinds of neighbors we never knew before, and they are meeting each other. I think the site has a lot of room for expansion.”

AmeriCorps VISTAS: Serving through Covid-19
The key to success is often the ability to pivot (or pause) as needed. In the time of Covid-19, our family at GlobalGiving has been integral to our ability to keep projects moving that may have otherwise been unsustainable.

Today, we are happy to report that the St. Croix VISTA Team has been approved for its second year. It is a milestone to be renewed for another year of this three-year program. This was approved because, despite issues surrounding Covid-19, six VISTAs are currently serving five organizations: St. Croix Foundation, Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, St. Croix Landmarks Society, and the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition. These organizations represent the heart of resilience: youth, culture, food security, and long-term capacity-building for resilience.

St. Croix Foundation and partners are also pleased to see the VISTA Team continue to grow. As our VISTAs started in the 3rd quarter of 2019, just before a global pandemic hit the world. This temporarily paused our recruiting efforts while we ensured that our VISTAs felt safe and whole during this time. Two of our VISTAs returned to their hometown, and the remainder sheltered in place. As each VISTA adjusted to these challenging times, St. Croix Foundation increased the number of individual and group check-ins to twice a month from bi-monthly meetings to assure all program concerns were addressed. During this time, two non-local VISTAs did complete their service term for VISTA and provided great support to our nonprofits. One developed a community outreach and marketing plan, and the other helped foster new agriculture partners to collaborate with on projects.

Thanks to the generous grant from GlobalGiving’s Cruzan Island Spirit Fund to help subsidize our volunteers' housing costs, we continue our quest to recruit 8 more members. In recognition of St. Croix’s isolated geographical location, the Foundation’s recruitment outreach emphasizes opportunities to connect virtually with other VISTA members and the community, while serving on an island with low case numbers and many opportunities to be in open-air spaces.

Two non-local VISTAs are currently serving the St. Croix team: one VISTA has decided to continue her service from her home state due to Covid-19, and one VISTA is serving on the island of St. Croix. The VISTA serving St. Croix Foundation decided to join the Team on the island from Tampa, Florida. Victoria, our newest recruit, recently completed her Master’s in International Development in Geneva, Switzerland and was eager for the opportunity to serve on St. Croix. The Foundation is excited to have her on board to assist with funding research and organization development, and she has already assisted with developing a formal Letter of Inquiry for one our largest fundraising efforts to date. As one of our original goals, VISTA members were to receive a holistic experience, and Victoria has been able to explore the island by hiking and assisting local farmers safely.

Victoria shared, “My first weekend on St. Croix, we went on a hike to overlook the island’s beautiful coastline. I felt excited to start my VISTA experience and learn more about the community I would be serving.” Having this VISTA join in October 2020 and safely transition to the island has boosted morale for the Team and shown that non-local recruitment is still possible at this time.

Keeping Doors Open for Resilience with $65,000 in Grants to Nonprofits
As you heard last year, in response to Covid-19, St. Croix Foundation relaunched the CARE Fund as a permanent Fund, providing support for a targeted response to COVID-19 and any other disaster we may face. Today, as our community joins the world in a global fight to combat COVID-19, the CARE Fund is already supporting the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands in several priority areas as a conduit (not a container) of resources. Our priorities include: (1) Nonprofit operating support (Open Doors), (2) Programming support for frontline responders, (3) Data collection and reporting, and (4) Direct programming to build resilience and new systems.

As a core resilience strategy, the Foundation first turned to our civic organizations still on the front line. Prioritizing the stabilization of essential local nonprofit organizations that are playing a critical role in serving and supporting the most vulnerable populations directly or indirectly impacted by the current COVID-19 pandemic, in November of 2020, SCF awarded $65,000 to the following organizations through our Open Doors Grant:

  • Lutheran Social Services: Access to PPE and nursing care
  • Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts: “Art at Home” virtual arts programming for youth
  • Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism, Inc.: operational support
  • Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands: Virtual academic tutoring
  • St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group: Crisis Preparedness Kits
  • St. Croix Montessori: Performance Arts Program
  • World Ocean School: STEM programming
  • FYR is LIT: Academic tutoring and youth leadership development
  • St. Croix Environmental Association: Environmental education program
  • Music in Motion School of Higher Dance Education: operational support
  • Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition (food security): operational support
  • Clean Sweep Frederiksted: Community engagement plan, economic development
  • Liberty Place: “Community First!” shelter for rehabilitation

Once again, these organizations, also members of the Foundation’s Nonprofit Consortium, represent every sector of a healthy community, from arts and culture to economic development and youth and education. By utilizing a holistic approach to sustainable recovery, the Foundation’s work through our CARE Fund will leverage scarce community resources and provide strategic rebuilding that will serve the community into the future.

NYCT partnership with Puerto Rico on Resiliency Lessons Learned
In the aftermath of the storms, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is focused on work that supports long-term sustainability and resilience. As in so many other coastal communities, in the Virgin Islands, sustainability and resiliency are not just words, but imperatives for our residents' future. Acutely aware that as an isolated island community, the Territory must look beyond theory and put into practice community-based initiatives that will advance our recovery priorities of energy independence, economic resiliency, nonprofit stability, workforce development, and overall community self-sufficiency.

Our goal is to share learnings stemmed from the experiences lived by our communities after hurricane María and the most recent earthquakes in Puerto Rico. Our objective is to convene three organizations from St. Croix and three organizations from Puerto Rico. As St. Croix Foundation and Puerto Rico Community Foundation both have commonalities, not only in the way we are structured but in our areas of focus (especially after the recent emergencies), we seek to collaborate and learn from each other’s experience.

We envision having exchanges in Puerto Rico during May and in St. Croix during October. A document should stem from these exchanges – Quick Reference Report on Caribbean Community Resilience (QRRCCR) that will contain community savvy strategies that could be referenced in the case of future natural events impacting islands. We will evaluate participants' experience and satisfaction with each peer learning exchange, and we’ll monitor any generated collaboration. They will also become a tangible and visual mechanism to highlight the peer learning exchange results and following conversations.

Starting with Community…
As a place-based community foundation, St. Croix Foundation has weathered many storms right alongside the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands. From hurricanes to national and global economic recessions and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, the call of philanthropy has never changed for us: get on the ground, nurture enduring relationships with nonprofits to understand needs, and devise targeted solutions. With GlobalGiving, we’ve been able to hit the ground running. Thank you for making so much possible.

Our senior center receives a new solar system!
Our senior center receives a new solar system!
Nov 9, 2020

Equipping Residents with Resilience Preparedness

Our Youth Ambassadors filled 300 sandbags!
Our Youth Ambassadors filled 300 sandbags!

Connecting, Engaging, and Equipping Residents with Resilience Preparedness

The LTRG offers free workshops to local organizations and congregations seeking to equip their members with preparedness for potential disasters. This quarter, two virtual workshops titled Preparedness Is Personal; Preparedness Is Us” were conducted for approximately 30 participants. The workshops' goal is to promote a cultural change from one of reaction to one of preparedness--not only for hurricanes but for any disaster that could come our way.

Our Youth Ambassadors, along with the LTRG team, partnered with the Department of Public Works in August to fill sandbags in anticipation of the 2020 Hurricane Season. More than 300 bags were filled!

Collaboration is the Key
In partnership with Guayabal Community Foundation, Inc., a member of the Puerto Rican Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (PR VOAD) in Puerto Rico, the LTRG linked a COVID-19 Community Food Distribution Drive to participants in the community. One hundred donated boxes filled with cheese, butter, milk, fresh produce (celery, tomatoes, bananas, mangoes, bags of apples, potatoes, figs), and 10 pounds of chicken were distributed to over 150 families, as some of the boxes were split and shared.

Many of the recipients served are cancer patients, elderly residents, single parents with children, and families still living under blue tarps from the 2017 Hurricane Maria. Distribution took place throughout several areas on St. Croix, reaching from the East to the West end of the island.

Caring for the most vulnerable of our population is a top priority for the St. Croix LTRG team.  We partnered with AARP Virgin Islands, the St. Thomas Long Term Recovery Group, Love City Strong in St. John, the VI VOAD, and the Department of Human Services to assemble and distribute 885 Emergency Preparedness Kits for our senior population territory-wide. The kits included flashlights, first aid kits, a whistle to signal for help, dust masks, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, insect repellent, an emergency blanket, and toilet paper. Local businesses and families rallied around this project with monetary contributions and assembly support to provide these supplies throughout the territory. The distribution per island was as follows: 500 seniors on St. Croix, 260 Seniors on St. Thomas, 125 Seniors on St. John. Each Program Manager on each island distributed the kits to seniors individually to avoid mass gatherings and promote safe social distancing during COVID-19.

Disaster Case Management
Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) are the life-line for disaster recovery in helping families access resources to recovery. During this reporting period, 101 clients were served, including two new enrollees into the program. Services continue to focus on providing financial assistance, service referrals, advocacy, and comprehensive goal setting. The program aims to attract residents whose homes are still in need of repair from damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 to assist them with any help they may need for a return to normalcy and maneuvering the requirements of different funding opportunities.

Twenty-four cases were closed this reporting cycle. Service coordination contributed to one long-standing client finally accessing a new apartment through Section 8.  This disabled client was referred after the hurricane when the landlord increased rent beyond the capacity to pay while refusing to make storm-related repairs. With the threat of homelessness looming due to the expiration of the state of emergency for eviction expiring later this year, the DCM team found a funding source to pay a portion of the moving fees, enabling the client to move.

There are currently 54 clients awaiting the Envision Tomorrow program, which provides home repairs through a federally funded program. Progress has been made in acquiring information on the steps to approve home repairs through this program. We anticipate these clients being able to continue to move toward restoration, with DCM support and guidance. One family member spoke fondly of the DCM that helped her mother recover from the storm damage:

Mother’s home was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria and despite the damages, she was forced to continue to live in the dwelling. She is a senior and appreciates her independence but struggled to go through the recovery process. She had been living in the damaged home since the hurricane and we feared for her health because of the extent of the damages. We pursued all available avenues we could find but did not get any solution. Our DCM was able to obtain funds for the necessary repairs to make the home comfortable, safe, sanitary, and secure and our mother was able to regain her life and independence.”

Unmet Needs Committee
The Unmet Needs Committee fills a critical role in disaster recovery. When a Disaster Case Manager has exhausted all resources available to a beneficiary and needs are still not met, the Unmet Needs Committee steps in to fill the gap.

With the closing of the Rebuild Program, funding was shifted to the Unmet Needs Committee to continue to support our clients. Two cases have been funded this reporting cycle:

Case 1 is a 77-year-old disabled St. Croix resident that has been living in a home severely damaged by Hurricane Maria for the past three years. This client is in poor health and legally blind. The client sustained total roof damage that resulted in massive leaks throughout the home and damage to the windows, doors, and tiled floors. The electrical wiring throughout the home sustained major damage from water entering the circuitry. Although some progress has been made, the home still has significant repairs that need to be completed to make the home livable, safe, sanitary, and secure. The Unmet Needs Committee will provide funding for the contractor fees to repair the electrical system in the home, replace damaged windows and exterior doors, and repair cracks in the interior load-bearing walls.

Case 2 is an 82-year-old St. Croix retired senior resident that sustained major damage to their home during Hurricane Maria. The damage included total loss of the roof, damaged kitchen, bathroom, windows, and floors due to the home being flooded. All appliances and furniture inside the home were destroyed. The home is still without a functioning kitchen. The Unmet Needs Committee will provide funding for the contractor to install kitchen cabinets and a sink.

Making A Difference…
The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is an organization committed to making a crucial difference in the lives of our community stakeholders, one life, one business, one mind at a time. While emergency relief and even intermediate recovery and survival absorb resources for the first one to two years, we believe that our community is now in a stage where it is truly able to build independence and resilience for the future. As such, the time is now to engage our communities like never before, and we thank you for standing shoulder to shoulder with us now and into the future!

 

 

Helping residents stay safe through Covid!
Helping residents stay safe through Covid!
AARP &the LTRG- helping seniors with health kits!
AARP &the LTRG- helping seniors with health kits!
Oct 30, 2020

CONSORTIUM DRIVES VISION AROUND RESILIENCE

Our Consortium is Driving an Equitable Vision!
Our Consortium is Driving an Equitable Vision!

This past September, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development celebrated 30 years of service and leadership in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That milestone is possible due to many collaborations and supporters and we wish to extend our deepest appreciation to our friends at GlobalGiving. Together, we have achieved much in just the past three years since Hurricanes Maria and Irma. As the People of the Virgin Islands continue to recover and build capacity for resilience, your support of our Nonprofit Consortium has been inspirational and impactful.

Through our Nonprofit Consortium, we have made deep impact in systemically stressed sectors of our civil society but most importantly, the Foundation is fostering the will and the people power to strengthen and sustain local civic organizations.

Today, the stark reality for our community, and so many like ours, is that the perfect storm of local, regional, national, and global crises requires the civic sector to step forward as never before.  Thanks to the support of GlobalGiving, our Nonprofit Consortium is creating space and providing the resources necessary for nurturing a movement of transformation that is grounded in equity.

Taking a stand on equity and empowering the civic sector
Over the course of the past quarter, the Nonprofit Consortium has been busy! In all, 29 grassroots and formal local nonprofits have convened 11 times to analyze the data from recent surveys on nonprofit capacity as relates to the needs surrounding Covid-19. Representing the sectors of Health & Human Welfare, the Environs, Education, and Arts, Culture, and Crucian Heritage, our NPC is sparking conversations on equity.

Position Statement on Racial Equity: Building Momentum along with Capacity
As a coalition of 30 nonprofits, the Nonprofit Consortium has coalesced to drive innovative systems change. As we seek to drive systems change and investments to support civil society in the US Virgin Islands, below please find our NPC Positioning Statement, which was compiled collectively in July 2020, amidst COVID-19 and the 2020 Racial Justice Movement:  

  1. The social and economic injustices that philanthropy and civil society aims to solve are rooted in institutional policies and practices that give advantages to white people and disadvantage black and brown people. 
  2. To attain freedom, justice, and equity for all, we must harness our collective voice to uncover the similarities between disenfranchised communities of color much like our own, in arenas such as public health (which includes medical and behavioral), education, housing, criminal justice, and advocacy for systems change in the nonprofit sector.
  3. Localized system change is about achieving equity and freedom against the backdrop of the legacy of colonialism and enslavement.
  4. True progress requires that place-based nonprofits tool themselves and take a position at the programmatic and policy level to address the needs of the times.

In mid-September, sectors of the Nonprofit Consortium presented their work and positioning statement to 10 community stakeholders and media reps from local print and online outlets.

2nd Biannual Nonprofit Consortium Forum for Political Candidates
Also in September, the Nonprofit Consortium, hosted by St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, held a virtual nonprofit convening for political aspirants. Sixteen members of the civic sector shared their joint positioning statement regarding their collective work for the community-at-large.

Representatives from Health & Human Welfare, the Environs, Education, and Arts, Culture, and Crucian Heritage) presented their sector’s work after which a short Q and A for policymakers and political aspirants followed. Aspirants were not allowed to speak. Each sector presented on how they are serving their clients as frontline responders during disasters and grey skies.  Aspirants were allowed to post questions and comments in the Zoom, and some commented on how various sectors have had an impact on their life as youth and even now. Genevieve Whitaker (Senate Aspirant): “I can attest to the Boys & Girls Club’s role in my development as a young girl.” Senator Novelle Francis: “I very much appreciated the presentations this evening and the extensive work of NCP. It was informational and educational.” Samuel Carrion (Senate Aspirant): “I want to thank NPC and all its members for the great collective work it's doing to bring societal change in all sectors of our community.”

In October, after meeting with media and political aspirants and on behalf of the Nonprofit Consortium, St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, shared the NPC’s Community-Centric Vision and Position on Racial Equity with the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority. While the EDA is currently working on a strategic plan for its 2040 Vision Initiative, the Foundation and the Consortium know all too well that a Vision or Plan on a piece of paper will not garner the requisite community buy-in or gain traction in implementation if it is not rooted in an honest assessment of what a community values most. In the end, if the intention is to create a credible Vision, developing attendant strategies to make that Vision actionable are vital.

Thank you!
Today, the Nonprofit Consortium (NPC) is a dynamic demonstration of the critical importance of civil society in the overall health and well-being of a community. It is a model of collaboration and innovation that can sustain some of the most isolated communities through these unprecedented times.

The Consortium provides support island-wide!
The Consortium provides support island-wide!
 
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