Oct 7, 2020

INVESTING IN COMMUNITY RESILIENCE

A young inventor with his solar charging station!
A young inventor with his solar charging station!

The month of September was another huge milestone for the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands and so many coastal communities. Together, we marked three years since Hurricanes Maria and Irma hit the islands in 2017. We’ve accomplished much. But the realities of Covid-19 while we await the ending of the 2020 Hurricane Season remind us of the complex vulnerabilities of a predominantly Black, isolated American Island ‘territory’ (i.e. Colony) with no vote. Those vulnerabilities make us work even harder at St. Croix Foundation because we know that the stakes are high. And we also know that our vision of a safe and thriving Virgin Islands is possible.

In this report, you’ll read about the potential we have tapped in our young people. You’ll read about the undauntable spirit of farmers whose businesses are getting a new boost and volunteers who carry the passion of community and motivate civic engagement.  And behind all of this are the partners that make the impossible possible. Thank you to our friends and family at GlobalGiving. You are testimony that together we can (and do) make a difference.

100% Full-time Employment for Workforce Development Students

At a time in history when unemployment rates are at an all-time high, our Solar-Supported Community Center and Workforce Development Initiative represents a philanthropic triumph that can serve as a community model all over the globe. Beyond providing an opportunity to rebuild more sustainably and resilient in the aftermath of historic Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the program's ultimate goal of providing a high-quality workforce training opportunity for unemployed youth has been fully achieved and the model is proven.

Today, we are pleased to report that in just one year, ALL nine students in our program (100% of our graduates) have received national certification in solar installation and ALL are now fully employed in their field of study. We also want to share recent news that two participants have been promoted to Team Lead, and one is training in Tesla power walls. As the first cohort of solar students in the Territory, they also installed the first solar system on the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands.

Since the Solar-Supported Community Center Project was officially launched in June 2019, we’ve been keeping you updated on the progress of our students and the outcomes of our strategic grantmaking of a solar PV system to community centers around the island. We are also delighted that, through GlobalGiving funding, the solar system for Flambouyant Gardens for Senior Assisted Living has been procured and, despite delays surrounding Covid-19, is scheduled for installation on October 12, 2020.  Located mid-island on St. Croix and serving 56 senior residents, the center was chosen based on its response to the 2017 hurricanes, the population it serves, and where it is located on the island.

The Foundation will be tapping our solar workforce students to conduct the final installation after comprehensive inspections on Flambouyant Gardens has been completed and modifications have been determined. Given the circumstances surrounding Covid-19, the Foundation is taking extra steps to ensure compatibility between the system and the center for smooth installation.

This pilot Initiative has proven that demand exists in the Virgin Islands for a local, skilled workforce in green energy, as is evidenced by our hire rate to date. And, as most of St. Croix Foundation’s projects, the Solar-Supported Community Center and Workforce Development Initiative is designed to serve as a model for how to nurture relevant workforce development that builds capacity for resilience and energy independence. Working closely with our first solarized center, the Foundation projects to have data on usage and savings to share.

As one of the few occupations expected to see exponential growth throughout the Caribbean, there is significant pressure on the Foundation to replicate this program with a new cohort of students. While this was our initial intention, the realities of Covid and the cost of running the program with fidelity have forced us to put a temporary pause on opening a 2nd cycle.

Grantee Update: Nurturing Capacity in the Next Generation

Last November, we reported on the work of one of our grantees, a graduating senior who had invented a solar charging station in the wake of the 2017 Hurricanes. Kieran, one of our CARE Fund grantees and partners, wanted to build a prototype of the station for his community that would also fulfill a requirement for his final and rigorous service project to graduate as an Eagle Scout.

Designed to be mobilized throughout neighborhoods during times of crisis, the station can be used to charge phones, radios, and any medical equipment such as insulin testers that are rechargeable. Not only did Kieran build it, but he presented his working prototype to an audience of 300 at the 2019 Coconut Festival, designed a brochure, and created a video on how to build the self-sufficient, solar-powered, weather-resistant satellite communication hotspot and charging station. He also taught youth from the local community center how to build the stations to ensure this exploratory project's sustainability.

Today, we are incredibly happy to report that we’ve recently heard from Kieran, and he has received his final badge and is an official Eagle Scout. This is a difficult challenge and requires a total of 21 merit badges. Kieran’s work didn’t just impress the Foundation -  it was also showcased on the official Eagle Scout pagehere: https://eagleprojects.boyslife.org/solar-satellite-solution/

As an example of the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking, this is a special grant with almost unlimited leverage points – from youth skills and leadership development to nurturing public awareness and resilience building.

Next Steps for Farm Tiendas as Resilience Hubs

As another example of the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking and programming, you may recall that we granted 7 durable steel containers to farmers to serve as “Farm Tiendas” or farm stands to help stabilize their business and serve as a resilience hub during grey skies. Despite continued delays surrounding Covid-19, we are happy to report that we have been able to pivot as necessary to keep activating components of this initiative while also ensuring the safety of all participants.

To date, all containers have been delivered and all are in full operation! While we had to postpone solarizing the Farm Tiendas due to Covid-19, all systems have arrived, and installation will begin in October. Additionally, all farmers have met with an engineer who has provided a comprehensive report on the steps needed to secure Farm Tiendas, in each unique location, for the long-term. The Foundation has also provided tie-down kits and rust spray as an extra level of protection during the 2020 hurricane season, a value of $4200 to each farmer. Over the summer, each farmer also received a water buffalo with a capacity to store 1000 gallons during blue and grey skies.

As a side note, we would be remiss to not mention that our contracted engineer, Kareem, was one of the first members of the Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council- a youth leadership development body of high school students launched in 2009. Today, Kareem is a Mechanical Engineer and living demonstration of the impact of our holistic approach to philanthropy and community development.

The Farm Tienda is yet another economic and resilience model that the Foundation is tracking – how it was developed, lessons learned, and how to leverage local resources for measurable outcomes around food security The Foundation looks forward to the next phase, during which Farm Tiendas will be solarized and data collection on how the Farm Tiendas function will become a priority.

AmeriCorps VISTAS Making Connections for Preparedness

In past reports, St. Croix Foundation has reported to you on the exciting program to bring 15 VISTA volunteers to serve nonprofits on St. Croix. This is boots-on-the-ground support for nonprofits, who are working over capacity to serve a community with increased needs, that has a tangible impact. Once again, due to Covid-19, our recruitment and placement schedule was interrupted. However, the Foundation has successfully recruited and assigned 6 AmeriCorps VISTA members to support 4 nonprofit organizations: Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Groups, Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, and St. Croix Landmarks Society. The early stages of recruiting were challenging, but each organization has been determined to utilize this opportunity to drive change in their respective organizations.

Thanks to a generous grant from GlobalGiving’s Cruzan Island Spirit Fund to help subsidize housing costs for our volunteers, we continue our quest to recruit 8 more members and a VISTA leader. With assistance from FEMA, St. Croix Foundation was able to secure a booth and collect names of interested volunteers for the AmeriCorps VISTA program. There were over 500 attendees at this event. SCF also applied and received support for the U.S. Dept of Interior: Office of Insular Affairs. This support focuses on training and technical support for VISTAs. St. Croix Foundation has also been working with FEMA as they developed the Community Response Plan (CRP). In May VISTAs received training on how to use the recovery tool. And despite Covid-19, our VISTAS are connecting with each other, their community, and the broader field of philanthropy.

One of our VISTA volunteers for the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, Rosalie, epitomizes the spirit of AmeriCorps VISTAs and the Virgin Islands. A local resident, cancer survivor, and senior volunteer, Rosalie was previously supporting LTRG with recruiting volunteers for housing rebuilds but had to switch roles due to Covid-19. Today, she is conducting surveys for the St. Croix Community Response Plan. Rosalie is one of the biggest advocates for the AmeriCorps VISTA program. In addition to her work with LTRG she continues to share the available VISTA opportunities with young people at the American Red Cross and has presented to the St. Croix Retiree Association, Virgin Islands VOAD,  as well as the St. Croix COAD Executive, Youth, and Unmet Needs Committees. She also presents at monthly Town Halls, where she is a champion to engage more local VISTAs, citing obvious benefits to the local residents on the individual and community level.

Starting with Community…

Despite being an unendowed, small community foundation serving an under-served, under-resourced community, Hurricanes Irma and Maria afforded St. Croix Foundation the opportunity to demonstrate the worth and impact of our philanthropic approach. Having just celebrated our 30th anniversary this past September, our leadership journey is one we believe can inform burgeoning philanthropies in developing communities around the world. Over the past three decades, St. Croix Foundation has learned a lot. Principally, that there is abundance amid scarcity and that often the assets we are searching for are untapped gems in our own communities. To learn  more about our approach, we invite you to read our President’s 30th Anniversary Message at http://www.stxfoundation.org/a-message-from-the-president-on-the-foundations-30th-anniversary/

Jul 14, 2020

Rebuilding Lives Amid a Pandemic

A critical need is met: a new roof is celebrated!
A critical need is met: a new roof is celebrated!

Business as usual changed for the world at the onset of 2020. In the wake of the pandemic caused by the novel virus COVID-19, the way in which we connect with each other was forced to change. With the tenacious resilience of island culture, the leadership of LTRG challenged our team members never to miss a crisis. Community connection was redefined, and amazing service has been provided to the community of St. Croix!

73 Homes Rebuilt!
This reporting cycle closes out the final stateside volunteer teams. At the end of 2019, FEMA decided to discontinue the use of "invitational travel" for our volunteers, requiring teams to pay for their transportation to the island. Unexpectedly in March 2020, a travel ban was imposed on visitors to the island in response to COVID-19. These two events impacted the number of teams we were expecting to host. However, we completed three homes with 12 remaining on-island volunteers before the end of May. In the past two years, the construction team has had fantastic success, completing 53,696 total volunteer hours and completing repairs on 73 homes! By the end of June, the construction team was dismantled, and Disaster Case Managers are resourcing other on-island alternatives to continue assisting residents with repairs.

Disaster Case Management
This quarter, the LTRG Disaster Case Managers (DCMs) provided services to an active caseload comprised of 114 clients. One of the program's funding sources covering minor home repairs, the American Red Cross through the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, is finally depleted. This has decreased the Disaster Case Manager's ability to match clients with direct financial assistance for hurricane Maria home repairs.

Case closings during this quarter were 13, with three new enrollments, thus reducing the number of active cases to 104.  Four clients started the process of receiving needed repairs. Three contracts are pending, awaiting the processing of checks and finalizing agreements between the client and contractor. Five clients have been inspected by Envision Tomorrow and anxiously await their next steps to access this government-funded rebuild program. Two clients were referred to Virgin Islands Partners for Healthy Community (VIPHC) Family Care Managers for health services through the public health system.  Estimates by contractors were conducted for seven clients. DCMs also spent a day assembling "goody bags" for active clients related to preventing the spread of the COVID – 19 virus. These consisted of masks, gloves, disinfectants, and hand sanitizer and were made possible through a generous donation from the LTRG and VIPHC.

Unmet Needs Committee
The Unmet Needs Committee fills a critical role in disaster recovery. When a Disaster Case Manager (DCM) has exhausted all resources available to a beneficiary, and needs are still not met, the Unmet Needs Committee steps in to fill the gap. Since the Unmet Needs Roundtable Convened, eight St. Croix referrals have been funded. Three referral repairs were completed by the end of June, and the remaining five are in various stages of completion. The total award for these efforts was $171,995. These cases are all St. Croix residents who, for one reason or another, will not qualify for any of the federally funded rebuild programs. The following is an overview, submitted by a DCM, of one of the cases that were funded:

Like many of our underserved neighbors on St. Croix that experienced extensive damage in the storms, this resident had no choice but to remain in a damaged home, despite the unsafe and unsanitary conditions. With no resources to make the necessary repairs to the home and without the option to move elsewhere, this resident has lived under a leaking roof that has caused excessive mold growth that is now affecting the client's health. The roof had been covered by a blue tarp for nearly three full years since the hurricanes in 2017 and was no longer keeping the home dry. The award amount was $36,245 and covered the following repairs:

  • Repaired roof and ceiling
  • Removed and replaced damaged interior walls
  • Replaced exterior doors
  • Replaced all windows
  • Repaired broken masonry columns that support the roof

The repairs to the roof started at the end of June 2020, and the contractor is currently working on the roof before doing the interior repairs.

On behalf of the Long Term Recovery Group, we give thanks to GlobalGiving for understanding and working with us to use these funds to aid the most vulnerable in our community. The funds are now exhausted for this committee, and the LTRG is working to identify funding to serve more residents who have no other options.

Connecting, Engaging, and Equipping Residents with Resilience Preparedness
The LTRG offers free workshops to organizations and congregations seeking to equip their members to be "Prepared to be Your Own First Responder." The goal of the workshops is to effect a cultural change from one of reaction to one of preparedness--not only for hurricanes but for any disaster that could come our way. When the unexpected disaster of COVID-19 appeared, the LTRG leaped to action. The Disaster Preparedness Workshops are currently virtual! This quarter, three virtual workshops have been offered. Ms. Lang, a Non-Profit Community Leader, stated:

This presentation was excellent! You engaged us, equipped us, inspired us, and clearly communicated the seriousness of proper preparation. We need this all over the island, especially on the radios.

The LTRG also took advantage of our social media platforms. Six original videos were shared on Facebook to educate and engage the community while practicing social distancing each day during Hurricane Preparedness Week. Shorter versions of these videos were shared on Instagram. 31,000 users were reached via the Facebook platform! This created almost 100 new followers and a library of hurricane preparedness videos for the LTRG. Day 4, for example, provided simple ways that residents can prepare their homes and can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/stxltrg/videos/883820405428024/

We are currently "SOLD OUT" and are booked solid by public, private, and NGOs for workshops that empower our community stakeholders on personal and organizational preparedness. These workshops and the online videos are filled with practical tools and guides for each member of the family, for building strength, increasing awareness, and inspiring change.

Collaboration is the Key
In the wake of the Stay-At-Home Orders restricting movement about the island, many of our senior residents were not able to get out for essential items. The LTRG, in partnership with Mario's Crystal Water Company and the Frederiksted Lions Club, began a biweekly water distribution at the Louis E. Brown Senior Center to ensure the seniors had access to drinking water. The residents are receiving a five-gallon bottle of water with filters on a biweekly delivery schedule. The seniors were empowered with COVID-19 information flyers to become more educated on the pandemic.

To deepen our support of our community in response to COVID-19, the LTRG has also partnered with a local designer, Designs By Regal, to provide community stakeholders in grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, and other common areas with locally designed cloth masks. This creates access to reusable masks, helping residents of St. Croix to abide by the "No Mask, No Service" Order issued to help protect against the spread of COVID-19.

During the Stay-At-Home period this quarter, we learned one of our local food distribution partners, Catholic Charities, was low on food and key essentials for the day to day operations of feeding the homeless. In partnership with TWIGS Ministry, Episcopal Deanery, Islamic Society, and members of AARP, we collectively donate items needed for our partner and critical service provider, Catholic Charities, to continue serving the homeless community.

The LTRG has also begun working with Community First in their efforts to renovate and open a safe residence shelter for the homeless members of our community. We have taken the lead by contacting our local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) Partners to share the needs for personal hygiene items, men's clothing, and cleaning supplies. These collection efforts are ongoing for the duration of the renovation process.

The Virgin Islands Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VI VOAD) is currently meeting monthly on each island and as a territory collectively. So far, we have sourced and distributed 200 gallons of sanitizer through member organizations as well as 10,000 masks. The VI VOAD is currently working to source 1,000 hurricane preparedness kits that will be distributed across the territory to the most vulnerable populations. 

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!

Spreading Health & Access to Masks Amid Recovery!
Spreading Health & Access to Masks Amid Recovery!
Ensuring seniors have drinking water in quarantine
Ensuring seniors have drinking water in quarantine
Supplies for our nonprofits to serve our homeless
Supplies for our nonprofits to serve our homeless
Increasing preparedness one workshop at a time!
Increasing preparedness one workshop at a time!
Jul 7, 2020

Nonprofit Consortium Adapts to Covid-19 Reality

Our Philanthropic Network's Love for Humankind
Our Philanthropic Network's Love for Humankind

July 2020

Background
St. Croix Foundation for Community Developed officially launched the Nonprofit Consortium through a series of table conversations amongst over 50 local nonprofits in the fall of 2016. The Foundation initiated this collective action nearly one year to the day prior to the 2017 hurricanes, Irma and Maria. Several months after that first convening, the Foundation partnered with Nonprofit Consortium members to host its first of five Philanthropy Retreats and Forums, including a special convening with a focus on Environmental Justice and the implications of the restart of a decades-old oil refinery.

The Consortium is now a collective of roughly 30 civic entities that has birthed broader national partnerships, raising awareness about St. Croix and the powerful work being conducted by the nonprofit sector. With a singular focus on nurturing enhanced collaboration, the Consortium is now actively gathering data and developing strategies to address the new realities of COVID-19. Against the backdrop of ongoing hurricane recovery and preparedness with the onset of the new hurricane season on June 1st, the Nonprofit Consortium is fostering sustainable resiliency practices. We extend our deepest appreciation to our GlobalGiving partners for their support and are pleased to share the work of the Nonprofit Consortium over the last three months.

Holding Space
The civic community has endured many challenges- most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to understand the challenges that organizations are facing, the Foundation continues to HOLD SPACE for our nonprofit leaders to ensure they feel connected as we collectively navigate the economic and health-related challenges surrounding the pandemic. We have designed a webinar series to take place throughout the remainder of 2020 to provide space for nonprofits to share innovations and strategies for adapting or transforming program service delivery models. We continue to serve as a Community Convener for nonprofits so that we can all connect, collaborate, and meet current challenges together. We thank funders like GlobalGiving that continue to support the work of this Consortium, which enables us to reach vulnerable populations and leverage resources for broader impact.

4th Annual Philanthropy Retreat Connects Local Nonprofits and National Foundations
In February 2020, St. Croix Foundation, in partnership with the Nonprofit Consortium, hosted 15 partners from national foundations and associations ranging from the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, Nathan Cummings Foundation, and Council of Foundations to the Southeastern Council on Foundations and Association of Black Foundation Executives. As discussed in our March Report, the retreat entitled The Power of People and Place: Status Matters, connected executives with over 20 local nonprofits in the Nonprofit Consortium for a focused conversation around political status, social equity, community resilience and nonprofit capacity building. The retreat and forum provided a priceless opportunity for leaders to have an unfiltered view of the deeply entrenched social, political, and environmental issues that necessitate a collaborative civic sector. The retreat also afforded NPC members the opportunity to unveil the results of a survey instrument developed in the fall of 2019 to begin capturing real data around the health, viability, and functionality of nonprofits on St. Croix. SCF was able to capture the reactions and experiences of Foundation Executives in a short video that can be viewed here.

St. Croix Foundation Launches Covid-19 Survey Instrument
In early April 2020, St. Croix Foundation convened the Nonprofit Consortium partners to gauge how organizations were responding to Covid-19. The Foundation was interested in organizational health, specifically around funding and how individuals were responding to global uncertainty. In order to capture data, the Foundation launched the first survey instrument, Nonprofit Consortium Emergency Capacity Assessment, with questions assessing financial outlooks, technology needs, development capabilities, human resource changes, access and engagement with community partners and constituents, and program service delivery methods. Results from that survey indicated that, on a scale defined as not concerned/concerned/very concerned, of the organizations polled 64.29% were very concerned about the loss of fundraising revenue, 100% were concerned or very concerned about program service delivery, and 53.85% were concerned about engaging stakeholders due to technology gaps.

 Because the pandemic has caused a great shift in the daily lives of all of our partners, the Foundation was also interested in mental health and polled on areas pertaining to work-life balance and how those changes were impacting performance. During the month of July, the Foundation will be hosting three webinars with nonprofit consortium partners to assess the survey instrument and its results while gaining a better understanding of the shifts that have happened over the last three months since the initial survey. The Foundation will distribute a follow-up survey focused on areas relating to cash-flow, assessing the success of program service delivery adaptations, and gauging individual needs of partners’ families such as safe access to healthy food, healthcare services, and community. The Foundation hopes to analyze these responses with the goal of developing a deeper strategy for supporting nonprofits and for case-making under the new reality of Covid-19.

St. Croix Foundation Relaunches CARE Fund with Focus on Open Doors
Originally launched within days of catastrophic Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, the CARE Fund raised and awarded $1.8 million in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 storms, providing direct support to frontline relief efforts and long-term resiliency initiatives. St. Croix Foundation has now established the CARE Fund as a permanent Fund, with the flexibility to evolve with and respond to emerging community needs resulting from natural, political, economic, or social crises.

The Foundation has established four priority areas to be addressed under our retooled CARE Fund including 1) programmatic support for frontline responders, 2) data collection for strategic recovery, 3) resiliency & systems innovation prioritizing youth & education, public health, and food security, and 4) the Open Door Fund. While all priority areas include support for members of the Nonprofit Consortium and propel innovative, collaborative initiatives, the Open Door Fund is designed for member organizations to, very simply, help “keep their doors open.” With most nonprofits functioning with little or no operating reserves, the Foundation is keenly aware of the challenges Covid-19 is presenting for our essential civic community to keep the lights on and continue delivering services. This fund will support nonprofit organizations by awarding less restrictive operating grants to steady and fortify nonprofits, particularly those standing on the frontlines of this crisis.

Looking to a future under COVID-19
Amidst an ever-evolving landscape due to COVID-19, St. Croix Foundation has taken this time to reflect on how we can best support our nonprofits by gathering data and networking with national and global partners. As a predominantly Black and Brown community, with no federal voting power, the U.S. Virgin Islands epitomizes the case for racial and economic equity – and it emphasizes the importance of collaborative, community-based collectives like the Nonprofit Consortium. As such, the Foundation is committed to providing financial support, introducing and exploring innovative practices, and most importantly nurturing collaboration locally, nationally, and globally. We share so many similarities with underserved communities on the mainland and developing communities around the world, and what we know is this: those who sit on the frontlines of injustice and inequity are often the ones who are tapping into some of the most innovative and sustainable solutions!

We thank our partners at GlobalGiving!

Holding Space for Nonprofits During Covid
Holding Space for Nonprofits During Covid

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