Feb 10, 2020

Building Collective Capacity for the Long Term

Fully, Proudly Certified in Solar Installation!
Fully, Proudly Certified in Solar Installation!

Since September 2017 when Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands, our Community has faced challenges that require the collective investments of every sector (public, private and civic) to overcome. True to progressive place-based philanthropy, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is nurturing sustainable resilience by utilizing data to inform our investments and cultivating cross-sector collaborations as the cornerstone of social impact. We are pleased to report that our work continues to gain traction.

As we usher in 2020, this report showcases major milestones met with the completion of the first phases of several of our comprehensive recovery initiatives. We are mindful of the many partnerships that make this possible. The Foundation has never been more prodigious than we are today, and this is in large part fueled by our philanthropy partners who have committed sustained support for our recovery and who believe as we do: that making strategic investments in communities affected by natural disasters can create scalable models that have the power to change lives. While this quarterly report is lengthy, we have a lot to report – work that reflects our collective efforts – and we hope you’ll enjoy reviewing the story you’ve helped to write!

Changing Lives, Building Capacity: Solar Workforce Initiative Graduates Students and Installs Solar on First Community Center
As St. Croix Foundation rolls up its sleeves for the long-term phase of our hurricane recovery efforts, two fundamental principles have governed our planning and programing- equity and sustainability. In 2018, when we first conceived our solar and workforce development initiative, those principles informed every facet of programming.

By November 2019, St. Croix Foundation was proud to report that, 9 young adults have graduated from a 6-month National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) course.  Those students represent the first formal class of certified solar installers in the Territory. And, we couldn’t be more delighted to announce that two students have been hired by ProSolar Systems, a local solar engineering company. Another student received several job opportunities on the mainland, and we look forward to an exciting update from them soon. Overall, all of our students received a certification card that is nationally accepted in addition to a tool bag sponsored by the Foundation.

While building a skilled workforce around sustainable energy is undeniably critical to St. Croix’s social and economic health, the Foundation is equally excited about how this initiative will impact nonprofit community centers and the neighborhoods they serve. Community centers were selected based on their strategic location to isolated or underserved neighborhoods and their connection to established nonprofit organizations serving vulnerable populations and providing structured community-based programming. As part of our Solar Initiative, students are solarizing 4 community centers on St. Croix including the Caribbean Center for Boys & Girls in Frederiksted and Flamboyant Garden Seniors Independent Living Community Center. These centers will, in turn, become resiliency hubs for vulnerable communities, providing energy independence and greater operational capacity to serve residents.

In late November, our newly certified solar workforce began solarizing the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands (formerly the Boys and Girls Club), which is today enjoying energy independence and estimated utility savings of up to 40%. The center will, in turn, invest its utility savings into the expansion of services to the over 100 young people and families it serves every day.

Our cohort of solar students isn’t done yet though! As part of the initiative, they are also completing a soft skills workshop to help prepare them for the workforce and develop their skills in areas such as interview techniques, financial literacy, and employment policies. While they complete this portion of their training, the cohort will also begin their next install on Flamboyant Gardens’ Community Center in early March, allowing them to complete the last portion of their on-site workforce development hours. 

To date, this initiative is made possible through funding support from the VI Department of Labor’s Workforce Investment Board, GlobalGiving, and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy among other generous local and national partners. For more information call 340.773.9898. Thanks to these generous Philanthropic Partners, SCF has secured the necessary funding to solarize 3 of the 4 community centers. We invite additional funders to please contact the Foundation to become partners on this high impact resiliency project.

AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers are Building Capacity!
As you may know, after 400 staff hours of coordination and development of our application, the Foundation was awarded over $300,000 by the Corporation of National and Community Service to assign 15 AmeriCorps VISTA members to support eight St. Croix nonprofits (including the Foundation) for a full year. Established in 1964, AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) is a program that brings passion and perseverance where the need is greatest – and that’s equity in action. This delegation will represent the first VISTA team in the Territory in over 20 years.

For 2020, the St. Croix Foundation’s VISTA Team is off to a great start. We currently have four VISTAs in place supporting Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, and Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition.

AmeriCorps VISTAs are providing technical assistance to build capacity for organizations in addition to raising community awareness of each organization's services and initiatives. Our first VISTA, assigned at the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls (CCBG) since October, has already accomplished her first newsletter and updated the organization’s website, providing new development materials to CCBG. She also held a presentation for young people on the Peace Corps, sharing her experience in global civic work. A second VISTA has also recently joined St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group as our Volunteer Outreach Coordinator with the goal of developing and implementing a volunteer recruitment strategy in her time on St. Croix. 

Through a grant from the Virgin Islands Office of Insular Affairs, the Foundation is also sponsoring all VISTA with professional development and is targeting nonprofit training, grant research, and social media techniques into a year-long strategy to ensure VISTAs receive a holistic experience while building capacity for nonprofits. In testimony to the collaborative spirit embedded in this project, St. Croix Landmarks Society has also offered professional development workshops on the rich cultural heritage of St. Croix.

St. Croix Foundation is excited to see the VISTA Team grow! 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 invite on and off-island candidates to learn more by visiting the AmeriCorps portal.

As always, the overarching objective of our VISTA Project is to strengthen our nonprofits so that they may, in turn, better serve our Community (particularly children and families). By helping our nonprofits build capacity, some of our most vulnerable residents will be empowered to broaden their experiences and rise above the conditions of poverty. But, as with all of the Foundation’s work, our VISTA project has multiple benefits: improving awareness of St. Croix and nonprofits for volunteers as well as providing work opportunities for local residents.

First Farmers Receive Farm Tiendas, and Resilience Building Begins!
In 2017, just months after the storms, with lead funding from Coca-Cola followed by a grant from the Cruzan Island Spirit Fund at GlobalGiving, the Foundation developed an initiative that would assist local farmers in building for the future and anchor them as community hubs in times of disaster.

Launched in April 2019, through this grantmaking program, the Foundation is awarding durable, eco-friendly container farm stands, or “Farm-Tiendas,” to seven eligible farmers to help bring their businesses back on-line. Farm stands are made from steel containers that will 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.

In December 2019, seven grantees were awarded and received public recognition at the 4th Annual Coconut Festival. Today, St. Croix Foundation is pleased to report that the original prototype and six additional units have been purchased, wrapped, shipped and customized for each farmer. One Farm Tienda has already been delivered to Sejah Farm; the remaining six will be delivered to individual farms by February 29, 2020. They are currently stored at a secure location at no cost to the project, thanks to a collaboration with another nonprofit partner, St. Croix Farmers in Action.

As part of establishing Farm Tiendas as neighborhood resilience hubs, seven 1000-gallon water buffalos have also been purchased and will be installed when the Farm Tienda is delivered. Additionally, each farmer will receive 4 solar panels, 1 inverter, 1 charge controller, and two 150-amp hour batteries with aluminum battery boxes. With their Farm Tiendas equipped with water and solar energy, farmers will have the capacity to power lights, a small fridge, and multiple charging stations for use by residents in times of need.

Engineering for Resilience
With an eye on sustainability of the Farm Tiendas, St. Croix Foundation has contracted a Farm Tienda Project Engineer responsible for evaluating site locations and working with each farmer to create an affordable, structurally sound installation plan that complies with local building permit regulations. All site inspections have been completed and installation plans will be finalized by the second week of February.

From the onset, St. Croix Foundation also determined that Wi-Fi was a critical component to helping improve communication in times of need. The project will cover over $850.00 of Wi-Fi service costs per farm. All Tiendas are scheduled to be completely installed and outfitted by March 31, 2020.

Farm Tiendas as Community Hubs
While St. Croix Foundation was unquestionably excited to launch this pilot with a single Farm Tienda, when the Cruzan Island Spirit Fund and GlobalGiving reached out with a grant opportunity to expand the initiative, it significantly improved our ability to gather data and assess the impact. Perhaps most importantly, this funding provides the Foundation the ability to create multiple, strategically placed small community resilience hubs that can serve as distribution points for food, water, medical supplies, etc.

Our Farmers and Community Partners
Our farmers are critical as small business engines and as food providers during times of prosperity and need. They are, to St. Croix Foundation, more than grantees. They are our community partners. Whether it’s sweet local honey, organically grown sunflowers, fresh fruits, and vegetables, or meat and eggs – these are the farmers who make a difference every day. Below is a list of farms that have been awarded Farm Tiendas:

  • Sejah Farm at Castle Burke, Frederiksted; Production: Livestock, Poultry and Egg, Fruits and Vegetables, Forage
  • GLG Farm in Community Gardens, Frederiksted; Production: Fruits and Vegetables, Honey
  • Mystical Farm in Mount Victory, Frederiksted; Production: Fruits and Vegetables, Forage
  • Jackson’s Farm at Estate Diamond Frederiksted; Production: Livestock, Fruits and Vegetables
  • Chez Sherron Farm in La Valle, Frederiksted; Production: Fruits and Vegetables
  • New Breed Farm on South Shore Christiansted; Production: Fruits and Vegetables
  • Ridge to Reef Farm in Mount Victory, Frederiksted; Production: Livestock, Fruits and Vegetables, Forage

Evaluation and Data Collection
Evaluation and data collection will begin in April 2020 and run through November 2020. The Cruzan Island Spirit Grant has allowed us to procure different containers for us to assess performance in a variety of circumstances. For each farm, St. Croix Foundation will be collecting metrics on several key components of the project including:

  • Structural integrity of the container in an island environment
  • Increase in business capacity/ expansion of services
  • Usage of water, electricity, and Wi-Fi
  • Community benefits
  • Disaster recovery usage and performance

As a first-of-its-kind concept, we are pleased with the design of the initiative as a relevant and economically critical resilience vehicle, but we are equally encouraged by our ability to explicitly embed an Equity Framework into the process for selecting the farms that received Farm Tiendas. The design of the prototype, wrapping, site inspections, and installation conversations have also been highly productive. As a place-based hybrid community foundation, however, we feel that one of the greatest testimonies to the success of this initiative thus far lays in the collaborations that have made this possible. From the public, the private, and the civic sector, this is a true collaboration that has allowed the initiative to move forward.

On behalf of St. Croix Foundation for Community Development’s Board and Staff and the community we serve, we wish to thank Coca-Cola One, Cruzan Rum, and GlobalGiving for sharing our vision of a sustainable, resilient St. Croix.

Thank you!
As a place-based community philanthropy, St. Croix Foundation is mindful that to achieve sustainable growth and real resilience, strategic investments must be directed at a consortium of nonprofit organizations that are providing stable social services and are filling critical service gaps that our government alone cannot. We firmly believe that the Territory’s Civic Sector represents a viable pathway to healthier social systems in the Virgin Islands and we could not be more appreciative that you share this understanding with us. The work here represents real collaboration and investment in assets that exist in our Community – and we continue to believe that it’s an approach and a model that can be used to strengthen communities just like ours.

Solar Graduates Install System on Community Center
Solar Graduates Install System on Community Center
Farm Tienda Grantee Receives Customized Container
Farm Tienda Grantee Receives Customized Container
Farm Tienda Grantees Serve as Community Hubs Too!
Farm Tienda Grantees Serve as Community Hubs Too!
A VISTA Presents on the Work of the Peace Corps
A VISTA Presents on the Work of the Peace Corps
Dec 17, 2019

Rebuilding Lives, Nurturing Resilience!

From old to young: teaching preparedness!
From old to young: teaching preparedness!

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.

Rebuilding Lives One Home at a Time!
In this reporting quarter, the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group construction and rebuild program has surpassed $200,000 USD of GlobalGiving funds to purchase building materials for homes. To date, we have hosted 52 volunteer teams who have contributed 43,973 volunteer labor hours and completed 71 homes! With daily requests for assistance still coming in, today we have 68 homes in the queue, and requests for service continue to come in every day. And while we can report on the number of homes completed and anticipate even more, the impact on lives simply cannot be calculated.

Disaster Case Management: No Closed Cases Until Recovery is Complete!
As you know, with the loss of federal funding to hire critical Disaster Case Managers (DCM), the LTRG has been piecing together funds through grants from various philanthropic sources. Thanks to our partners from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD) and the United Methodist Committee on Relief we have been granted an additional two DCMs. And because of the generosity of our GlobalGiving family, a territory-wide grant has been awarded, allowing us to hire two more DCMs on St. Croix! With these funds in place, the LTRG now has seven DCMs!

During the quarter, our case managers have served and continue to serve 186 cases. Of those, 135 are still active, 7 have referrals pending, 40 cases were closed, and 10 have been referred to the Unmet Needs Committee.

Unmet Needs Committee
As mentioned above, the Unmet Needs Committee fills a critical role in disaster recovery. When a DCM has exhausted all resources available and needs are still not met, then the Unmet Needs Committee steps in to fill the gap. In this reporting quarter, the Unmet Needs Committee has accepted 12 new cases through our online portal, which is unique to St. Croix and allows DCMs to anonymously upload cases for review. Thanks to a generous grant from GlobalGiving the Unmet Needs Committee is able to serve 12 cases that had previously nowhere else to turn.

Preparedness Clinics: Connecting, Engaging, and Equipping Residents
Since August of this year, the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group has been directing significant focus on connecting, engaging and equipping our community with Disaster Preparedness Clinics. With the understanding that disasters, no matter how small, can hit our territory at any time, these 90 to 120-minute sessions have been geared towards empowering our community stakeholders with tools in preparing to be their own first responder. They also serve the purpose of increasing public awareness on the importance of personal preparation and community involvement as each member learns principles that help to strengthen their approach and resiliency.

Between August 2019 and November 2019, within the public and private sector and faith leader organizations, we have conducted seven "Learn To Become Your Own First Responder" clinics. Over 200 lives have been impacted with 119 feedback sheets received that list immediate action steps they are committed to taking in preparing their households and teams. There have also been requests for upper management trainings regarding contingency plans, team coordination, and tools necessary for staff preparedness. Some of the following testimonials serve to emphasize this strategy and redouble St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group’s commitment to providing further clinics with expanded topics:

  • "The PAC principle spoke volumes to me in taking this training seriously."
  • "You made me feel cared for and I can prepare even with a small budget. I hope you come back again to do more trainings. Do you speak within schools too? We need this valuable information to get to our youth."
  • “More people need this information and presentation. You spoke with passion, engaged the audience, cared about the people and used very practical examples.”  
  • "How can you take this information to our high schools and group trainings for our young people?”  

Simply put and as John C. Maxwell so aptly said: "We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are." In testimony to the truth of this statement, as we move into 2020, our commitment is to expand our approach within our programming to accommodate the numerous requests for continued trainings, larger groups, and preparation as we also grow our Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Areas of focus are, but not limited to: 

  • Provide support follow-up sessions with organizations previously served
  • Expand our clinics by offering document preparation/security opportunities and other engagement builders
  • Partner with other community leaders that address key concerns (Ex. stress, wound care, certifications)
  • Create Youth Ambassadors that can assist in their peer groups and neighborhoods in the event of disasters
  • Increase our presence in the schools and at community functions with a consistent message of awareness
  • Train, coach, and support our management teams as they prepare their organizational plans

This powerful work is critical to the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group’s mission to serve vulnerable neighborhoods and to not leave a single man, woman, or child behind.  As such and with the need and value of the clinics tested, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is currently working to identify $150,000 to assist us in expanding this essential work in our community.

Making A Difference…
The St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group is an organization committed to making a memorable 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!

Dec 9, 2019

Resilience through Data and Empowering Community

The Consortium: By Community for Community!
The Consortium: By Community for Community!

Like so many residents in the Caribbean, all of us at St. Croix Foundation took a deep breath and sighed with relief on November 30 as we marked the end of another hurricane season. Luckily for the Virgin Islands, we came out of this season relatively unscathed! That was not the case for our neighbors in the Bahamas. And so, while we are hypersensitive about the threats afoot in this new normal of stronger, more destructive weather systems, we believe it presents an unprecedented opportunity for our Territory to transform so many of our broken systems that are on the brink.

In fact, it wasn’t the 2017 hurricanes that informed St. Croix Foundation’s decision to expand our work beyond grantmaking and fiscal sponsorship to include nonprofit coalition building. It was actually back in 2014 that we first began convening nonprofits on St. Croix in response to the closure of a 50-year-old oil refinery, which left the Island reeling from expanded social needs and dwindling resources to support those needs. Recognizing that nonprofits must be strong for Communities to be healthy, we officially launched our Nonprofit Consortium in 2016 with the Vision of both streamlining and amassing our civic sector’s collective efforts.

One year later, when Hurricanes Maria and Irma hit, we realized that this single strategy was perhaps one of the key levers to building resilience and ensuring our community is healthy and safe through any future economic, natural, or political ‘storms.’

Today, we extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to GlobalGiving and our cadre of partners, including the nearly 100 nonprofits who sit at the table with us regularly and who have advanced their own organizational work as well as spearheaded advocacy work through the Consortium. Together we are shaping a stronger foundation upon which to grow this work as a collective community.  The work completed in the last quarter serves as a testament to the deep relationship building our nonprofits have nurtured over the past three years and will significantly influence our work ahead. 

The Environmental Sector Holds Town Hall Meeting on Oil Refinery
As we’ve reported in the past, our Nonprofit Consortium is working to build organizational capacity for members and participants in order for them to fulfill their mission and provide direct services to our community as expanded needs require.

The Consortium also works on a Sector-wide basis as well, linking the collective efforts of mission-aligned organizations in the following sectors: youth and education; health and wellbeing; arts and culture; and the natural and built environs. On a whole, the Consortium intersects all four sectors, seeking to build a broad-based and cohesive vision while providing a convening space for nonprofits to collaborate and expand operational capacity through targeted direct services, information sharing, and collective advocacy.

This past May, the Environmental Sector of our Nonprofit Consortium held its first Environmental Forum to provide data to key stakeholders on the risks of climate change in the USVI, including the risks associated with climate change and heavy industry in small island communities.

Then, on November 5th the Nonprofit Consortium held its first informal Community Information Town Hall Session to hear updates on the reopening of the Limetree Bay Terminals & Refinery which was once one of the largest oil refineries in the Western Hemisphere. The Town Hall was standing room only, with over 100 people in attendance.

As a trusted Neutral Community Convener, St. Croix Foundation and the Consortium’s Environmental Sector hopes this Town Hall will be the first of many Community Conversations, led by Community for Community. The gathering served as an information session through which residents had the opportunity to learn about environmental hazards, public safety standards and reporting protocols relative to monitoring and emergency response. Panel members included several policymakers as well as the Commissioner and Staff of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources and the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director; who addressed questions about the refinery restart.

This informal discussion was ultimately intended to establish an open dialogue between policymakers, regulators and the Community to cultivate a relationship of trust and transparency. But most importantly, it was intended to empower Community Stakeholders to lead important conversations that impact their neighborhoods, their well-being, and their economic interests- all essential components of Healthy Communities. 

Our November convening was really about empowering people in the Virgin Islands to build real competencies around civic engagement in order to nurture the Community we all envision for ourselves and our families. The Foundation, as a follow up to the Town Hall, created a website at  www.ENGAGEVI.org that is intended to be the very first iteration of what we hope will become a forum for information sharing, for environmental consciousness ad for all issues that significantly impact the health, welfare, environment, and future of this Territory.

Using Data to Shine a Light on St. Croix’s Asset & Focus Resources
In our last report, we provided updates on the work of the Consortium to begin an asset mapping initiative of our nonprofit sector. Our overarching objective has been to inventory the impact of the work being led by nonprofits, in addition to assessing their needs and inhibitors to effectively fulfilling their missions and capacity to serve some of our most vulnerable residents. In September, we launched A 2019 Impact Survey for Nonprofits which was disseminated to over 30 nonprofits.  Twenty-two Organizations, representing all four sectors of our Consortium, responded. The survey zeroed in on the status and impact of nonprofits by seeking to understand the level of organizational stability at the executive level, funding sources, the number of community members served, and more. Sample questions included the following:

  • Does your organization have an executive succession plan?
  • In 2017 (prior Hurricanes Irma and Maria), how much did your organization raise philanthropically to support your programming in St. Croix?
  • What is the most difficult constituency to capture data around?
  • What data would your organization like to collect?

Today, the Consortium is compiling the data collected as we prepare to enter into the next phase of our data collection project in February 2020. At that time, we will prepare an Executive Summary with the goal of presenting findings (relative to each NPC Sector) to National Foundation Executive Partners who will be joining us on St. Croix for St. Croix Foundation’s Fourth Annual Philanthropy Retreat.

Data, Advocacy, Social Transformation: The Power of Civic Organizations
Our Consortium has taught St. Croix Foundation a lot. We have learned that, in our community, a significant number of our social service organizations (particularly those on the frontlines) are fulfilling the role of municipal government.

In reality, many nonprofits are stabilizing forces in our community just as they are in many communities. They hold Vision steady; they advocate for public policy; they save lives; and they drive social change. Ultimately, nonprofits play a central role in not just the ECOLOGY of our community, but in the ECONOMY of our community. As such, SCF is committed to supporting our nonprofits holistically as a critical component of our Territory’s resilience, and we hope you will continue to stay the course with us as we deepen our work!

3 Levels of Nonprofit Capacity Building for Impact
3 Levels of Nonprofit Capacity Building for Impact
May's Environmental Forum leads to Town Hall.
May's Environmental Forum leads to Town Hall.
Refinery Town Hall Session was standing room only!
Refinery Town Hall Session was standing room only!
EngageVI: A new space for resources and dialogue.
EngageVI: A new space for resources and dialogue.
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