We Raised SO MUCH MONEY Thanks to All of You!!

rocky shoreline ardisia

The shoreline at Ardisia.

I am stunned. I am grateful. I simply cannot thank you all enough.

As you all know, we recently held a raffle to benefit the Island Health and Wellness Center on St. John. The amount of money raised from this raffle is simply mind boggling. But before we get into the numbers, I’d like to tell you a bit how this all came to be.

I think I mentioned this to all of you last year, but the Island Health and Wellness Center helped me in May 2017 when no other healthcare provider would. In fact, I was told by one to “have a glass of wine” and I’d be fine. But I was not fine, and Sandy Colasacco, the executive director of Island Health and Wellness, actually opened the clinic late on a Friday night to see me. Sandy didn’t know me, and despite living on a small island, the two of us had never met. Yet Sandy went out of her way to help a resident in need of healthcare. And she didn’t do it once that weekend, she did it twice. I was so appreciative. To show my thanks, I held a raffle to support the center a few weeks later, and in June 2017, we raised more than $30,000 for Island Health and Wellness thanks to the generosity of all of you.

About a month later, I was conducting a News of St. John Tour. My guest was Al DiFlumeri, a JetBlue pilot from Massachusetts. During the day, we chatted about the island and its desperate need for quality healthcare among other things. Al mentioned how JetBlue has a charitable program in which it donates airline tickets to nonprofits. He and I decided back then that we would use these tickets to raise money for the island, but when the time was right.

Irma and Maria hit two months later, both highlighting the need for quality healthcare on St. John.

Sandy actually told me a funny story last week, the day before I left St. John to head north to have this little island baby. She said she saw me on September 7th, the day after Irma, over at Ronnie’s Pizza. You all may recall that Ronnie’s became our cell phone tower of sorts, as it was the only place on island where we could get a signal. Sandy said I walked over to her amid the vast destruction and the first thing I said to her was, “Think we should hold a raffle to fix this?” I don’t recall this conversation at all, but I clearly knew then, just as I know now, that together we all have the ability to fix things, to make a difference. I just never knew until last week just how vast that ability is.

Once early May rolled around, I knew the time was finally right. St. John disappeared from the mainstream news and Hurricane Irma was no longer on people’s minds. But our island still needed help. Myrah Keating remains closed; the majority of our residents remain uninsured; and we need quality healthcare in the islands, both for us as residents and for you as our guests. I was preparing to leave St. John for a bit, but I wanted to help the community as much as possible before I left. So Sandy and I decided it was the perfect time to hold a raffle.

I contacted Al and he immediately confirmed that we had the JetBlue tickets. Next we needed a villa, but not just any villa. We needed something amazing. So I contacted Garrick Lau, the owner of Ardisia. (Garrick contacted me back in the fall after reading about my difficulties in getting an internet connection and thus providing the “news” to all of you. He offered me the use of Ardisia, which has satellite internet, while it underwent minor storm repairs.) Within a day, Garrick and his wife agreed to donate a five-night stay. I was stunned.

Later that week, I was having dinner with Bridgett and Jimmy Key, the owners of Palm Tree Charters. I mentioned the raffle and they immediately agreed to donate a full day boat trip to the British Virgin Islands. Alice Krall, who does development work for Island Health and Wellness, donated four amazing bracelets the next day. (For those of you interested in purchasing one of the bracelets, you can do so at Caravan Gallery at Mongoose Junction.)

So there we had it: airfare, a villa, boat trip and jewelry. Now it was time to launch this thing…

Sandy and I chatted about the amount we could raise. We hoped to hit $30,000 like we did last year. Maybe if we were extremely fortunate, we’d top that number and hit $40,000. Only time would tell…

I was sitting at The Tap Room about an hour after we launched the raffle and was shocked when I learned that we had already raised $5,000. Five thousand dollars in one hour… I text Sandy and said that this was going to be the biggest raffle yet.

As you know, the raffle was held over a two-week period. And do you know how much we were able to raise during that two weeks thanks to all of you???

Drum roll please…

MORE THAN $100,000!!!!!

Can you believe that??!!

In just two weeks, this little blog and all of you helped to raise more than $100,000 for Island Health and Wellness. As I said earlier, I am stunned and I am beyond grateful. Thank you all so very much.

This money has not been earmarked for anything in particular as I prefer that Sandy use it at her discretion. But she did say that it may be used to get electronic medical records and patient portal access. It also may be used to launch a pediatric program. It could even fund 2,000 patient visits. Once Sandy decides exactly how it will be spent, we will be sure to let all of you know.

Now you’re probably wondering who the winner is… Well we’ll announce that today at 11 a.m.

In the meantime, thank you all again so very much. Your generosity is about to make a huge impact on a small island.

New Owners Take Over Popular Restaurant

Cafe Roma

Cafe Roma

After being on the market for roughly two-and-a-half years, Cafe Roma finally has new owners!

Jerry Mace, his daughter Sydney and her husband Andrew Himelein closed on the popular Cruz Bay spot last week, and are eager to continue dishing out Italian food in one of the island’s few air conditioned spots. Jerry and Sydney are no strangers to the Virgin Islands having previous lived over on St. Thomas. Jerry’s mother owned the Driftwood Inn on St. Thomas and Jerry helped run the business. He had two children while living in the USVI, and although they eventually moved back to the states, Jerry always dreamed of coming back. Well that day has come. :)

When Jerry saw that Cafe Roma was for sale, he simply knew it was meant to be. Sydney and Andrew married just days before moving to St. John and are now helping Jerry run the restaurant. Sydney worked a math teacher in the states, while Andrew owned several businesses and has cooked in many restaurants.

There are a few changes in store, although most of Roma’s staples will remain the same. For starters, the family will now open the restaurant for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week. They will also offer happy hour specials from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dinner will be served daily from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Check out their new lunch menu:

Cafe Roma's new lunch menu

Cafe Roma’s new lunch menu

Cafe Roma is located in Cruz Bay just one block from the ferry dock and upstairs from The Longboard.

On the Market: New Masonry Villa in Fish Bay

montana view

Hello everyone and happy Monday! Today we’d like to tell you about a new villa that recently listed in Fish Bay. It has three bedrooms and three baths, and beautiful views of Fish Bay and out to the Caribbean Sea. Here are the details straight from its listing:

Montana By The Sea is a new villa, beautifully finished with a soon to be completed 10x15x5 ft deep pool & driveway. Beautiful plantings and an additional 220 sq ft room for an optional 4th bedroom/bathroom, slate tile roof, lower brick courtyard is 800 sq ft & Bosch kitchen appliances. Covered and uncovered porches and sitting areas. Permitted plans have an additional guest cottage behind main house. Right across the street from the water and close to Cruz Bay. No structural damage from 9/17.

Now please check out some pics:

montana home

montana kitchen montana kitchen 2 montana bedroom

montana bath montana pool

Montana By the Sea is being offered for $1.695 million by Tammy Donnelly of 340 Real Estate Co. For more information, please contact Tammy at at 340RealEstateCo@gmail.com

Kenny Chesney Continues to Support St. John

Kenny Chesney on St. John after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Image credit: kennychesney.com

Kenny Chesney on St. John after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Image credit: kennychesney.com

We’re all truly fortunate that Kenny Chesney loves this place. Kenny announced earlier this week that all of the proceeds from his next album, Songs for the Saints, will go to his Love For Love City Fund. It’s another amazing gesture from an amazing human bestowed on all of us.

Kenny began work to help our islands while many of us were still hunkered down as Irma’s winds howled across St. John. He immediately set up the Love For Love City Fund and within 48 hours had a crew on the ground on St. John who delivered supplies, helped to clear roads and evacuated people off of our ravaged island. For that past nine months, Kenny’s Love For Love City Fund has accomplished so much here in the Virgin Islands and over in the British Virgin Islands as well. We’ve written about their accomplishments twice. Click here and here to read those posts.

The fact that Kenny is now donating 100 percent of his proceeds from Song for the Saints leaves me speechless. The following was posted on Kenny’s website earlier this week:

As friends were being airlifted off the Hurricane Irma-toppled Virgin Islands, Kenny was in the studio recording what in many ways was his response to the destruction that swept through in the Caribbean. Writing, recording and searching for songs in the moment added an immediacy to the music, and those recordings became Songs for the Saints.
Deeply personal, but more importantly, deeply committed to the rescue and healing of the people who live in the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, the project goes past the trauma to focus on the indomitable spirit of those people. The 11 songs offer hope, support, commitment and especially recognition of how irrepressible they are.

“I wanted to make a record that shows the spirit and resilience of the people who live on those islands, who are generationally tied to them, or are raising families there,” Kenny explains. “To me, it’s about the hope, the strength, the joy and the courage they are bringing to the task of rebuilding after a kind of destruction no one has ever seen before. To let them know, they’re not only not forgotten months later, but we’re holding them up as inspiration – and offering help in any way that we can, including music. Because music heals, it inspires, and this is for them.”

… “Creating like this, you don’t have a master plan, but the music will take you and teach you,” Kenny explains. “I knew I wanted this album to show the spirit of the people, but I wanted it to focus on healing, on their gift to rise above such complete chaos and devastation. They had no power, no real food, nothing; they dug in, started clearing the land and rebuilding. To me, that’s inspiring.”

For those of you interested in purchasing this album and supporting the Love For Love City Fund, you can preorder it beginning today. The full album will be released July 27th. The following is its track listing:

  • Songs for the Saints
  • Every Heart
  • Get Along
  • Pirate Song
  • Love for Love City (with Ziggy Marley)
  • Ends Of The Earth
  • Gulf Moon
  • Island Rain
  • Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season (with Jimmy Buffett)
  • We’re All Here
  • Better Boat (featuring Mindy Smith)

And for those of you who missed it, here is the album’s title track in its entirety:

Enter Now! Raffle Ends Saturday at 9 a.m.

Win a five-night stay at Ardisia, a brand new luxury villa in Great Cruz Bay

Win a five-night stay at Ardisia, a brand new luxury villa in Great Cruz Bay

Time is running out folks! If you haven’t entered our raffle, please do now!

And for those of you who have already entered, thank you for supporting the Island Health and Wellness Center on St. John!

The response to this raffle has been overwhelming. We have raised a good deal of money that will be used wisely for health care services here on St. John. To those of you who have entered, thank you. And to those of you who are unable to but simple love this little island of ours, I thank you too.

Here is what you can win for just $25…

  • A five night stay at Ardisia (the stay is good for up to six guests)
  • Roundtrip airfare for six people on JetBlue
  • Best of the BVI boat charter with Palm Tree Charters
  • Four beautiful St. John bracelets courtesy of Coral Bay Jewelers.
  • A pretty swanky gift basket upon their arrival which will include items from several local businesses.

Again, tickets are just $25. The raffle will benefit the Island Health and Wellness Center here on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.

The raffle continues through this Saturday, June 16, 2018 at 9 a.m. EST. We will announce the winner on or about June 20, 2018.

The raffle period ended on June 16, 2018 at 9 a.m. EST

All entrants will receive a confirmation email from PayPal after purchasing your ticket. Because of the expected high volume of entries, we cannot personally email each entrant. Your email from PayPal will serve as your confirmation of entry into the drawing.

How the drawing works: Once the entry period is over, we will pull a report from PayPal. We will then personally write the names of each entrant on a raffle ticket. If you bought one ticket, we will write your name on one ticket. If you bought two tickets, we will write your name on two tickets. And so forth… All of the names will be placed into a secure bucket/basket. Once all of the names are written on tickets, we will draw the winner live on video. That video will be posted on newsofstjohn.com

Now on to the fine print, the small print, the possible storm print, etc…

  • The five-night stay at Ardisia is good for low season dates only. These dates are now through December 15, 2018 (the week of Thanksgiving – November 17, 2018 through November, 24, 2018 is excluded) and also from April 16, 2019 through December 16, 2019 (Thanksgiving week 2019 is also excluded). This five-night stay is subject to availability. You will book directly with the villa at www.ardisiastjohn.com. This stay is good for six people. Add-on guests are not allowed. Please visit ardisiastjohn.com for complete reservation policies. This stay is valued at $7,850. 
  • The six round trip tickets on JetBlue can be used between October 1, 2018 and October 1, 2019 only. All travel must be booked and flown during this time period. Blackout dates may apply. We will provide booking instructions to the winner.
  • The Best of the British Virgin Islands boat charter with Palm Tree Charters is good for up to six people and is subject to availability. You must book directly with the business. Gas, BVI customs and gratuity are not included. In the event of a tropical storm or hurricane, the owner of Palm Tree Charters reserves the right to cancel your boat charter. They will then work with you to rebook. If Palm Tree Charters is out of the water during your preferred travel time, Palm Tree Charters will work with you to rebook. If Palm Tree Charters is unable to fulfill this donated charter due to a loss from a tropical storm or hurricane, this portion of the raffle will be forfeited. 
  • You will receive the three bracelets courtesy of Coral Bay Jewelers upon your arrival on St. John. (We do not want to risk them getting lost in the mail.)
  • We strongly encourage the winner to purchase trip insurance. 

Our (Still) Beautiful Underwater World

We received the following video from Larry McLain. It shows how beautiful, yet fragile our underwater world remains following hurricanes Irma and Maria last fall. Here is what Larry had to say:

“My name is Larry McLain and I have been in love with the islands sense the early 70s. We moved to St John in 1980 and were here for 20 years. I worked in marine science and became totally obsessed with the underwater world. Marylyn beat us up pretty good so we left in 1998 for 10 years but couldn’t stay away and started coming back for 3 or 4 months a year.

“I have always done a lot of under photography but the last 8 years I have become obsessed (again) with video using GoPros. In December I put a short video together as a tribute to those beautiful critters out there that got so beat up during the storms … Our shallow reefs have been hit hard, so everyone should be aware and help preserve what we have left.”

The beginning of the video was filmed prior to the storms near Henley and Lovango, Larry said. The rest was filmed back in December near Frank Bay and Gallows Point. It is roughly seven minutes long. We hope you enjoy it.