First Bank Reopens on St. John

More great news! First Bank is now open on St. John. Here are the details straight from them:

FirstBank wishes to inform the general public of branch hours effective
September 26, 2017: 

  • St. John- The St. John Branch located at the MarketPlace will be open from 9:30am-12:30pm.
  • St. Thomas – The Waterfront Branch and FirstBank Plaza branch in Tutu will be open from 10am-3:30pm.
  • St. Croix- The Orange Grove Branch will be open from 12pm-3:00pm.

FirstBank ATMs at the Waterfront Branch, FirstBank Plaza Branch, St. John Branch and Orange Grove Branch are fully operational.

ATMs will remain operational as long as resources allow.

Clients are reminded that they can access their accounts, check balances and make account transfers through the FirstBank Online Banking and Mobile Banking platforms.

Ryan Moore, Our Local Animal Hero, Featured in People Magazine

Photo credit: STJ Photography

Photo credit: STJ Photography

Ryan Moore, the manager of the Animal Care Center on St. John, has worked tirelessly over the years to help the animals of St. John. Ryan’s actions following hurricanes Irma and Maria were simply extraordinary. Ryan is such an amazing person that People Magazine took note. Here is a profile they wrote on Ryan yesterday…

Animal Rescue Hero Evacuates Family During Hurricanes, Stays to Protect Shelter Pets in U.S. Virgin Islands

BY SARYN CHORNEY • @SARYNTHUMPS

When Hurricane Irma, a category 5 storm with winds gusts up to 200 miles per hour, hit the U.S. Virgin Islands on Sept. 6, every update seemed worse than the last. Residents who’d hoped the hurricane would turn north faced facts, began collecting supplies and hunkering down. One of those families was Ryan and Tiffany Moore, their two young sons Conner and Dylan and their dog, Tug.

When the Moores ventured outside a day later, “It looked like an atomic bomb went off,” Tiffany Moore tells PEOPLE. “It was a total war zone. [We’re on a hill and] the roofs of two houses below ours were now in our yard. It was like that for a lot of houses. It was just mass destruction.”

Although the Moores didn’t lose their home, it was flooded, and the entire island was without power and water. As manager of St. John’s Animal Care Center, Ryan Moore finally was able to check on the dogs and cats at the shelter, while Tiffany went into town. She found out a private charter boat was leaving the island that afternoon, bound for Puerto Rico. The couple made a split-second decision that it was in their little boys’ best interest for Tiffany to evacuate St. John before another impending hurricane hit. Ryan, however, decided he needed to stay because of his responsibility to the shelter.

Photo credit: IFAW: INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

Photo credit: IFAW: International Fund for Animal Welfare

“The thing about Ryan I fell in love with from the beginning is his loyalty, passion and commitment to animals and his work,” says Tiffany. “He made that decision, I’m so proud of him that he did. Nobody knew what was coming, that Hurricane Maria would be following a week later. He wanted to be there and manage, and make sure all the dogs were ok.”

The shelter stayed fairly intact, but there was a large hole that had blown out through the back wall in the cat room. Luckily, all the cats were still safe and in their cages. There was also flooding below the shelter, and a mudslide had caused the porch to collapse on the right side of the building. Moore’s been fixing up the structure to keep the animals safe and dry, as well as taking care of the animals.

ryanmoore_ifaw_outside (1)

Despite obvious communication challenges, Ryan’s animal rescue efforts took off. He got in contact with an organization called IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), and began conversations with its disaster relief team. Moore worked as hard as he could to get people on the ground in St. John to assist and eventually evacuate the pets off the island. Throughout this ordeal, he’s remained optimistic that he’ll get the job done, which includes accounting for every single rescue animal already in the shelter, as well as the pets who were left behind by their families who, in many cases, had no choice in the matter.

PEOPLE spoke with Shannon Walajtys, IFAW Manager for Disaster Response, about the dire situation in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean at large. Her team had mobilized to assess the impact of Hurricane Irma to the animals of St. Thomas and St. John at the request of Moore and other local authorities who asked for aid.

Please click here to read the rest of the story on People.com

A Message from Gifft Hill School

gifft hill 1st day

We received the following message from Molly Murrill, the Assistant to the Director of Advancement & Communications Director at Gifft Hill School. She asked that I share it with all of you.

Gifft Hill School is pleased to announce that they opened their doors to students yesterday (Monday, September 25th) for the first day of the 2017-18 school year. Our team of faculty, trustees and volunteers has worked tirelessly to prepare for opening day, and everyone is so excited to welcome back our returning students and greet new families who would like to enroll their children.

fixing fence

rachael cleaning

In an effort to accommodate all students wanting to attend, the team at Gifft Hill School is working hard to secure additional funding to provide tuition support for all of our students. People all over the country, many of them with no previous relationship to the school, are reaching out and wanting to help. Financial contributions can be made via credit card at the following link: https://www.giffthillschool.org/support_donate.html. In addition, GHS will be creating a wish list of needed supplies this week. Volunteers are still needed for clean up efforts on both campuses. We are proud to be able to continue to provide dynamic programming to our students and look forward to welcoming more students in the weeks to come. Stay tuned for updates on Gifft Hill School’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/giffthillschool/.

Beth Jones and Molly Murrill of GHS’s Advancement Office will be in New York City this week for a “St. John in the City” event that was originally planned long before the storms. Two friends of Gifft Hill School, Alexandra Doan Drucker and David Drucker, are hosting a cocktail reception in their home on September 28th in support of the school, and they are looking forward to welcoming an enthusiastic group of GHS supporters.

And here is some additional information posted by Dr. Laurie:

41 students attended classes the first day!

kids circle

The 12:00 meeting drew 54 families who cumulatively have 91 prospective students who are in the application process, and another 20 families dropped in throughout the day. Tuition is waived for now.

The next steps for prospective families are:

  1. Complete paperwork (physical, immunization records, any past school records and a short application) submitted in provided folder
  2. Attend placement assessment between 11 am and 12 pm.
  3. Notification of acceptance

Uniform: GHS polo with khaki, black, or blue bottom.

Please email lauriebottiger@giffthillschool.org with any questions! We hope to be able to post photos from the 2nd day of school. Stay tuned!

Thank you so much Gifft Hill for allowing these children to have a bit of normalcy in their lives. Thank you for all that you do for our community. -Jenn

kids going to school

Meet Clint.

clint and kristen

Clint Gaskins, his wife Kristen and their daughter Marley.

Earlier today we mentioned how a handful of restaurants are currently feeding people for free. One of those restaurants is The Longboard, the popular coastal cantina located in the center of Cruz Bay. Today we’d like to introduce you to Clint Gaskins, the owner of The Longboard.

Clint and his wife Kristen opened The Longboard on May 1, 2015. Clint was in his hometown of Charleston when he saw that Hurricane Irma had set her sights on St. John. Clint being Clint, he quickly headed to the VI, leaving his pregnant wife Kristen and their daughter Marley in Charleston. (Side note: Congrats Kristen!! CNN accidentally made this announcement to the world about two weeks ago … oops!) He wanted to be on the ground in St. John to help the island, check on the safety of his staff and board up the restaurant properly to ensure that the Longboard could respond and get back up and running as quickly as possible in order to feed people.

Clint’s exact words to me via text on September 5th at 1:52 p.m. – “…we got a community to help going forward.” Hurricane Irma hit St. John on September 6th.

The Longboard was relatively lucky in terms of damage from Irma, and after spending a day cleaning, repairing and prepping, was able to open on Friday, Sept. 8 to provide free meals to St. John’s residents, and continued to do so every other day for the next week. The restaurant opened up at 3:30 p.m. on those days, reserving the first 30 minutes for first responders and emergency personnel, and then opening to the public with complimentary food

With continued efforts on behalf of Clint and The Longboard team, and an unofficial partnership with Cruz Bay Landing who was also providing residents with food, locals have had access to hot meals every day thanks to these two dedicated local businesses

The Red Cross took notice of their efforts and met with Todd Beaty, owner of Cruz Bay Landing, and Clint. On Monday, Sept. 18, The Longboard and Cruz Bay Landing officially commenced food service on behalf of the Red Cross to continue to be able to supply food for residents and emergency personnel. The first dinner served by the Longboard was rice bowls with cauliflower or pork – hearty, delicious Longboard-style nourishment for our Love City’s strongest.

Todd Beaty on September 14th

Todd Beaty on September 14th

The two restaurants together have been providing 2,000 free meals per day to first responders and residents. Through October 17 to start, each restaurant will be giving out 1,000 meals a day, comprised of 500 bag lunch meals and 500 hot meals. Hot meals will be available at each location, and a portion of the bag lunch meals will be distributed across the island and the rest available for pick-up at each establishment.

Clint and his staff’s commitment to St. John is much like that of the rest of the community; a dedication to helping our island remain strong and rebuild, one day at a time.

“The St. John community appears stronger than ever, the dust is settling and now that the second storm has past, we are ready to get back to business and making STJ great again,” Clint said.

Clint has shared that the trees are growing green buds, the donkeys are emerging and the National Park is working hard to clear the North Shore Road. Everyone that remains on St. John is rising to do their part, come together and spread hope.

Moments like this one are inspiring and are the reason Love City will endure. (Link brings you to The Longboard’s Facebook page)

Details of current food program as follows:

Bag Lunches: 10AM-12pm bag lunch (some portions are distributed across island)

  • Cold cut sandwiches, potato chips, granola bars, whole fruit
  • Wraps (chicken/cold cut), potato chips, granola bars, whole fruit

Dinner Meals: 2pm-4pm hot meals at The Longboard

  • Rice, beans, braised pork, cabbage slaw
  • Rice, roasted cauliflower, stewed chicken salad mix
  • Potatos, pork/chicken, slaw

In addition to Red Cross support, The Longboard is also raising money to keep the effort’s going and to support relief efforts for Love City. This is a long road ahead, and all the support possible will be needed to keep aid coming and to support the cause. Please visit https://www.gofundme.com/stjohnrelief to donate.

A Message from Andrea.

andrea

Hello everyone and happy Monday. We came across the following message posted yesterday by Andrea Milam Chouinere on Facebook. We thought you’d all enjoy reading it. Andrea gave us permission to share it with all of you.

September 24. Eighteen days since Irma, so I suppose it’s time for the rumors to start flying (though in full disclosure I’ve heard some pretty wild rumors since day one). In recent days I’ve heard that the food supply is dangerously close to running out. The fuel supply is dwindling. The attention that’s been focused on St. John has been sent to Puerto Rico and St. Croix, and the general feeling is that the island of St. John has been left in the dark and it’s only a matter of days before this community descends into full turmoil. People are tense and fist fights are breaking out.

Now as someone who’s actually here on island with no plans to leave can I tell you what I’ve seen? School starts tomorrow. My son’s youth steel orchestra has gotten together twice in the last week to put the pan yard back together and to start making beautiful music again. I’ve shared genuine hugs with people I generally only pass by with a nod. I purchased nectarines, grapes, ground beef, and bacon from Starfish with a local check and an immense amount of gratitude for the opportunity to save our precious cash. I see people waiting calmly in line for MREs and cases of water. I hear people speaking gratitude for the two hot meals a day provided for free by a handful of local restaurants. I see people welcoming others into their homes for shelter, a meal, a cold beer, or whatever they have to offer. I see people accepting the reality of our situation and moving on despite disaster.

Will it all be sunshine and rainbows in the months to come? Of course not! We experienced a direct hit by one of the most powerful hurricanes on record followed by the threat of Jose and getting more than brushed by Maria. But my family and I choose to see the positive. We choose to pick up the pieces and figure out how we can move forward as a community. Those who care about us, please trust me when I say that if we didn’t feel safe or sustainable here we’d evacuate as soon as possible, and this is what I hope those who are not happy here are planning to do. No snark intended. I sincerely hope that those who remain on island are able to help focus on recovery efforts and moving forward, and that those who don’t feel safe here can get somewhere they do feel safe so they can process the trauma we’ve all gone through. Everyone has to make the decision that’s right for them and I don’t fault people on either side.

Above all else I hope that people pause for a moment before sharing the latest sensationalist report with their own layer of fear added on top. I understand that I do not speak for everyone on St. John so I will say with clarity that while we’ve been seriously beaten down by Mother Nature, there is no community the Chouinieres would rather be a part of in such a situation than LOVE CITY!

#stjohnstrong

Side note: Andrea is also a travel writer. Click here to check out her website.

Sept. 24th Update from FEMA

We just received the following information from FEMA:

FEMA Asks All Residents to Follow Directions of Commonwealth, Territorial, and Local Officials

Power Restoration and Debris Removal Efforts Continue

The top priority of the federal government is continuing to provide life-saving resources to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. FEMA and its federal partners continue to be on 24-hour operations, aggressively working to meet and overcome challenges to opening ports and restoring power to bring additional life-saving commodities and personnel into disaster-affected areas.

FEMA encourages all residents to continue following the direction of commonwealth, territorial, and local officials.

 The federal support includes air and sea logistical support by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard, in coordination with the private sector.  Fuel, equipment, and commodities to support the response effort will continue to flow through airports and ports, pending power restoration and opening of facilities. 

 Federal partners established a fuel distribution site in San Juan for federal and local entities to support first responder and critical facility needs, and we are working to re-open additional airports to facilitate transportation of fuel.   

 The port of San Juan re-opened for daylight operations and other ports are undergoing assessments.  On St. Thomas [and St. John], the ports of Crown Bay, Cruz Bay, East Gregerie Channel, Red Hook, and West Gregerie Channel are open with restrictions while other ports are being assessed.  On St. Croix, the ports of Krause Lagoon and Limetree Bay are open with restrictions while other ports are being assessed. 

 Federal partners established a fuel distribution site in San Juan for federal and local entities to support first responder and critical facility needs, and we are working to re-open additional airports to facilitate transportation of fuel.   

 The Department of Energy is coordinating with industry on mutual aid for Puerto Rico, and transported crews from New York Power Authority to support damage assessments.

 Six FEMA Urban Search & Rescue task forces (CA-TF6, CA-TF7, VA-TF1, VA-TF2, FL TF-1 and FL TF-2) are stationed in the Caribbean with additional teams en route. Components of other task forces are on the ground providing logistics support (NY-TF1, MA TF1).

 The task forces rescued 165 individuals and searched over 45 structures as of 5 p.m. on September 23, 2017. Of those, approximately 100 people were rescued from a collapsing bridge in Puerto Rico Saturday. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) is conducting search and rescue operations in St. Croix, and in the surrounding waters, and so far rescued 15 individuals.

 To donate or volunteer, contact the voluntary or charitable organization of your choice through the National Voluntary Agencies Active in Disasters (NVOAD) at www.nvoad.org.

FEMA is raising awareness that Hurricane Maria disaster survivors, and their friends and family, should be alert for false rumors, scams, identity theft, and fraud.  FEMA has a dedicated website to address some of the most common themes. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Visit FEMA’s Hurricane Rumor Control page to get the most accurate information from trusted sources.

Information for Survivors

For those in declared areas and who are able to do so, registering online, at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, is the quickest way to register for FEMA assistance.

The American Red Cross Safe and Well website is a free public reunification tool that allows individuals and organizations to register and post messages to search for loved ones, or for individuals to indicate that they are safe. The site is always available, open to the public, and available in English and Spanish.  There are a number of ways to use this service:

  • Registrations and searches can be done directly on the website.
  • Registrations can also be completed by texting SAFE to 78876. Messages exist in both Spanish and English.
  • To speak with someone at the American Red Cross concerning a missing friend or relative who has a serious, pre-existing health or mental health condition, please contact 1-800 Red Cross (1-800-733-2767).
  • The American Red Cross Emergency App features an “I’m Safe” button that allows users to post a message to their social accounts, letting friends and family know they are out of harm’s way. The app can be downloaded for free in app stores by searching for “American Red Cross” or by texting ‘GETEMERGENCY’ to 90999.

Anyone who finds a child who may be separated from parents or caregivers, please contact the local police and enter basic information and/or a photo into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you find an unaccompanied child, please indicate whether the child has a disability or has access and functional needs in the appropriate field in the Unaccompanied Minors Registry. If you do not have access to the internet, please call 1-866-908-9570.

FEMA is raising awareness that Hurricane Maria disaster survivors, and their friends and family, should be alert for false rumors, scams, identity theft, and fraud.  FEMA has a dedicated website to address some of the most common themes. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Visit FEMA’s Hurricane Rumor Control page to get the most accurate information from trusted sources.


Federal Resources On the Ground or En-Route

  • There are more than 7,000 federal staff, including over 575 FEMA personnel, on the ground in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands supporting response and recovery operations from Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
  • A FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer and Incident Management Assistance Team is co-located with the Governor on St. Croix, as well as liaisons on St. John and St. Thomas. A Federal Coordinating Officer, an Incident Management Assistance Team, as well as permanent and surge staff are in Puerto Rico.
  • At the federal staging area in St. Croix, there are more than 43,000 liters of water and more than 20,000 meals available for distribution by territory officials.
  • Five airports are open on Puerto Rico, and two airports in the U.S. Virgin Islands for military and relief flights to bring in commodities, and lifesaving and life-sustaining resources. 
  • Flights and sea vessels loaded with commodities are arriving or awaiting airport/port clearance for delivery:

o   Six commercial barges transported and delivered meals, water, generators, cots, and other commodities to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

o   An air bridge is established, flying three flights per day to St. Croix, each carrying approximately 33,000 meals.

o   The logistics support ship SS Wright arrived carrying more than 1.1 million meals, and nearly one million liters of freshwater.

o   Two shipping barges with 1.2 million liters of water, 31 generators, and more than 6,000 cots arrived in St. Thomas.

o   Two additional shipping barges loaded with food, water, and emergency relief supplies are en route to the Caribbean Sea from Florida.

o   Millions of additional meals are being flown to Puerto Rico from staging areas in Kentucky and Florida.

o   The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) is transporting a shipment of 124,000 gallons of diesel fuel to Puerto Rico, with arrival in the coming days.

  • At all times, FEMA maintains commodities at its Distribution Center and Warehouse in Puerto Rico should they be needed by the Commonwealth or the U.S. Virgin Islands. These commodities currently include more than 84,000 meals, 25 generators, and more than 500 cots.
  • Public and commercial communications services suffered significant damage on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. One Mobile Emergency Response Support team (MERS) is in St. Thomas, and one MERS team and one Disaster Emergency Communication Coordinator are on St. Croix assisting personnel with communications. Additional teams continue to arrive to provide mobile telecommunications, logistics, operational support and power generation.
  • FEMA’s National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) is facilitating private sector requests for humanitarian relief.  The NBEOC continues coordination between government and private sector organizations as the community responds to Hurricanes Maria and Irma.
  • Other federal agencies are taking the following actions:  
    • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations personnel arrived in St. Thomas to evaluate, fix, and install FAA equipment, in support of airport operations. 
    • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) completed a Blue Roof install on Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, and completed its first residential Blue Roof install on September 23.
    • Additionally, USACE has 27 generators on hand in St. Thomas with more than 50 additional generators en route. USACE and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continue to survey damaged channels and ports in Puerto Rico. USACE and other supporting agencies have completed several temporary power installs on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and completed more than 100 inspections.

o   A Coast Guard mobile communications convoy is en route to Puerto Rico to help improve communications across the storm-impacted area. Coast Guard personnel continue to deliver critical FEMA relief supplies to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    • Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally HHS has one Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) deployed to Puerto Rico. Four additional DMATs will arrive in Puerto Rico as aircraft are available.
    • Customs and Border Protection airplanes and helicopters are assisting with conducting damage assessment and search and rescue missions.
    • More than 180 Federal Law Enforcement Officers are in San Juan supporting search and rescue and medical teams.

Declarations

  • On September 23, President Trump amended the earlier major disaster declaration for the U.S. Virgin Islands to make funding available to affected individuals in St. Thomas and St. John.
  • On September 20, President Trump issued a major disaster declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria. This declaration makes federal funding available to affected individuals in 54 municipalities. Federal funding is also available to the Commonwealth and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work in all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth, along with hazard mitigation measures throughout the Commonwealth. 
  • On September 18, President Trump issued the following federal emergency declarations in advance of Hurricane Maria’s landfall:

Safety

  • If you encounter flood waters, remember – turn around, don’t drown.
  • Driving through a flooded area can be extremely hazardous. Almost half of all flash flood deaths happen in vehicles. When in your car, look out for flooding in low lying areas, at bridges, and at highway dips. As little as six inches of water may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • Use extreme caution when entering buildings that may have been damaged.
  • Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
     
  • Wear sturdy shoes or boots, long sleeves and gloves when handling or walking on or near debris.
  • Avoid downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines.
  • Ensure water is safe to drink, cook or clean with after a flood. Oftentimes a boil water order is put in place following a flood.
  • Avoid strenuous work during the warmest part of the day. Use a buddy system when working in extreme heat, and take frequent breaks.

If Asked

  • Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are working to prioritize fuel distribution for the islands.
  • Hurricane Irma applicants from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have yet to receive an inspection, will continue to be processed in Irma as most will not realize they would have needed to apply a second time.  All damage recorded will be processed in Irma.
  • Hurricane Irma applicants from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who have already been inspected, must contact FEMA again if they sustained damage from Hurricane Maria to apply separately under the Hurricane Maria declarations.  Any new awards will be processed through the Hurricane Maria declaration.
  • Any survivor who has yet to apply will be registered in the appropriate disaster by reported date of loss: if they say they were damaged from both storms, their damage will be recorded under Hurricane Maria go in Maria and all damage will be processed through that disaster.
  • Additional information for the U.S. Virgin Islands is available at the following locations:
  • Additional information for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is available at:

Additional questions can be directed to FEMA Intergovernmental Affairs at 202-285-7835.