The Best Thing That Has Happened to St. John… In My Opinion.

Sandy Colasacco

Sandy Colasacco is the founder and executive director of the Island Health and Wellness Center. (She is one of the most important members of the St. John community in my opinion.)

For the past four years, we’ve been telling you about the daily happenings on St. John. We’ve told you about the best bars and restaurants, businesses that have closed, businesses that have opened, island events, and much more. We tend to stick to things that appeal to the masses (beaches, restaurants and overall fun) while we tend to shy away from some of the deeper topics that affect the island. Well we’re changing things up a bit today. We’re going to talk about healthcare here on St. John. I hope you all read on…

St. John has the highest rate of uninsured people in the entire US Virgin Islands. The number of uninsured here is actually five times more than the national average. A recent survey found that 72 percent of people living here do not have insurance that covers primary care services and 56 percent of residents have no insurance at all.

You’re probably asking yourselves “why”. Well unless you’re working for a larger corporation like the Westin or Caneel Bay, for example, it’s pretty difficult to get health insurance here. It simply does not exist. So it’s not that we don’t want to pay for health insurance; many of us simply cannot get it.

So who exactly are the uninsured? Well many are active members of the community – your servers, bartenders, boat captains and crew, retail personnel and manual laborers who work hard to keep the tourism industry thriving and the community strong.

So what do people do when they’re in need of healthcare? Honestly, many put it off. That same survey we mentioned above showed that more than 70 percent of St. John residents have delayed or avoided healthcare when primarily due to high costs and inability to pay. Seventy percent. This, in turn, often makes for worsening conditions, higher rates of morbidities and mortalities, and a community not as healthy as it should be.

island health and wellnessWell all of this is about to change thanks to a new non-profit, primary health care practice here on island – the Island Health and Wellness Center. It’s honestly a godsend to our community.

The Island Health and Wellness Center welcomes everyone – both residents and visitors – and all visits cost just $50. If lab testing is needed, there may be an additional $50 to $100 cost; however no one will ever be turned away due to inability to pay. The Center offers everything from sick visits and physicals to women’s health exams and family planning to chronic health management. (The Center does not accept insurance of any kind.)

The Island Health and Wellness Center is the brainchild of Sandy Colasacco. Sandy is a Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner. As a healthcare provider in the Territory, Sandy has seen, first-hand, the lack of affordable health care options. So she decided to do something about it. And what she has created is simply amazing. We cannot thank you enough Sandy.

As we mentioned, the Center is a non-profit which means it relies solely on donations and grants. One of the great things about running News of St. John is that we have the ability to raise money. So we’re holding a pretty amazing raffle to support the new Island Health and Wellness Center. Stay tuned for more info on that.

And for those of you who would like to donate to the Center, you can do so by clicking this link. (Scroll down to the Donate button.)

The Center is located in Palm Plaza, which is across from St. John Market near the Westin. It is open Monday through Friday with varying hours depending on the day. Call (340) 714-4270 to make an appointment. You can also visit its website to learn more at www.islandhealthcenter.org

Iron Bartender Happening June 4th

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It’s that time of year folks … time for your favorite bartenders to show off their skills!

For the 5th year in a row, Drink St. John, along with Patron Tequila, is putting on the biggest and best all island mixology competition! It involves 24 contestants, three challenging rounds to make deliciously creative drinks using off-the-wall ingredients for hand-picked industry judges and a crowd of encouraging spectators. The best part is you don’t know what you’re making until you’re standing head to head with your competition, and you only have five minutes to make the cocktail! Some might call it the the “Chopped’ meets “Iron Chef” of mixology competitions.

The entry fee is only $20. Bartenders, go ahead and get your employer to sponsor you. :)

Need some incentive to compete? First prize includes $500, a trip to the Patron Hacienda, the trophy, the coveted green Patron jacket, the title of Iron Bartender, braggin rights and more Patron swag! Don’t worry 2nd place still takes home $250 plus goodies.

Not keen on competing but want to see what all the action is about? Join Drink’s VIP section to see AND taste the competition! $40 get’s you reserved seating, cocktail service, snacks, Patron swag, and yes, tastes of the competitors crafty cocktails.

Contestant and VIP spots are limited so PM, email, or call to reserve your spot or for more information:
drinkusvi@gmail.com or 619-540-5557

Beware: The Manchineel Tree

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This sign and tree is located on the road to Annaberg.

Hello everyone and happy Monday! So I’ve spent quite a bit of time out at Annaberg lately while conducting my News of St. John Tours, and each time I head out there, I always stop at one particular tree – the Manchineel tree. Have you ever noticed it? It’s a poisonous tree with a pretty serious warning. Here’s what its sign says:

Warning!

Manchineel Tree

The leaves, bark and fruits of these trees contain a caustic sap which may be injurious if touched. Columbus described the small, green fruits as “death apples.” The trees are common along the Caribbean shores. Avoid contact with any part of this tree!

There are at least two such trees on island – the one pictured above that’s near Annaberg and there’s at least one more out at Haulover (pictured below).

The Manchineel at Haulover.

The Manchineel at Haulover.

The botanical name for the Manchineel tree is Hippomane mancinella. Hippomane is actually derived from two Greek words: Hippo for horse and mane, which is a derivative of the word mania. The way the story goes is that a Greek philosopher gave the name Hippomane to a plant after realizing that horses became crazy after eating it. The word Manchineel, on the other hand, was derived from the Spanish word manzanilla, which means little apples. (The manchineel tree bears small fruits that resemble small apples.) So in a roundabout way, Hippomane mancinella is an easier way to say little apples that make horses go crazy. And that my friends, is how the manchineel tree got its name. (Ok, we kind of embellished that last part!)

But seriously, the manchineel tree is not something you want to mess around with. The manchineel tree produces a form of sap that can ooze out of its bark, branches, leaves and fruit. This sap is especially dangerous as it can cause serious, burn-like blisters when it touches the skin. Ingesting any part of the tree, including its fruit, can cause serious inflammation. Every single bit of this tree is poisonous. If you touch or ingest any part of it, the results could be fatal.

Random fact: I see lizards on it all the time, so clearly they’re immune in some way.

The manchineel tree is native to the Caribbean, Mexico, Central American and parts of southern Florida. It typically grows along the coastline and among mangroves. When mature, the manchineel tree can grow up to 50 feet high.

Bottom line: Stay as far away from this tree as possible. And if you’d like to take a pic, do it from afar.

News you can use today, folks! Have a great one! :)

Wagapalooza Happening Today

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Wagapalooza, the Animal Care Center’s zany and anything but typical dog show, will be held today, Saturday, May 20th from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Winston Wells Ball Field in Cruz Bay. This very cool event is a fundraiser for the ACC, an organization near and dear to our hearts here at News of St. John.

As in past years, classes to be judged include Best Old Timer, Best Costume, Best Adult Handler,  Best Look Alike (to owner), Best Shelter Rescue, Babe Award, as well as Waga King and Queen.

There will be grilled burgers and hot dogs, as well as a full bar at the event (for purchase of course). There will also be face painting, a photo booth, an ice cream cart, as well as a great raffle that includes items like boat trips, jewelry, gift certificates from many of our island’s businesses, hotel and resort stays, and fabulous dinners at our fine island restaurants. You can purchase raffle tickets at the event or beforehand at the ACC and St. John Hardware.

Admission is free; however if you’d like to register your dog for the show, it’s $20 per class or three classes for $50 ($25 per class at the door). Children under 16 are half price, but must be accompanied by an adult.

As always, all proceeds from the event go directly to the ACC. Monies raised are used to keep the shelter open, medicate the cats and dogs, fund travel to send the animals to their “forever homes” and to purchase food for the ACC’s feeding stations which are located throughout the island and help St. John’s homeless kittens and cats.

Click here to visit the ACC’s website.

Price Reduction: Two Turnkey Rentals with Panoramic Views

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Hello everyone and happy Friday! Today we’d like to tell you about not one, but two turnkey homes that just had a substantial price reduction. And to make this property even better, it has some of the best views on island! Check it out…

Coconut Hill Cottage and Tropical Tree House are two very successful, fully equipped, short term rental homes. Each has traditional Danish Caribbean architecture and the homes are situated on a .522 acre parcel with mesmerizing views that begin with Coral Bay harbor and go all the way out to Virgin Gorda and beyond.

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The homes are very private and are separated by lush foliage. The upper masonry home has two air conditioned bedrooms plus a sleeping loft, and three bathrooms. There’s also a screened and covered porch with dining and lounging areas and a pool. The fully air conditioned lower house has a sleeping loft, bathroom and a screened and covered porch.

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Cooling breezes, sunrises and just a short drive down the hill to the shops and restaurants in Coral Bay make this home a fantastic deal. And one of the best parts – it’s only minutes to our famed North Shore beaches. You can choose to continue to run the property as two successful short terms, or occupy one and rent the second.

This property is now being offered for $885,000 by John McCann at 340 Real Estate Co. Please contact John at john@helloimjohn.com for more information.

Viva Cantina Closing; Greengo’s Moving In

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Last week we told you how Greengo’s, a successful Mexican restaurant with locations in St. Thomas and San Juan, was coming to Cruz Bay. Well today, we can give you the full scoop.

Michael Barry, owner of Sun Dog Cafe and Viva Cantina over in Mongoose Junction, reached out to us yesterday afternoon to share the news. Viva is currently under contract to be sold to Greengo’s. The new restaurant is expected to open in late summer.

“We appreciate the many guests who supported us and the efforts of the staff who have been honest, loyal and helpful in building the Viva Cantina brand, as well as those that enjoyed Virgn Fire Grill,” Michael said. “We’ll continue to serve St. John at the Sun Dog Cafe and look forward to seeing you there. Greengos is a very good operation, a welcome addition to the St. John dining scene and we look forward to having them as friends and neighbors”

Michael and his wife Barbie acquired the Viva space back in 2013. Formerly La Plancha, Michael introduced us to Virgin Fire. From there, the space transformed into Viva Cantina. We’re excited to see what happens next. :)