Good Morning to you all. I’m afraid I have some not so great news to share with you today. Late Sunday night, a fire raged an apartment complex in the Grunwald area, about a mile from Cruz Bay. According to the release from the Virgin Islands Fire Department, nine apartments were destroyed. The occupants, St. John community members and workers, all made it out safely but are left with nothing. Including a roof over their heads.
I am not going to get into any details or share any imagery of this as the affected individuals are likely going to need time to emotionally recover from the events of Sunday evening and Monday morning. But we, as a community, do need to get started on a plan for support for these folks.
If you have been following along, you can understand how incredibly difficult housing is on St. John. It was a struggle for us to find one long-term rental. And we now need housing options for close to TWENTY community members.
If anyone out there has leads on ANY type of short or long term housing situations on St. John, please reach out directly. We are compiling a list of all affected individuals to connect them directly with housing options as they come available. We are approaching a slower time of year so, for those of you with short term rentals that aren’t booked solid, a lengthy stay for one or several of these folks would be a great gesture. No one is looking for a hand out. These individuals all work hard for a living here in Love City and additional fiscal assistance is available as well.
Cid Hamling, former owner and operator of Connections, has set up a link in the St. John Revolving Fund for donations to be directly earmarked for those affected by last night’s events. The St. John Revolving Fund (SJRF) is a 501(c)3 non-profit, established in 1995 in the wake of Hurricane Marilyn. Donations are tax deductible and no administrative fees or otherwise are taken from the donated funds.
SJRF is set up for individuals in immediate need of financial assistance on St. John and works in the following ways:
- An immediate interest-free loan up to $2500. The payee pays it back on a schedule that they determine as feasible. If donations come into SJRF earmarked for that person, the donations would first go to repay the loan so that the SJRF can continue to help the next in need. Once that loan is repaid and a donation comes in earmarked for that person, they get the total donation. No administrative fees are charged.
- If person(s) do not want interest-free loan, but would like for friends and family to make a tax-deductible donation to the SJRF in their name, that donation is paid in full to the person. No administrative fees are charged.
- If donations come to SJRF and are designated for Grunwald Fire (not individuals), then those funds will be distributed equally to victims or their loan repayments.
If you would like to donate directly to those left abruptly in need, please go to the STJ Revolving Fund PayPal page and type “Grunwald Fire” into the notes. If you would like to earmark these funds for a specific individual affected by the incident, please ALSO type their name into the notes. Checks can be made out to St. John Revolving Fund and mailed to Connections St. John, PO Box 37, St. John, VI 00831 (Please put Grunwald Fire in the memo). If you are on island, cash donations can also be made at Connections in Cruz Bay.
Today, we find ourselves in a situation similar to that of five years ago. When aid was needed in the wake of Hurricane Irma, it was for the entire island. We had no resources left to spread around. Today is vastly different as our local community has resources in the form of clothing, linens, towels, household goods, etc. So, we are asking that if you are off island and want to assist, please either share housing information here or cash donations to this reputable organization so the affected parties can recoup their necessities.
I will update you all further as this story develops and as specific needs become transparent. But, for today, we are gathering cash and information to assist the individuals when they are ready. So, in the meantime, please keep these folks in your hearts and your positive vibrations for the next little bit. Many of the individuals affected by the Grunwald fire ALSO lived through Hurricane Irma and are losing everything for the second time in five short years.
If you are seeking assistance and have not yet been contacted, please email me for a growing list of local resources that can provide assistance.
I want to extend a huge thank you to the VI Fire Service on St. John for their response to this blaze. There are many other homes in this very residential area that could have also been lost to this catastrophic event without their hard work into the wee hours of Monday morning.