New Building Blog Debuts

Seas the Day
Image courtesy of seasthedaystj.wordpress.com

A new building blog debuted over the weekend and we think you should check it out. It follows the adventures of one Chicago couple in their quest to own a home on St. John.

During their initial property search, Eric Woltkamp and Patrick Coffey just couldn’t seem to find what they were looking for. They would find a great villa, but it had little to no views. And then they’d find a spot with killer views, but the villa needed too much work for their liking. So after mulling it over a bit, they decided to build their dream Caribbean home.

The soon-to-be-built villa is called Seas the Day and it’s located in Estate Chocolate Hole. According to the blog, it “boasts panoramic views of Hart (Bay) and Chocolate Hole Bay with vistas out to St. Croix and French Cap.”

Here’s a bit from their “About” section:

After many trips to the Caribbean, and many to St. John, we knew that St. John just “felt right.” We connected with the pure beauty of the island, its people, its lifestyle, and that the US flag flew above. Dreaming to escape the snowy winters of the Midwest and realizing that life is just too short, in 2012 we decided it was time to buy a piece of the rock. After looking at several houses, we decided to build a house instead.  In 2013 we secured a parcel of land and began planning to build an “Urban-Caribbean” themed pool villa using green construction methods and totally solar powered. Ground breaking is scheduled the beginning of 2014.

This site is a blog of our construction progress. It’ll be written in real time, so there may be long delays between posts, as you know… this is island time ‘mon! As events unfold, we hope to realize a dream soon come.

Their first post discusses how they ended up choosing the lot in Estate Chocolate among other contenders in the East End, Leinster Bay, Upper Carolina, Bordeaux and Gifft Hill. It’s a pretty entertaining read with some nice pictures too. You can check it out in its entirety here. You can also follow them on Facebook here.

School Supplies En Route to Students at Sprauve School

Children at the first annual Just Play event - Image courtesy of GlobalGiving.com
Children at the first annual Just Play event – Image courtesy of GlobalGiving.com

Students at one local school will soon receive a backpack filled with school supplies thanks to two organizations whose goals are to support and strengthen communities.

Using Sport For Social Change, announced last week that in conjunction with Global Backpack Project, it will donate one backpack filled with school supplies to each elementary student at Julius E. Sprauve School. The backpacks will be hand delivered by Dean Doeling, founder of Using Sport For Social Change (USFSC) early next month.

USFSC and Global Backpack Project donated backpacks filled with school supplies to each student at Guy Benjamin School in 2012.

The two organizations hope the donations will make it easier for the elementary-aged school children to focus on their education without having to worry about not having the most basic of school supplies. The organization also want to give each student a means by which to keep all their homework together and carry their homework and books to and from school.

About Using Sport For Social Change

USFSC’s primary purpose is to support local sporting programs that are already in place, with fundraising, community education and sporting equipment donated through Nike. Furthermore, USFSC is trying to resurrect some failed sporting programs and provide play days where kids from all classes and cultures can come together for and participate in sports-based games and skill challenges.

The motto of Using Sport For Social Change is to “Focus Virgin Island youth through sports and fitness, giving them the confidence they need to set personal goals, achieve their aspirations and create opportunity for themselves, their family and their community.

In doing so, the organization has planned its fifth annual Just Play event for Monday, October 14. They are still looking for volunteers to help with the event, as well as children to participate. If you would like to volunteer, please click here. If you would like to sign your child up to participate, please click here.

More information can be found at www.usingsportforsocialchange.com, or by contacting the St. John Community Foundation at (340) 693-9410

About Global Backpack Project

Global Backpack Project is a community-based nonprofit organization that collects and delivers backpacks and school supplies to children in need in the Pacific NW and around the globe.

Its Vision
We envision a world which supports education for all girls and boys so they may reach their unlimited potential in school and life.

Its Mission
Global Backpack Project exists to encourage a desire for learning by helping children feel prepared for school. With the help of our local community and partner organizations, we seek to make a difference in the lives of children just as they seek to make a difference for themselves and their community.

More information can be found at www.globalbackpackproject.org

Changes to “No Fleas, Please” Flea Market

Happy Saturday everyone!

The folks over at the Animal Care Center asked us to pass along some information to all of you regarding their upcoming No Fleas, Please flea market. Here are the details:

The Animal Care Center (ACC) of St. John has announced a new location for the upcoming “No Fleas, Please” flea market.  It will still be held on Saturday, October 19, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., but is being moved from the Winston Wells ball field up to the grounds of the Gifft Hill School.  The school is halfway up Gifft Hill road and can be reached from either the South Shore Road uphill or Centerline Road downhill.  Parking will be plentiful along the roadside, and the flea market will be set up right at the entrance of the school.

As in the past, the flea market will offer a great variety of household goods, sports equipment, tools, decorative items such as framed pictures, furniture, and a Children’s Table that always offers new and barely used toys, games, and children’s books having animal themes.

Every dollar collected at the flea market goes directly to caring for St. John’s abused and homeless companion animals.  The shelter’s cats and dogs are all tested and given medications for any diseases they might have, and they are continued to be given veterinary care throughout their time at the shelter, even if some of them live there for years before being adopted.  The shelter on the library road houses kennels for about 16 to 20 dogs and cages for as many cats and kittens that the shelter can house, usually about 30.  In addition, ACC has a cadre of faithful caretakers for  feeding stations throughout the island to provide food and water to kitties who would otherwise starve. ACC also has a loyal group of dog walkers who take the dogs for walks on leashes around town two or three times a day.  This helps to socialize the dogs, train them to walking on leash, and helps to display them.

ACC is still collecting large and small items for sale at the flea market.  Please call the shelter at (340) 774-1625 if you need help with picking up furniture or large items.  Small items can be brought to the shelter on the library road in Cruz Bay.

Sisters Donate Land to Create a Cultural Center

Estate Zootenvaal Donation
Marva Samuel Applewhite and Gloria Samuel, front, pose with UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson and UVI President David Hall. (Image courtesy of UVI)

Two well-known St. Johnians recently donated several acres of land to the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI). The land will someday be the home of a new cultural center.

Marva Samuel Applewhite and Gloria Samuel bequeathed four acres of land in Estate Zootenvaal, located near Coral Bay. Marva and Gloria are the daughters of James Alphonso “Harry” Samuel, who owned Estate Zootenvaal. This is the sisters’ second land donation to the University. They previously donated two acres of adjoining land back in 2002.

According to a UVI release, initial plans call to build a cultural center on the land with the intention of preserving the island’s rich history.

“Education has been the number one priority for our family,” Applewhite said in a release.  “We decided to give back to the people of the Virgin Islands, the Caribbean and the world.”

Marva and Gloria are both retired teachers. Their father was a mason who built the original pier in Cruz Bay and the Benjamin Franklin School, now the Guy Benjamin Elementary School.

UVI President David Hall thanked the women for their substantial gift – the land has an appraised value of about $740,000 – and noted that “ordinary people can make extraordinary contributions.”

“There are common people who are not millionaires or billionaires, people who love and care about education and just give from their hearts,” Dr. Hall said.



About a month or so back, I was chatting with Ryan Moore, the shelter manager at the Animal Care Center. We were talking about the shelter’s needs and what we could do here at News of St. John to help.

During that conversation, Ryan mentioned to me that the shelter’s dogs – currently there are 16 dogs living at the ACC – do not have beds to sleep on. They do have blankets and toys, but Ryan said the dogs needed a particular style of bed because oftentimes they preferred to chew up the typical plush dog beds rather than sleep on them. That stuck with me and I promised to help.

Well life got in the way, so it took a bit longer to help than I had hoped. But on Tuesday afternoon, I finally found the right type of dog bed online and from a retailer that actually ships to the island. I emailed Ryan to make sure I found the correct type and asked how many he needed. Ryan responded quickly and said that there were 12 kennels but that they would happily accept whatever we were able to provide.

I ordered three beds and had them shipped over. I then put out a simple request on our Facebook page. Your response was overwhelming.

Within 30 minutes, I received a dozen emails from people wanting to help. I am happy to report that all of the dogs at the ACC will be sleeping a bit more comfortably soon as they wait for their forever homes.

I would like to thank publicly the people who purchased beds. (I hope you all do not mind me listing your names here, but I am very appreciative of all of you.) They are:

  • Linda Walker
  • Kim Punke
  • Kathy Gordon
  • Terry Wilkinson Jordan
  • Tammy Donnelly
  • Christine Atchley
  • Sara Kay Ridenour
  • Brian Neste

The ACC relies on donations to keep the animals happy and healthy. Below are items on their Wish List for those of you would who like to contribute:

  • Vacuum bags (Eureka MM)
  • Frontline flea repellent (dogs and cats)
  • Tough and durable dog and cat toys
  • Dog and cat treats
  • Litter pans (size medium to extra large)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Dog harnesses (size small to extra large)
  • Dog tick collars (size small to extra large)
  • Airline pet carriers
  • Gift certificates to Canines, Cats and Critters/St. Johnimals/Kmart
  • Dog poop bags

If you would like to purchase any of the above-listed items, you can send them to:

Animal Care Center
PMB 571
5000 Estate Enighed
St. John, VI 00830

(Note: Walmart.com is one online retailer that ships to the island.)

If you would like to learn more about the ACC, their needs and the animals available for adoption, please click here to visit their website.

New Observation Pier to Be Built at Small Pond

Map of Small Pond

A new observation pier will soon be built at Small Pond giving visitors a better vantage point for viewing the wildlife and marine sanctuary.

Governor John P. de Jongh entered into a formal agreement with the Audubon Society of the Virgin Islands last week, which will allow the organization to build a new pier that will extend out over the pond. The Audubon Society plans to begin work as soon as a building permit is in hand.

The area, located near Frank Bay, was designated as a bird sanctuary in March 2000. At that time, Audubon Society members began planting indigenous plants around the pond, as well as a pathway around it. Those plants flourished so much so that residents and visitors are no longer able to view the birds or the pond itself. The observation pier, which will be built off of an existing observation deck, will fix that.

When completed, the wooden walkway and pier will create a new vantage point to view the birds that inhabit the sanctuary while allowing visitors to view the full pond without disturbing any of the wildlife. In addition to the new pier, educational signs will be installed at the sanctuary.

Currently there is a family of seven Great White Egrets and at least one family of baby White Cheeked Pintail ducks among other birds that call the sanctuary home.

Image Courtesy of www.SeeStJohn.com
Great White Egret – Image Courtesy of www.SeeStJohn.com
White Cheeked Pintail Duck
White Cheeked Pintail Duck

From Governor de Jongh:

“The great ornithologist and naturalist John James Audubon said a true conservationist knows that the world is not given by his fathers, but borrowed from his children. The native and migratory birds that populate our islands are a part of our children’s inheritance,” the governor said in a release.

“Those birds—the Great Blue Herons, Black-necked Stilts, Spotted Sandpipers and so many other magnificent species—need refuges on these islands for rest and sustenance; the health of their population depends on sanctuaries like Frank Bay that are safe from predatory animals and unspoiled by human development.”

“This, above all else, I consider a gift to our children, who in their backyard will find a world-class outdoor classroom that no amount of technology could replace,” he said.

Swimming with the Maho Bay Turtles

I absolutely love swimming with the turtles over at Maho Bay. For those of you who’ve yet to have the opportunity to do so, there’s usually a small group that munches on the grass a little ways out, usually a few yards before the buoys and near the center of the beach. If you sit on the beach and look carefully, you may catch one poking his, or perhaps her, head up out of the water as they come up for a breath of air.

The turtles are such gentle animals and if you keep your distance, they probably won’t mind if you hang out with them a bit, as long as you admire them from afar.

Now a videographer I am not; however, I thought I’d share this quick one with all of you. It’s of a recent swim I took with one of these precious little guys over in Maho Bay. I hope you enjoy it.

Florida Couple Purchases Gallows Point Gift & Gourmet

New Owners at Gallows
Brian and Mindy Cunningham

Brian and Mindy Cunningham came to St. John for the first time together back in 2003. They had been dating for a while when they embarked on a romantic sunset cruise one evening aboard the Dancing Dolphin, which sailed out of St. Thomas.

The evening was magical. Brian set it up so it was just the two of them along with Jim Trilling, Dancing Dolphin’s owner and captain. Brian brought Mindy’s favorite wine and a playlist of her favorite songs. They sailed out to Buck Island, and Brian asked Mindy to marry him.

That was Mindy’s first introduction to the US Virgin Islands, and one she would certainly not forget.

The two soon married at Turtle Bay Point at Caneel Bay alongside a small group of friends and family including their four daughters. Jim Trilling, who was instrumental in helping create the perfect backdrop for their engagement, officiated the ceremony.

Following their wedding, the couple purchased timeshare weeks over at the Westin. They’ve spent a considerable amount of time on the island over the past 10 years and have since cultivated a great circle of friends. But those few weeks at the Westin never seemed to last long enough – They Cunningham’s wanted to be on the island more, so they started searching for businesses opportunities.

“Since that time, we’ve basically looked for a way to come back more,” Mindy said recently from her Florida home.

About a year ago, the couple started to look seriously for the perfect business opportunity. A few caught their eye over the months including a few restaurant opportunities, but nothing really panned out. That all changed this past June, however, when Gallows Point Gift & Gourmet listed for sale.

Gallows Point Gift & Gourmet is a quaint little shop located on the property of Gallows Point Resort. It sells sundries and souvenirs and serves as a excursion and activity booking shop. The previous owners, Shannon and David Pursley, had to leave the island due to medical reasons.

Knowing the shop was the perfect opportunity for them – they both have ample experience consulting for a variety of businesses including cruise and hospitality – Brian and Mindy went ahead and purchased the business. They officially took ownership on August 30.

“We’re now bringing our dreams into reality,” Mindy said.

The Cunninghams are currently in the midst of transitioning to the island. Brian is on-island full time while Mindy is back home in Florida preparing for the move. They plan to have a “very strong presence” at the store, however they also recognize the importance of a proper work/life balance.

The couple plans to maintain the “integrity of the business” so many of the elements that people have grown to love over the years will remain the same. They do, however, plan to expand their coffee bar to include gourmet brews and will also begin selling more locally-made items. But most importantly, they plan to share their love of the island with everyone who walks through their door.

“We really want to welcome people to the island,” Mindy said. “We want them to love St. John the way we love St. John. We are so passionate about St. John and we want to share that passion with them … For us, it’s all about making memories.”

And how can we forget about two others will be along for the journey – Ziggy and Marley, the Cunningham’s two Boston Terriers, will also be making the move to St. John. The couple’s four children (two are high school seniors; two are juniors in college) are also pretty psyched about this new opportunity.

Want to learn more about Brian and Mindy? Click here to read their professional biographies at their website JStrategies.com

Daily STJ Images and Webcams Updated

You asked and we listened. Several of you reached out to News of St. John and asked us to name the location of our Daily STJ images. We’ve updated about 99 percent of them, so go ahead and see if you were able to correctly guess the locations.

Also, we added a few more webcams over the weekend. We plan to add a few more this week, so please check back often.

To see our Daily STJ images with their locations, please click here.

To see our webcams, please click here.

Organization Helps Keep Reusable Goods Out of Landfills

ReSource Depot
Latest ReSource Depot sale sign – Courtesy of IGBA’s Facebook page

So we’re pretty big proponents of preserving the environment and reducing our carbon footprint here at News of St. John, like many of you are I’m sure. That’s why we wanted to share with you what may be a lesser know organization on the island – ReSource Depot.

ReSource Depot is a program of the Island Green Building Association. According to its website, ReSource Depot’s goal “is to provide an environmentally and socially responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of the landfill, in use, and from being sourced and shipped (to St. John) again.   It also creates affordable building materials for the community, with savings typically 50-80 percent below retail costs.”

The way it works is simple: People from the community, along with hardware stores, donate new or used items that are no longer needed. Those items are then resold at affordable costs to anyone who needs them. Typical items that are available include building materials such as doors, windows, lumber, plumbing and electrical supplies, tools, hardware, decor and more.

ReSource Depot is a non-profit organization; All proceeds are used in support of its mission.

Want to get a better idea of what they have on hand at any given time? Well, ReSource Depot keeps a pretty up-to-date inventory list over on its Facebook page. You can check that out by clicking here.

The ReSource Depot is located at the Storage on Site facility on Gifft Hill Road across from the Transfer Station.  It is open Mondays and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. until noon and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until noon. The ReSource Depot accepts most items related to the construction, renovation, decoration, or furnishing of homes and businesses, according to its website. It can, however, refuse any item at any time due to its condition or lack of space at the storage facility. All donations are tax-deductible.

If you would like to make a donation but cannot do so during business hours, you are asked to leave your donation under the covered area between the first two containers on the right side of the location. Please stack all items left neatly and call (340) 643-5313 to make them aware that items have been left.

Interested in helping out at the ReSource Depot? Volunteers are crucial to helping the site run. If you would like to volunteer, please click here to fill out a volunteer form.

Since its inception, ReSource Deport has saved 40,000 pounds of goods from being placed in landfills.

The Island Green Building Association is a group of concerned construction industry professionals, residents, and property owners based on St. John with members throughout the region promoting responsible and sustainable development practices. Click here to visit its website.