Good Morning, Good Morning! If you love St. John and you don’t know about Friends of Virgin Island National Park, it’s time to learn! This INCREDIBLE organization is dedicated to working with the National Park in order to preserve and protect both the natural and cultural resources of our precious St. John. They host educational seminars, walks and volunteer programs in order to educate our residents and guests. They lead the charge on sea turtle protection and reef safe sunscreen. They coordinate the clearing of our beautiful trails and the cleaning of our pristine beaches. And, today, they officially have a new Executive Director, who I, personally, am VERY excited to introduce to you!
Tonia Lovejoy joined the Friends VINP team in 2016 and brought to the table with her a background of volunteering in the Peace Corps, experience as a blue water sailor and a passion for the beauty of her home on St. John. In her previous role as Development Director and her more recent role as Acting Director, Tonia has worked diligently to effectively direct and expand the fundraising efforts of the organization. She has proven to be versatile and flexible in coming up with unique ways to continue fundraising. Both directly following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 AND throughout the pandemic. In an August 30, 2021 press release, the non-profit organization made Tonia’s new and well deserved title of “Executive Director” officially official 🙂
“After a competitive hiring process, Tonia’s expertise, experience and work ethic stood out,” shared Chairman of the Board Andy Rutnik. “Her candidacy received unanimous approval from the Board of Directors. We look forward to supporting her leadership.”
In my personal experience of working with Tonia at the Friends VINP gala and on many news related topics, she has always shown humility, passion, intellect, professionalism and dedication to her role. She brings a “world of perspective to the organization and to the island as a whole. And I am so excited to see her in this new role that within, I’m sure, she is going to shine like a diamond!
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead such a purposeful, strong organization,” she said. “Our National Parks rely on philanthropic partners like the Friends to help them not just survive, but thrive. I look forward to ensuring that the Friends – its caring members, volunteers, donors and sponsors – continues to be our Park’s best friend.”
In the coming months the organization will kick-off a new season of fun and educational events in VI National Park with the 9th Annual Paddle the Park event. On an annual basis the Friends supports financial and in-kind requests from the park to help protect and preserve its natural and cultural resources. Critical programs such as sea turtle nest protection and monitoring, native plant restoration, mangrove restoration, coral restoration, trail maintenance, and school field trips are made possible by the Friends. Funds are raised through membership dues, donations, grants and sponsorships.
Check out the Friends VINP website to support their efforts or to see what type of engaging programs you can participate in the next time you visit! FYI, Paddle the Park is currently scheduled for November 7, 2021. If you will be on island that week, it’s an amazing event and a great way to see St. John from a different perspective if you’re confident on a board!
The Friends are currently running a summer sale at their Mongoose Junction store as well. Everything you purchase at this shop supports their preservation and protection programs on St. John. If you are not on island and are interested in supporting the Friends, become a member for just $30 annually!
I want to give a personal “Congratulations!” to Tonia. You got this, my dear. I’m so excited to see what’s yet to come 🙂