Grunwald Apartment Fire Update- Silver Linings Found in Love City

Grunwald Apartment Fire Update- Silver Linings Found in Love City

A few weeks ago I wrote to you all with an ask for support for some of our community members.  Sixteen Love City residents lost everything they owned in an apartment fire in the Grunwald area, just outside of Cruz Bay.  The blaze took not only their homes, a precious commodity anywhere but perhaps more difficult to resolve here on St. John, but also pets, cash tips, precious and irreplaceable mementos and their essential belongings.  I wanted to take a moment today to share with all of you some updates in regards to the kindness and generosity that came together to support these hard working folks in the month that followed this tragic event.  And to extend a giant thank you to anyone of you who donated or sent well wishes…

Thank you to everyone who held a door open for us. I have a stack of THANK YOU’s to write. Donations are still coming in & blessing us.

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The fire in the nine unit apartment building in Grunwald could have very well spread to other residences without the hard work of the St. John Fire Department.

In the true spirit of Love City, community members immediately organized on the ground in the aftermath of the apartment fire that took place let in the evening on March 20, 2022.  I received phone calls from both Trista Sigler, owner of the beloved Connections in Cruz Bay, and Cid Hamling, former owner and founder of the same.  Connections is much, much more than a place to store your luggage or pick up your mail.  In times like these, the little pink office on a busy corner of Cruz Bay turns into a full fledged support system.  Trista jumped to assist in offering to collect donated goods there.  She had secured a container if anyone needed to store anything.  And, any apartment leads that hit the message board would be first extended to the survivors of the apartment fire.

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Much more than a mail service…Connections continues to serve the community in so many ways under the new ownership of Trista Sigler

Cid offered up her time and the services of the St. John Revolving Fund immediately. The fund was established after Hurricane Marylin when it became apparent that cash on hand was essential in the event of a disaster.  With no connectivity for credit cards and insurance, replacing things like glasses and prescription drugs was difficult, according to Cid.  And so, came the Revolving Fund.  A non-profit organization that basically collects funds in order for cash to be immediately on hand in the event of something tragic…Such as this.

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Cid Hamling has, over time, been an angel to so many of us here on St. John.

Cid, Trista and myself immediately jumped into compiling a list of names and phone numbers for the folks involved in the fire in order to contact them directly to assess needs and let them know that immediate cash funding was available to them.  Additionally, Kat Bodish at the Island Green Living ReSource Depot extended special hours to the residents of the former apartment building so they could simply come take whatever they needed (clothing, housewares, furnishings, or even just a good, uplifting book).  The ReSource Depot also acted as a donation drop off site as Kat’s phone exploded with community members wanting to extend beds, clothing and furnishings to the survivors of the fire.

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The aftermath of the fire….

There are no words to describe the love I felt from Trista, Cid and all the very compassionate people of St John who reached out to help, genuinely. All the long hugs to hold on to me tight when I was hurting the most.  The kindness and care for all of our well-being has helped see us through the worst of times.

Restaurants in Coral Bay donated hot meals, Lovango Rum Bar, Cafe Roma, Beach Bar and other restaurants in Cruz Bay began hosting nights where a portion of their proceeds went to the Revolving Fund,  the staff members at restaurants openly donated their tips in support of their friends, Big Planet donated lump sum gift cards for each of the residents to purchase new clothing, everyone with a space to spare on island reached out for temporary housing options and Corwin Moore, an employee of ZoZo’s at Caneel Bay and co-worker of some of the Grunwald residents, started organizing and promoting a Go Fund Me.

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I would be amiss without extending community gratitude to the St. John Fire Department- without their prompt response and dedication into the wee morning hours, other nearby residences also would have been lost…

My 8-year-old granddaughter said it best the night of the fire… She said everything will be ok because we all have each other and that’s all that really matters.  The smile on her face a couple days after when people started dropping off the bags of toys and clothes…She closed her eyes as her cheeks got big with a big smile and she said ” I’m so happy that everyone loves us so much”

I met with Cid this week to follow up on the efforts of the Revolving Fund and to find out if everyone was all set on housing.  The numbers she reported made my heart soar.  Between Corwin’s Go Fund Me and the Revolving Fund, nearly $120k was raised for the general fund to be distributed among the residents who needed to replace everything and start somewhere anew.  And, you know what?  These kind and generous folks, through all of this, had asked time and time again to make sure that their landlord was also taken care of.  So, Cid earmarked an equal portion of the Revolving Funds raised for him as well.

If it wasn’t for everyone helping, I don’t think many of us would have been able to get through this as well as we are all trying.  I know me seeing the kids happy to get clothes and toys and feeling like they are going to be ok is what got me through.  And if it wasn’t for Cid, the Revolving Fund and everyone else that would not of been the case.

Some of the folks from the building have found temporary living situations here on St. John.  Some are leaving island to start anew.  Some have found permanent living situations here as well.  But, all that I have heard from were grateful for everything done in order to ease the burden of unexpectedly starting over.

My heart is hugging your hearts right now. I love all our Angels who came along, held the door open to this unexpected new life. Your generosity has allowed us breathe financially & has given us the one thing we desperately needed: HOPE.

In the aftermath of a tragic event, such as this, St. John may be one of the most difficult places to start over.  Most people don’t have immediate family members here, tipped employees may have had their savings from a busy season in a shoebox with no local bank account set up, an average of $4k to move into a new rental IF you can find one is just the beginning of the financial burdens on the horizon.  But, you know what, an eruption of gratitude from the residents of this building, some of them newcomers to St. John, for the outpouring of community support that gave them a fresh start tells me one thing.  When disaster does strike, there is no place I would rather be.  There are silver linings to every story.  But, in my opinion, they shine the brightest in the darkest times here in Love City.

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