Meet Ben.

bens pic
Ben, top right, is pictured alongside a group of volunteers who live on or previously lived on St. John.

Hurricane Maria became a category 5 storm Monday night. The Virgin Islands is currently in its path. It’s hard to put into words how those of us who call St. John home are currently feeling. What I do know is that we have to keep the faith. We need to continue having hope. So today I’d like to introduce you to one of my very best friends – Ben Steed. Ben is the owner of Born to Rhumb charters. In the days following Irma, Ben worked tirelessly, along with a group of current and previous St. John residents, to secure much needed supplies and provide relief for the United States Virgin Islands. Ben sent me the following email Sunday night:

I’m Ben Steed and my wife Jen and I moved to St John after I completed 9 years of active duty service in the U.S. Marines as an MV-22 pilot.  An opportunity to own a small business came up and with a dream for a brighter future and a love for St John, so we took the plunge.  When Irma hit, we were in Oahu, Hawaii visiting friends since this is our “off season” in the USVI.  I hated what I was seeing unfold during Irma and made some calls to friends to see what we could do to help our friends in need.  My friends Jesse Vann, Pat Connolly, Matt Atkinson and I immediately started a Facebook page called “St John Irma Relief” and began organizing an effort that today is more massive than I ever thought would be, now rebranded as Virgin Islands Relief.  We hit the ground running in mustering up volunteers to go down and help with search and rescue efforts, collecting supplies and figuring out how we could get aid to St John.  I spent 10 hours a day for the next 4 days, mainly focused on inserting a highly technical search and rescue team (Global DIRT) onto St John with financial assistance from St John Rescue.  Also during that time, we coordinated evacuation boats from Puerto Rico and St Croix that would bring hurricane battered people from St John to those islands.  The heroism displayed by the boat captains and coordinators on the ground in those locations has been unreal- those individuals are true heroes

The next phase was spent in collecting much needed supplies for those on island.  We reached out via social media to try and get as many supplies as we could for St John.  We decided to stage out of Philadelphia as a collection point and command center to help in organizing our efforts.  Over the next couple of days, we all met at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport where donations started coming in by the thousands. With a volunteer force, we processed well over 200,000 lbs of donated supplies that were sent via Amazon and local donations.  We initially aimed to send privately donated aircraft down with supplies for immediate relief, but then ran into issues finding and funding such aircraft. The majority have gone out for ocean freight to the USVI.  We are now focused on the rebuild aspect of our mission, that will prove to be the most costly and lengthy process, but is needed to restore what once was a paradise for everyone to fall in love with. From immediate search and rescue coordination to evacuation planning and coordination to our supply drive in Philadelphia, we have worked nonstop for the last 10 days; for our island, for our friends and for our home!  Please visit us at www.virginislandsrelief.org and @virginislandsrelief on Facebook.


17 thoughts on “Meet Ben.”

  1. As I sit here watching Maria make a path once again for beautiful St. John I’m reminded of the charm necklace I bought at Bamboo Studio this year. The charm I selected for myself as a reminder of the things life can throw at you and how to be strong and preserver was the Sailors Motto: “you can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” I wear it everyday. Adjust your sails St.John, you can get through this and be stronger than ever. We are all behind you. Be safe.
    Sending love and sunshine from Arizona

  2. We as well have friends on St John, have sent $ to St John Rescue, will most likely be there in January for a couple weeks to help as we can. We are scheduled for a vaca then, but what better way to vaca than to help in some small way with the recovery. Good luck, God speed. We’re with you on spirit for now. It will be green, lush and smiles once again.

  3. How come we don’t get to hear any stories about any West Indian people? Where are the folks that drive the taxis, clean the hotel rooms, wash dishes, work on the roads, and drive the ferries? The islands in the Caribbean are blessed with an incredible mix of people from all over, but the picture you paint of St. John is one of white people who moved down there after falling in love with the island and had an opportunity to own a small business. I appreciate the work you’ve done to raise awareness of how bad it is on the island, but it’s sad that all the stories in the news and on your blog are of folks with means that have somewhere else to go, that have a Plan B.

    • And most of didn’t leave because we had a “means” – we were evacuated by the Coast Guard and had to find someone to take us in until we can return to our homes.

  4. We have time share at Westin in January. If it’s open, we would love nothing more to give back to the people of St John, by helping to rebuild. Please keep us updated as you have with this note. Please share what’s needed most on the island.

  5. Ben, I’m so proud of what you have accomplished with your efforts. I’m proud to be your friend. Keep up the good work and I’m praying that Maria stays away!! I’m gonna find a way to help. As you know Harvey was very destructive in my area. I was very lucky to have not had any damage. So please don’t hesitate to let me know what you guys need most down there.

  6. Ben you and your friends are saints! Thank you for your efforts in building back our beloved island. I hope you got all the supplies that were sent. I’m sure they will be needed during Maria. Email me if you need an excellent carpenter and we will come and help rebuild.

  7. I taught at Pine Peace school about 20 years ago on St. John…some of my best life memories are from St. John…hang tight! We are here for you in the states!!!

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