Red Cross Planning to Pull Aid

Employees & volunteers assemble meals at The Longboard on September 18.
Employees & volunteers assemble meals at The Longboard on September 18.

Well folks, we promised to share both the good and the bad. Today, we have some not so great news. Apparently the Red Cross is looking to pull its aid from St. John. The following writeup was sent to us from Rebecca Reinbold. Rebecca oversees communications for The Longboard restaurant in Cruz Bay. 

Less than a month after catastrophic and record-breaking category 5 Hurricane Irma, and less than two weeks after category 5 Hurricane Maria, and the Red Cross is preparing to pull aid from the decimated and crippled island of St. John in the Unites States Virgin Islands.

The Longboard, a bar and restaurant located in Cruz Bay, St. John, responded quickly to humanitarian needs following Hurricane Irma. The local business provided some of the first on-the-ground relief and served over 2,500 meals to island residents before the Red Cross arrived on island. Owner Clint Gaskins saw the hurricane setting her sights on St. John in early September, and quickly headed to the Virgin Islands so that he could be in St. John to help the island, check on the safety of his staff and board up the restaurant properly to ensure that The Longboard could respond and get back up and running as quickly as possible in order to feed people. Just two days after the Hurricane Irma hit the US territory, The Longboard cranked up the kitchen and began providing free meals to St. John’s first responders, emergency personnel and residents, and continued to do so every other day for the next week.

The Red Cross took notice of their efforts and met with Gaskins. On Monday, Sept. 18, The Longboard officially commenced food service on behalf of the Red Cross to continue to be able to supply food. The contract was for 30 days, with an end date of Oct. 18. All signs, including conversations with FEMA and Bloomberg, suggested that the Red Cross would not only complete their original contract, but also extend to serve the need longer.

Fast forward to the morning of September 29, when Gaskins heard through the grapevine that the Red Cross might be pulling out of St. John right away. After conversations attempting to get to the bottom of it, Gaskins learned that indeed, the Red Cross is looking to leave St. John as early as Tuesday, Oct. 3. After further discussion with the business owners, the Red Cross drew up a handwritten agreement to extend that to Oct. 11.

As with all contracts, there are loopholes and opportunities to exit the contract, this with a stipulation for a three-day notice. But three days is not enough, especially given the dire circumstances and isolated location. The Longboard changed its normal course of business to accommodate the volume needs for the Red Cross. St. John is an island. The supply chain is a week deep at best, meaning that goods are ordered more than seven days in advance in order to accommodate for transportation and estimated arrival. Then, there is the overall shortage of goods, meaning that the business owners had to buy weeks of items at a time in order to fulfill needs before supplies were depleted. Then, there is the staff; there are 12 employees who did not evacuate and leave the devastation, but rather, are camped out and on St. John still because they committed to helping their community and were desperate to retain employment. Then, there is the state of the island, which has a 100% loss of the power grid and an estimated 90% of homes destroyed. There is no running water. MRE’s and bottled water are still being handed out on the ball field. People are struggling to survive.

It seems the Red Cross might feel that the island is now sustainable, though island residents or one look at the conditions will tell you differently. The island and its community are still very much in need, and hot meals are just scratching the surface of that need. Yet, nourishment is necessary and a bare minimum.

“I told employees we would serve meals for a month. We will do a month, through Sunday, Oct. 15th, because we said we would. We told the community we would,” shared Gaskins in a statement on Thursday. “We made a promise and we will honor that commitment, even if the Red Cross does not. We need to keep getting meals out to those in need.”

The Longboard is in excess of an estimated $50,000 out of pocket for operating expenses and cost of goods. Aside from receiving a $2,000 mobilization fee from the Red Cross, no other money has been received from the organization to date. Thankfully, The Longboard started a GoFundMe account early on to help with the relief efforts, and plans to utilize these privately raised funds to complete the contract that the Red Cross seeks to renege.

If you would like to help The Longboard continue with its mission, please consider donating to our on island relief efforts. You can donate to the St. John Community Foundation here or Kenny Chesney’s Love for Love City Foundation here.

We reached out to the Red Cross for comment, but have yet to hear back. We will keep you all posted. -Jenn 

19 thoughts on “Red Cross Planning to Pull Aid”

  1. St. John is such a sleepy outpost no aid workers wants to stay very long! I think they all get bored and look for an excuse to leave.

  2. Thanks for early up date. I’m in Coralbay starting tomorrow lost mostly everything just trying to pu the peaces and help. Iam a fire fighter and was part of St. John rescue years ago EMT 25 years and know how to build. Iv been trying to get others to join me. Not much luck fr who there is in states. So far keep me posted I’ll pas the word. Thank you

  3. Jenn – I do NOT know any of this for a fact, but there has been political outcry against Trump saying everything is good in Puerto Rico, I’m wondering if the ARC doesn’t have enough resources and headed back there. And likely, Houston hasn’t even been made whole yet. TERRIBLY, TERRIBLY tough times. If the St John infrastructure is in place in February, we hope to bring a chain saw with us and help were we can. We typically stay at Lavender Hill, but were advised their last operating generator has failed. Thanks for all your information, hope to see you in February……….

  4. 30-40 years ago, the Red Cross was an honorable organization. Back then I used to give blood twice a year. Now they hound me with phone calls and e-mails “reminding” me to donate. I’ve asked them to stop, but they won’t. So, now I no longer give blood. A small story, but indicative of what they’ve become as an organization. I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them…

  5. In total, only 4 days was removed from the original contract. The original contract was for Oct. 15, and it is now ending on Oct. 11. Four days means a lot to a lot of folks, but it is not as bad as the first few graphs and the title of this post make it seem.

    The current volunteer coordinator for the Red Cross was the one who got the extension and was only able to push it until the 11th. His predecessor was the one who wanted to end it at the very beginning of October. Thankfully, the new coordinator was able to push it to the 11th. He saw and understood our needs but couldn’t get it extended by Red Cross the agency further than that.

    The Red Cross has also been supplying the Coral Bay Fire Station with anywhere from 60-100 meals daily for residents out there, coordinated in getting people in the shelter safe places to live so that the shelter can turn back into a school, and gone above and beyond to distribute cleaning kits, clothing, and other house hold items to neighborhoods outside of their 2 distribution points. It was their efforts and the efforts of locals who are still here that got the shelter numbers down from over 200 to around 30 in just 2 weeks.

    There are good people from the Red Cross and other official agencies (IFAW, USACE, DMAT, US Navy-National Guard, Johns Hopkins, and more) here on island helping those of us who are still here, and looking out for our best interest.

    More information is needed to give a clearer picture of the intention and efforts of those who are here. Please reach out to Love City Strong if we can help get you information in the absence of agency contact. Our members are present on island and briefed by these agencies every day, several times, to inform the public and to make sure that they understand the unique needs of our island while they are working.

    • Thank you Ryan. All of this information came straight from Clint Gaskins who is working directly with them.

      And the article states just that – that is is pulling out four days prior to what it initially stated and that it tried to pull out sooner.

      • Red Cross directives may move their aid to Puerto Rico and other areas in need, but it is very important that we all keep St. John and other smaller US Virgin Islands communities in mind!!!
        This is about PEOPLE not economies.
        BRAVO/BRAVA
        Go Strong!!!

    • This is a reply posted by Kristen Gaskins, owner of The Longboard, on our Facebook page…

      “The original contract ended on the 18th, so get your facts right Ryan, read the article again. They were going to leave tomorrow and bail out of their contract VERY early until my husband had a very serious conversation with them and they handshake agreed to lunch on the 11th, which STILL is not upholding their original contract. Nor extending it, which is what ALL discussions had been. The meals in Coral Bay from Red Cross came from the establishments in Cruz Bay providing those meals and transporting them across island. Seems you’re a bit uninformed.”

  6. Ok, that sucks. But how can those of us, stateside, who are still looking at all this unfolding and feeling powerless, help? It seems like the thing to do now is figure out how to make up the resources that will be gone with the Red Cross pulling out. Is the Community Foundation going to try to step in? Do we donate more money there or to The Longboard or do we just try to get more food sent directly somehow (but then how does that get distributed). There are many of us wanting to continue to help, please show us the way.

  7. I signed up with National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, per your suggestion. I would love to come down and help clean up – sooner, rather than later.

    Do you think I’ll be allowed to come down and help in late October or early November? I can bring my own tent. It’s hard to tell what the rules are for people who don’t own property on STJ.

    Hope to see you soon!

  8. I lived in Union Beach, NJ when Sandy decimated our town. 90% of the homes were destroyed or damaged. The Red Cross was among the aid groups. They arrived, got a lot of press, but left relatively soon thereafter. The other groups remained and did essential work. I will never donate to the Red Cross as a result. The Salvation Army was great. Here’s NPR on their Sandy debacle:
    Red Cross ‘Diverted Assets’ During Storms’ Aftermath To Focus On Image : NPR
    http://www.npr.org/2014/10/29/359365276/on-superstorm-sandy-anniversary-red-cross-under-scrutiny

  9. I too have signed up at NVOAD at your suggestion. I am stateside and am willing to travel to help in any capacity
    Waiting to hear further info/instructions etc
    Thank you for all of your updates
    P.S. I also registered at Red Cross ( right after hurricane) but haven’t heard much from them

  10. For what it’s worth, after I read this post I sent an email to the Red Cross telling them how shameful it is that they’re pulling out of STJ and how desperately the island needs their help. Here’s the reply I just received:

    Dear Deborah,

    Thank you for contacting the American Red Cross. The information you read is false. We are not leaving St John. The American Red Cross is currently hard at work helping those affected by Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

    Because we care about you, we encourage people to download the free Red Cross Emergency App which can be found at redcross.org/apps.

    Hurricane Response Efforts:

    Overall Response Efforts
    • In the last five weeks, the Red Cross, along with community and government partners, has provided more than 1.2 million (1,208,276,) overnight stays in emergency shelters. Shelters were opened in 8 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This includes—
    o For Harvey, more than 421,000 overnight shelter stays in Texas and Louisiana.
    o For Irma, more than 645,000 overnight shelter stays across six states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    o For Maria, more than 141,000 overnight stays in primarily government shelters across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
    • The Red Cross has served more than 5.2 million meals and snacks, and provided more than 2.3 million relief items to people in need.
    • Red Cross volunteers have provided more than 154,000 mental health and health services to support and care for those affected.
    • A total of nearly 13,000 trained disaster workers, 91 percent of them volunteers, have been mobilized to support hurricane relief efforts. Many of these workers have supported multiple relief operations or deployed multiple times. In addition, more than 4,100 spontaneous local volunteers have worked alongside the Red Cross in Texas and Florida.
    • Right now, more than 4,100 Red Cross disaster workers and more than 280 emergency response vehicles are on the ground, helping thousands of people affected by these storms.

    Thank you!

    Sincerely,
    American Red Cross Public Inquiry

  11. The Red Cross has a well-earned reputation of collecting tons of money, showing up and doing some useless grandstanding immediately after a disaster, then departing and leaving the real work to others, as in this case.

    Famously, after raising almost half a billion dollars after the Haiti earthquake, their total effort in the country was to build six houses:

    https://www.propublica.org/article/how-the-red-cross-raised-half-a-billion-dollars-for-haiti-and-built-6-homes

    As a previous commenter said, after Hurricane Sandy, the Red Cross was largely useless, leaving Occupy Sandy and others to do the useful work.

    People should never donate to the Red Cross, instead giving their money to other local organizations after a disaster.

    • Totally agree,shameful of them to collect so much funds only to hand out food donations from other sources such as FEMA. Often times, giving out rotten food ……. old and full of infestation of bugs etc. When in reality they should be giving people money they have received from donors Hopi g they do the right thing g!!!! I volunteered during hurricane Irma and Maria, money never trickled down. However. Directors [people running the operations] enjoyed lavish meals running high invoices. They are corrupt and I’ll never volunteer again, at least not with them.

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