“The beauty of Virgin Gorda’s turquoise waters, white sand, and unique boulders pales in comparison to the beauty of the people on island. They are some of the most genuine, caring, resilient, and authentic people I’ve ever met. We are excited to host a party that will provide support to local people who have lost their homes and livelihood.”
- Lauren Weinstock, Recruiting Manager at Hollister Staffing
“For 33 years, my family has enjoyed the hospitality and generosity of each and every Virgin Gordian, so when I saw the devastation from Hurricane Irma I had to do something.”
Lauren is co-organizing the fundraiser with a former Virgin Gorda resident named Merrie Pendleberry who was a full-time operations director at the island’s Saba Rock resort before the storm hit.
“I left for vacation and unknowingly missed the largest, most destructive storm to ever hit this special paradise,” says Merrie. “There are still so many people there who have nowhere else to go—stuck with no homes, and little food or water. Every little bit will help them to rebuild and take back their lives."
While bigger news outlets have been focusing on Hurricane Irma’s impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, most of the disaster coverage regarding Virgin Gorda has been coming from the island’s local newspaper, as well as a Facebook group (like this one) where residents have banded together to share their resources.
One resident named A.J. Syrett, the general manager of a diving company called Dive BVI, survived the storm. She recounted her experience thusly:
“It seemed like every leaf from every tree and bush was gone, more roofs were missing and the boatyard, it was horrible… Through binoculars I could see a mass of twisted metal, boats on top of boats, just utter destruction…
“As all of the neighbors come out from their apartments... I see Jinx, the landlord who lives upstairs, and tearfully I thank him for building a house that saved my life! I cry so much I cannot talk to him, he build a concrete house, a sturdy house, and I do believe that it saved my life.”
Another Virgin Gorda resident named Allington “Gumption” Creque owns an ocean-touring company called Sea It Clear Glass Bottom Tours BVI. He talked about his part in the recovery efforts.
A.J. Syrett, General Manager at Dive
Allington “Gumption” Creque owner of Sea It Clear Glass Bottom Tours
“I'm one of the many hundreds whose home was completely destroyed,” he says. “I've spent the last Month and a half assisting the Virgin Gorda Recovery Operations Center (VGROC).”
According to Gumption, VGROC is a volunteer organization that was established to help keep the island’s displaced community hopeful while they organize supplies received from donors.
“I'm overwhelmed by how many people are in high need of help yet overwhelmed by how many people around the world want to help.”
Inspired by the island’s resilient support network, Lauren and Merrie wanted to set up a fund that goes straight to rebuilding homes and providing resources to the people of Virgin Gorda, which doesn’t end up seeing a whole lot of the money that gets disbursed by existing emergency relief efforts.