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Fundraiser Brings in $10,000 for Guardian Angels

April 11, 2005 — The community came out to the first fundraiser for the newly created St. Croix Chapter of the Guardian Angels, and they brought their checkbooks in a show of support for the all-volunteer crime-fighting unit. "Over $10,000 was raised and we have pledges for more," Arnaldo Salinas, senior director for the Alliance of Guardian Angels, said. "It was quite impressive."
The fundraiser was held on Sunday afternoon at Sand Castle on the Beach Hotel on Frederiksted. During the fundraiser, 12 local volunteers were given their certificates of completion and inducted as full-fledged Guardian Angels.
Pamela C. Richards, Tourism Department commissioner, set the example of giving by donating $5,000 on behalf of the department. Richards also made a personal contribution of $100 each to the local chapter and the national organization. "I believe in this cause and I believe this community needs to take a greater responsibility" to reduce crime on the island, Richards said as she handed her check to Curtis Sliwa, president and founder of the Alliance of Guardian Angels.
Salinas offered kudos to Simone Palmer, owner of Sand Castle on the Beach for her persistence in getting the Guardian Angels to St. Croix. "She put a grip on me for over two years," Salinas said. "She thought we could be part of the change." Palmer, a member of the St. Croix Anti-Crime Task Force, had the job of soliciting the Guardian Angels to set up a local chapter. Salinas said Palmer would e-mail him "every week" asking him to visit St. Croix.
Salinas was pleased with the turn out and the donations. "The effort went well, we have more checks coming in and I received several $1,000 dollar checks."
He reminded anyone who wants to make a donation not to give donations directly to volunteers. "You can make your donation to the website at www.guardianangels.org or to the co-owners of Sand Castle; Simone Palmer or Sheryl Smith," he said.
Sliwa was the guest speaker for the event. "Its' good to be back in St. Croix again," Sliwa said. He reminisced about when he heard about St. Croix from his first wife who was a native Crucian. "She would speak of the islands and there was always a smile on her face." Sliwa said his first visit to St. Croix was in 1992. He came to recuperate from gunshots wounds. "The visit afforded me the opportunity to get my focus back, it provided me with a sanctuary in my time of need," he said.
Sliwa said establishing a local chapter is his way of "giving back" to the community. "This is my payback to this place; we are giving you real-life role models."
Sliwa said movie stars and athletes have abdicated their responsibilities as role models. "The reason we are in this problem today is we don't live up to the teachings of our parents, grand parents and great-grand parents," Sliwa said. "The Guardian Angels are about old-fashioned values. It's about when you could leave your doors open – there was respect for the elderly and children knew their place."
Twelve volunteers were inducted into the local Guardian Angels chapter. The volunteers went through training in self-defense, radio communication and participated in mock incident training. Salinas said that because of security he would rather not have the names of the new volunteers published.
Leslie Rickenbach supports the Guardian Angels and attended the fundraiser for personal reasons. "My son Brian was a Guardian Angel in Philadelphia in the early 90s," she said. Rickenbach said she told her son, who is currently living in the states, about the ceremony. "He said, 'go for me, mom.'I told him I was going for myself." Rickenbach said being a part of the Angels was a good thing for her son. "He was in his late teens when he joined," she said. "Being a Guardian Angel was a great way for him to grow up. They molded him, helped him control his anger and make him a better person. Now he is a better father to his son."

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