Sept. 6, 2005 — Virgin Islands residents are counting their coins and bills, and they're sending what they can spare to help victims of hurricane Katrina.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards said that response to his drive in conjunction with the American Red Cross has been "feverish."
In a press conference at Government House on St. Croix on Tuesday morning, he announced that originally his goal had been to raise $100,000. But because $28,000 was quickly raised, he was thinking this drive realistically could raise $150,000.
One of the big earlier donors was St. Thomas resident Ira Lubert with $10,000. Innovative Telephone donated $10,000. Also among the list of donors cited by Richards were Paradise Waste, $3,000; Tutti Bene's, $1,600; and Zenon Construction, $1,000.
Within an hour of his press conference, Richards learned that the higher goal was reached almost instantly when Hovensa came to Government House to donate $100,000. Richards has set $200,000 as the new goal.
Other organizations throughout the islands are also gathering money for the Red Cross.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority is sending $10,000. Alberto Bruno-Vega, WAPA executive director, said the WAPA governing board reduced expenditures for its board retreat and is donating to the Katrina victims. The board retreat and public seminar on alternative energy and ethics and fraud scheduled for Sept. 15 through Sept. 17 on St. John has been postponed.
Bruno-Vega said WAPA's board, management and staff remember the devastation of hurricanes Hugo and Marilyn and the assistance the Virgin Islands received. "This is just a small gesture to show our appreciation for the kindness that was shown to the Virgin Islands when we needed help," he said.
Additionally, WAPA employees are making a collection for the Red Cross.
Buccaneer Resort golfers raised $1,630 for the relief fund over the Labor Day weekend. By donating their $5 tournament entry fee, 69 golfers participating in the St. Croix Weekend Kicker tournament contributed $345 themselves. Both the East End Golf Club and the Buccaneer Golf Shop matched that contribution, for a total of $1,035 raised directly as a result of play in the event. In addition, $595 was donated by individuals and will be forwarded to the Red Cross.
"We've had a few people who didn't play in the tournament drive out here specifically to give us money to send to the Red Cross," said Tim Johnston, Buccaneer's PGA professional. "We've had almost twice as many people playing in the tournament as we had last Labor Day weekend. With so many people at Hovensa having ties to that part of the country, this has been especially meaningful to us. We're very pleased with the turnout and the monies raised."
The small donations coming together as a big donation is also another aim of the drive by Richards. He said at the press conference that he was going to ask every principal to ask each and every school student to make a donation. Even if that donation is 50 cents, Richards said it would be a good showing for the Virgin Islands.
Jane Wherren, interim executive director for the V.I. Red Cross office, joined Richards at the press conference. She said that the Red Cross was already involved with caring for 142,000 survivors of the hurricane. She said four Red Cross volunteers from the Virgin Islands are among the 5,600 Red Cross workers involved in the effort.
Wherren said that so far she had not heard that the disaster has put a strain on Red Cross resources, but added that the success of drives such as those in the Virgin Islands will keep that from happening. She also cautioned that the Red Cross knows this disaster is different from others, and there is going to be a long-term commitment. "This is just the first wave," she said.
Richards added that Virgin Islanders need to stay prepared. "We don't know what the season yet could bring," he said. "Sept. 14, 15, and 16 have been known to be bad days for the Virgin Islands."
Mulo Alwani, president of the India Association of the Virgin Islands, has started a drive for donations in that organization.
He wrote to members, "We all have been watching the news and reading our papers. It is obvious that people of these areas are stricken with a catastrophic tragedy. They need immediate help with the bare necessities of life — drinking water, meals, medical attention and a place to stay."
He asked that donations be dropped off at Boolchand's Dockside or Hamrock Jewelers.
Checks or money orders can be mailed or dropped off at offices of the American Red Cross on St. Croix and St. Thomas. Checks should be made payable to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund and specify Hurricane Katrina. They can also be dropped off at Richard's office adjacent to the Government House in downtown Christiansted.
The USVI Hotel and Tourism Association is also conducting a drive for funds. For information, contact the Association office at 774-6835.
The winners in the Buccaneer weekend tournament did not receive the usual prizes that go with the tournament, as all proceeds went to the Katrina fund.
The winner of the tournament was 13-year-old Tyler Isherwood in the full-handicap event, scoring a net 55 on Saturday. Jeff Ward's net 57 secured him second place, and Jeff Lee captured third place with a net 64. Other golfers winning Buccaneer Order of Merit points by placing near the top include Ray Smith and Mike Benson (net 65), Anne Marie Medina and Arthur Gray (net 66), and Brad Thomas, Pat Hensley, Richard Locke, and Harper Jones (net 67).
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