2019 Storm Strong Initiative is Paying off in 2020

Storm Strong Program Graduate Amber LaPlace assembles hurricane preparedness kits to distribute to community members at the 2019 St. Thomas and St. John Agriculture Fair. (Photo by Kristin Wilson Grimes)
Storm Strong Program Graduate Amber LaPlace assembles hurricane preparedness kits to distribute to community members at the 2019 St. Thomas and St. John Agriculture Fair. (Photo by Kristin Wilson Grimes)

Last year’s Storm Strong initiative is starting to pay off as the community begins the long, slow march through hurricane season 2020.

Out of four suggested projects arising from the eight-week incubator program, which provided opportunities and money to develop programs that would meet the specific needs of community members, three have come or are coming to fruition, according to Storm Strong developer Kristgin Grimes, a University of the Virgin Islands professor.

The first is a mold safety card developed by two sisters who participated in the program. Kaylin and Anissa Wallen, 11th and 10th graders at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, were concerned about the effects of the mold that took over their home and their neighbor’s homes.

“The mold was destroying property while causing people to get physically sick,” Kaylin said in support of her project.

To tackle this issue, she and Anissa created a ‘Mold Safety Card,” to highlight the dangers of mold and how to safely clean it up.

On the back of the card, the sisters added information on how to make sure water is safe to drink. They later partnered with the Virgin Islands Water Quality Education Program to distribute the cards in St. Thomas schools.

Almost 1,300 cards have been shared at public events, in local business offices, and at St. Thomas Schools. COVID-19 interrupted distribution, but more cards are available to be distributed as that becomes possible. The public can download the card here.

Storm Strong Program Participants Denise Webster and Marguerite ‘Sister’ Price, and project team member Jarvon Stout work on their community cookbook project idea at a workshop session in June 2019. (Photo by Allie Durdall)
Storm Strong Program Participants Denise Webster and Marguerite ‘Sister’ Price, and project team member Jarvon Stout work on their community cookbook project idea at a workshop session in June 2019. (Photo by Allie Durdall)

The second project was brought to the table by Amber LaPlace, a 10th-grade student at All Saints Cathedral School.

Because LaPlace knew that some of her neighbors had had trouble getting the supplies they needed when a storm was approaching, LaPlace’s proposal was to create hurricane kits and a guide book that would be handed out free to members of the community.

The kits were created. They included a five-gallon bucket and lid for water-tight storage, cleaning supplies, waterproof matches, a laminated preparedness checklist, and an NOAA preparation guide booklet.

Because the project was going to cost more than the budget allowed Amber, with help from her mother, sought additional funding.

Thanks to a $3,600 donation from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands they were able to meet their goal of about 250 kits and also provide additional items which they distributed along with the kits at a couple of community events last year.

The third project is still in the incubator, but ready to be brought home with the help of the community.

The idea for a cook book to be called “One Territory – One Pot: Easy Recipes for Hard Times,” resulted from a conversation between 2019 program graduates Denise Webster, Annette Mauvais, and Marguerite ‘Sister’ Price. The trio joined forces because they shared concerns about food security in the face of hurricanes. They bonded over how, even in a crisis, they try to find ways to make creative meals to keep their spirits up and families well-fed. From that conversation, the cookbook idea was born.

This community-sourced, hurricane-inspired cookbook will feature recipes that use the non-perishable ingredients we stock up on and can be prepared using limited resources, such as camp stoves and coal pots.

The Storm Strong Team is soliciting recipes from the community. Submission details and instructions can be found at the USVI Storm Strong website at the project website or by texting or calling 340-244-7188.

The fourth project was to establish community gardens, and it is not off the table. But it’s a longer term proposition, Grimes said.

Artwork by 8-year-old Shane Berry is a part of the Storm Strong program. (Photo provided by UVI Storm Strong)
Artwork by 8-year-old Shane Berry is a part of the Storm Strong program. (Photo provided by UVI Storm Strong)

Another aim of the 2019 initiative was to provide an outlet for the younger set to make art about their family’s preparedness. Art can still be submitted to online.

The first, and so far only, art was submitted by 8-year-old Shane Berry, who said, “Before a storm, my family prepares our house, boat, and vehicles. In my picture, you will see my boat turned upside down with straps that are bolted into the ground. We secure our house with shutters and sand bags. We also pick fruits from our trees and share them with our neighbors.”

The five-year Storm Strong program is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.