Following the 2017 hurricane season, St. Croix-based Cruzan® Rum established a direct aid fund to ensure that in the future no one would have to “weather a storm alone.” Cruzan® set up the Island Spirit Fund to address the ongoing needs of communities affected by the storms. Through donations of $1 dollar for every case of rum sold, the fund is supporting several organizations in the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. So far, Cruzan has raised more than $3.5 million for the Island Spirit Fund.
“St. Croix faced many challenges in the devastating wake of Hurricane Maria, but the resiliency of the Crucian people and our sense of community never wavered,” said Gary Nelthropp, Cruzan Rum’s master distiller. “That’s what we like to call our ‘island spirit,’ and I’m honored to help extend this spirit to others in a sustainable and ongoing way through the fund, ensuring that no community, near or far, weathers a storm alone.”
Established in partnership with GlobalGiving, a nonprofit organization that connects donors with grassroots projects around the world, the Island Spirit Fund provides disaster relief by issuing grants to local organizations with “boots on the ground” and lasting relationships in affected areas.
The fund prioritizes both short-term recovery and long-term stability projects, including environmental rebuilding, community planning, workforce development and job creation.
By responding directly to affected communities’ needs, the fund takes a customized approach to provide relief, including, but not limited to, nourishment, supplies and volunteer support. It is currently focused on the areas still recovering from Hurricane Maria’s devastation and is also prepared to respond to future storms.
“Our partnership with Cruzan is a unique and powerful one that helps this leading brand invest in the immediate and long-term recovery of the U.S. Virgin Islands and beyond. CFVI is a critical partner in reaching community-led nonprofits that are addressing ongoing needs and investing in building a more resilient and sustainable USVI,” said Donna Callejon, executive head of disaster response at GlobalGiving.
Of the more than $3.5 million that has been contributed to the Island Spirit Fund to date, CFVI has received and distributed more than $495,000 across the territory to a variety of organizations to support environmental/marine recovery (primarily focused on native tree restoration and debris management/recycling) and workforce development projects. An additional award of $370,000 was recently provided to CFVI from the fund and will be re-granted to eligible nonprofits on St. Thomas in accordance with the guidelines established by CFVI donors.
“In the aftermath of the hurricanes in 2017, our colleagues at Cruzan Rum were among the first to reach out and help,” said CFVI President Dee Baecher-Brown. “The generosity of Cruzan and the wonderful projects funded through the Island Spirit Fund capture the very best of our islands! CFVI is so grateful.”
CFVI grants awarded through funds raised from the Island Spirit Fund via GlobalGiving:
Clean Sweep Frederiksted | Urban Garden |
St. Croix | $40,000
Twenty participants in this program learned the fundamentals of urban farming/gardening, including farming as a business, garden design, composting and weed management, vertical gardening, and bug management. More broadly, this project aims to combat urban decay in Frederiksted by creating an opportunity to provide financial and food stability, social empowerment, and beautifying empty and abandoned lots within the town.
Coral Bay Community Council | Environmental Recovery / Waste Reduction
St. John | $30,000
More than 260 cubic yards of hurricane debris were removed (combined total with DPNR efforts) from the shorelines and roadways of Coral Bay. Grant funds also supported the design and creation of a donkey- and chicken-proof litter receptacle, in cooperation with My Brother’s Workshop, for future deployment around Coral Bay’s restaurant areas.
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park | Native Plant Restoration
St. John | $40,800
This project supported Virgin Islands National Park’s efforts to remove non-native, invasive plants as well as to restore native plants and trees on St. John, while offering the local community seedlings and information on the value of planting native plants and trees. More than 300 native plants/trees were planted along coastlines. Additionally, a community plant giveaway helped raise awareness about the project, the value of native plants, and to foster a sense of ownership and pride for the island’s environment. A total of 339 native trees and plants were distributed to community members.
Island Green Living Association | Commercial Composting/Vegetation Chipping
St. John | $100,000
The Island Green Brush Chipping Pilot Program was launched to recapture a rich and valuable resource on St. John (brown and green material), reduce the volume of debris headed for the territory’s overflowing landfills, and lower solid waste transportation costs. A brush chipping yard was established at the Susannaberg Transfer Station, and heavy equipment was purchased to process vegetative debris into mulch for community use.
SEED SPOT | Empowering Entrepreneurs to Fuel Recovery Efforts
St. Thomas | $34,500
SEED SPOT is providing training and resources to local entrepreneurs to build their capacity to innovate and lead change in the local community. The project’s 2-Day Launch Camp event was held in July 2020, with 24 V.I. entrepreneurs, 22 volunteer mentors, and six V.I. organizing team members participating in the virtual program.
St. Croix Environmental Association | Native Tree Restoration |
St. Croix | $15,000
Funds were used to increase the number of native trees on St. Croix through planting and community tree giveaways. The community received 170 trees that were given away and another 140 trees were planted at the Southgate Coastal Reserve and Barren Spot Bat Tower. Funding also allowed for the purchase of equipment and supplies to aid in long-term upkeep and maintenance of the planted trees.
St. George Village Botanical Garden | Trees for St. Croix |
St. Croix | $77,124
The Trees for St. Croix project promoted tree planting on St. Croix through the development of a 1,500 sq. ft. nursery and seed bank, where 6,000 trees were planted, and the training of staff and volunteers to facilitate fruit collecting and seed processing. Trees were propagated, grown and distributed to more than 1,000 interested residents, primarily to replace trees lost during the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria.
University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) | Campus Recycling Project |
USVI | $50,000
The recycling pilot program launched at UVI has served roughly 2,000 beneficiaries to date by placing indoor and outdoor recycling bins around the UVI campus on St. Thomas. The recycling bins were also deployed at a community agriculture fair on St. Croix to spread awareness. Student ambassadors are engaged in educating fellow students managing quality control on items placed into the various bins.
University of the Virgin Islands | Glass Recovery Project |
USVI | $50,000
Grant activities included the purchase of glass crushing machines and supplies so that recycled crushed glass can be repurposed into sandbags, which will be sent to local government and nonprofit entities for distribution to residents and businesses. This project is ongoing.
University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) | SEAS Your Tomorrow Program
The Supporting Emerging Aquatic Scientists Your Tomorrow Program creates a transferable model for broadening participation in Science – Technology – Engineering – Mathematics that uses innovative partnerships, support programming and targeted interventions to build scientific identity and increase interest and engagement in STEM by Virgin Islanders in related undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs.
We Grow Food | Bordeaux Farmers Fruit Tree Restoration Project
St. Thomas | $25,000
This project resulted in more than 900 hours of volunteer labor serving 33 farmers and planting and distributing over 550 fruit trees on St. Thomas. A workshop on best practices for preparation of the fruit trees prior to hurricane season was held for local farmers, in partnership with the University of the Virgin Islands.
Individuals interested in making their own contributions to the Island Spirit Fund can do so by purchasing any of Cruzan’s quality rum products or by making a direct donation via their website.
In addition to the brand’s case-matching donation program, Cruzan will also absorb the cost of all transaction fees associated with all donations to the Island Spirit Fund, so that 100 percent of donors’ generosity goes directly to communities in need.