We at VI Strong understand that with any relief effort, the legitimacy of an organization no matter the size or intent, is often called into question. No one wants to be in a position where they are dependant on help, and they certainly don’t want the help that they need to be diverted elsewhere, or worse yet to be fraudulent.
We believe in transparency, we believe that even the most well intentioned people need to have oversight so that public trust can be garnered and used for the greater good!
So first and foremost who are we?
VI Strong is an organization comprised of part time and full time St Thomas residents who have come together during this time of need to address specific needs of the islands.
Let me introduce us:
Click the names to view our profiles!
What are we doing?
So that’s who we are, let’s take a minute to talk about what we are and what we are not. First and foremost, we are a small group of volunteers with a passion for the Virgin Islands. We are working with limited resources and donated time, some of us have been working long days for weeks, creating content, sharing information, solving problems, answering questions, and working to get the help that is needed to the US Virgin Islands. We learned pretty early on that logistics was the largest hurdle we faced, so we used Amazon to solve that problem (More about that later). We are an information company, we collect and funnel interested donors into a place where their resources can be best used! Sometimes this is private boats and charter aircraft, other times this is your box of used clothing which we need just as much!
Here’s what we aren’t, we are not presently a 501c3, because that takes time and energy we have been allocating to get food and supplies to the island. We know this makes some of you very nervous, we understand that. We have been in contact with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands to create a fund specific to our short and long term vision. We are in the approval process for that. We have also spoken to several attorneys who have offered to donate their time to helping set up a non-profit, however that takes management, oversight, and likely an office and staff…all things we don’t have, and truthfully detract from the amount of resources we can devote to the needs of the community!
So what have we been up to? We are currently running 3 congruent fundraising efforts which are linked below. We still have an active Amazon Wishlist which we are shipping to our freight forwarding partner in Miami, Viking Corp. They have generously donated their time and resources to collect and palletize your donations so that we can load them on containers for transport directly to the region!
Amazon is first a logistics company, they ship things for a living, and they do so very efficiently! So we set up a wishlist within days of Irma making landfall in St Thomas to allow those who wished to send physical goods to ship them. We have changed staging areas 4 times to meet the needs of both our supplies, and to be most efficient with our transportation.
Here is just a small portion of the $86,000 worth of goods that have been ordered from our Amazon Wishlist. Including $6,300 worth of items purchased from the monetary donations we recieved from our fundraising efforts.
We started a general Youcaring fundraiser the day before Irma impacted St Thomas. The idea was to begin raising funds for a clear and present need when it arose. At the time of writing we have collected $20,278 in that account. Of which we have spent $6,318 on Amazon wish list items and the remainder is in a private savings account awaiting a need.
Sponsor a Tarp:
Within a week of Irma striking St Thomas it became clear that while our Amazon wish list had shipped 500+ tarps to the region, it wasn’t enough! We needed more and we needed a way to purchase those, so we contacted a local tarp manufacturing company in Illinois and asked what they had available. We got a quote and we started a separate fundraiser to specifically address those needs!
We reached out to Lifestraw on a whim and a prayer, hoping they would help provide for the clean drinking water needs of the Islands. Within hours they called us and asked how they could help! They started by shipping 100+ water filtration straws and bottles at no charge! They also agreed to begin sourcing 1,000 more which they have agreed to not olly sell us at cost, but also to help raise the funds for half of that cost. They set up a fundraising portal on their website to begin allowing donors to deliver lifesaving fresh drinking water!
Lastly we knew there was a public desire to show support for the islands and the fundraising efforts of our team. We partnered with Bonfire to create 3 separate fundraising campaigns with them for VI Strong T-shirts. They offer to create the designs, print and ship the shirts, as well as managing the whole process seamlessly. Best part is, you can see exactly how many shirts have been sold and how much money has been raised through those sales! We will likely use those funds to purchase items from Amazon that the island needs!
We hope that this helps to alleviate some of your concerns, if you have additional questions, or resources, please feel free to reach out to one of us so we can help!