WASHINGTON — Four friends from the U.S. Virgin Islands are joining together to get help to their home islands devastated by Hurricane Irma.
Video and images taken on the islands of St. John and St. Thomas show what were once homes, businesses and resorts with picturesque views in the tropical paradise reduced to piles of rubble by the Category 5 storm.
Ben Steed, a charter boat captain from St. John was stateside on vacation, when Irma tore through his home island.
“It’s pretty devastating, those are our businesses, our homes, our roads, our beaches,” Steed said.
His family survived the storm with little damage, but the same isn’t true for many others in the close-knit island community.
Hearing about the dire need for food and supplies on the islands, Steed said he and four other friends who were also stateside joined forces and quickly organized a drive to collect the supplies people back home really need.
“The hope is to spread hope to those people who don’t have anything,” Steed said.
Since Wednesday, Steed said the four have formed Virgin Islands Relief Fund Inc. and set up shop at the Philadelphia International Airport, the same airport where flights to region to deliver the supplies are being organized.
Steed said the outpouring of support, powered by social media, has been amazing. The group has seen more than a thousand donations so far and plans to continue taking them as long as they are needed.
Steed said many donors are using services like Amazon to order and deliver their donations to the designated drop-off point.
“It’s turned into this huge thing, this amazing thing,” Steed said.
As of right now, Steed says reports from the islands show an immediate need for:
Nonperishable foods for adults and babies.
Pre-charged cellphone chargers
Meals ready to eat (MRE’s)
Over the counter medications
First aid supplies
Safety equipment such as goggles, gloves and harnesses
Specialized straws which make contaminated water safe to drink
Donations can be delivered in person, or shipped to:
Virgin Islands Relief
c/o Atlantic Aviation
9800 Ashton Rd
Philadelphia PA 19114