By Dorie Cox
Former deck/stew Jody Olson is connecting with everyone she knows to help her home island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Formerly on yachts including M/Y D’Natalin IV, M/Y Arioso, and M/Y Harle, Olson currently works as a house manager on the island.
“On the news you see talk of long gas lines in Florida, not how people have lost their homes in the islands,” Olson said by phone today. “And lots of people don’t know another storm, Hurricane Jose, is coming.”
Temporarily in New York City, she evacuated before the storm with the family she works with, and is now on the phone and online coordinating fundraising and relief efforts.
She hopes to bring supplies and donations to the island in the future because many regular delivery channels are damaged.
“A lot of the ferries are damaged or sunk and there is no post office on St. Thomas anymore,” she said.
Olson has created a t-shirt for sale online and said that 100 percent of the money will go to the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands. People want to help, but many are not sure how and many of the standard resources on island are having their own troubles, she said.
“Patients had to be evacuated from the hospital and the roof collapsed on the fire station. It injured several workers and has blocked the vehicles,” she said. “The gas stations are damaged. Yacht Haven Grande has fuel but the dispensers are broken.”
Olson grew up on St. Thomas, knows the region well, and sees several immediate needs.
“I’m working to find people with large vehicles to help,” she said. “Our challenges are finding enough people to help, getting curfew passes and getting roads clear. Finding fuel is a problem and so is security. Many people want to help but are wary because of how dangerous it can be, there are reports of looting.”
Olson sounds energetic in her mission, but realistic on how difficult it will be to be sure people are safe, to get communication back online and to get supplies to the island.
“I feel the tone of the island changing, first, they were happy to be alive and most are accounted for. But now they see total devastation. People are losing hope quickly,” she said. “We are very hopeful. They need to hold on a little longer.”
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comment below.