It has been almost two months since the Virgin Islands took a double hit from Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria. This week, Loudoun’s Rotarians teamed up to help with the recovery effort that will take years to complete.
The $10,000 check presented Wednesday night to a representative of the Rotary Club of St. Thomas will likely be just the first step of Loudoun’s Rotary outreach.
Representatives of five Loudoun Rotary clubs—Leesburg, Leesburg Daybreak, Purcellville, Ashburn, and Sterling—gathered at the Tuscarora Mill restaurant in Leesburg to make the presentation to Mac Davis.
After the storms, many club members asked about providing support, said Paul Bice, president of the Leesburg Daybreak club, but wanted to ensure their efforts would have a significant impact.
“We wanted to help, but we didn’t know how to help,” Bice said.
But a plan quickly fell into place because of a special link. The father of Joe Davis, the immediate past president of the Leesburg Daybreak Rotary Club, lives on St. Thomas and is a longtime Rotarian. Knowing donations would flow through a trusted, boots-on-the-ground source made the difference. Loudoun’s clubs joined together to collect donations, raising the $10,000 total in just weeks.
Mac Davis was able to accept the donation in person because he in Loudoun to receive medical treatment that isn’t available on the island after the storms.
He said the Rotary Club of St. Thomas is active in community service, including support for the Virgin Island’s only orphanage and several schools, among other activities.
“I guarantee you these funds will be used to their highest ability and make sure the human part of the money is there, too. We are a very hands-on club,” Davis said. “That is the work that is the most rewarding.”
Several Loudoun club members asked Davis if they could travel to St. Thomas to help with the rebuilding effort. Davis said travel still is limited. The airport has reopened, but it will be next spring before flights fully ramp up.
”We had two direct hits in 13 days and 185 mile an hour winds in both cases, and 15 inches of rain in 24 hours in the second case,” Davis said. “It hit us pretty bad, but we are a resilient people. Unfortunately, we’ve had the experience of having to accept help, which can be a difficult thing to do.”
“This is a wonderful gift,” Davis said, adding that his club will be ready to welcome volunteers when the travel situation improves.
“It’s getting to the point where the emergency part is over by the hard work of recovering is going to take years,” he said. “There will always be plenty of work.”