Hurricane relief: How to help
Donations by mail: Send checks payable to the North Georgia Community Foundation and designated for Morris Hurricane Relief, 615 Oak St., Suite 1300, Gainesville, 30501
The devastation of two Category 5 hurricanes, Irma and Maria, were felt by many in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Morris Caribbean Publications is helping its employees and customers recover from the path of destruction the hurricanes left behind through a relief fund accepting contributions.
“I worry with so many crises going on in the world right now that people either do not know or have moved on to the next headline,” said Charlotte Atkins, publisher of Morris Caribbean Publications and former publisher of The Times. “But this is real daily struggle for more than 100,000 people in the USVI. This is the United States. I just don’t want us to be the forgotten Americans.”
With publishing roots going back more than 60 years on the islands, Morris Caribbean Publications publishes destination magazines and websites on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
“We want to help our network of employees and customers cope and recover through targeted relief in the wake of this double hurricane tragedy,” said Charles Hill Morris Jr. of Morris Multimedia, parent company of The Times.
The Morris Hurricane Relief fund has been established through the North Georgia Community Foundation to provide needed resources in the Virgin Islands.
“We created Morris Hurricane Relief as a targeted ripple relief fund,” Atkins said. “The first priority is Morris Caribbean Publications employees and their families, and those who helped us during and after both hurricanes. If enough relief resources come in to take care of the basic needs of our core group, then we hope to expand our assistance to our partners here on the islands who may need items they can’t readily get here. We would truly like to help as many people as we can and that will depend on how much we raise.”
Atkins said the back-to-back hurricanes left her team without power, running water and air conditioning, “which is important to basic comfort on tropical islands.”
“Puerto Rico was one our main supply lines for food, supplies and gas and now those items are having to come from much farther away. So availability ebbs and flows. You can’t find a D battery on this island for flashlights and battery-powered lamps,” she said.
Atkins said the frontline needs have been food, water, tarps, generators, dehumidifiers, battery-powered lanterns and fans, bleach and cleaning supplies to battle the mold and mildew, as well as gas for generators.
“One of our employees and his 14-year-old daughter lost their home and pretty much everything in it. Another had the roof of the living room torn off and everything in the home was damaged by water. We’re all basically camping,” Atkins said. “Electricity has only been restored to a small commercial area where the cruise ships come in since we all are hoping they might return in the next month.”
Some residential areas may be without power for as long as a year since a majority of power poles and lines went down in Irma, Atkins said. St. Thomas and St. John have been without power since Sept. 6, and St. Croix since Sept. 20.
“While the storms have devastated the landscape and the primary infrastructure of our islands, it has not dampened the spirits of our team, our network of friends and partners and the communities we serve,” Atkins said. “In fact, as you move around the islands you see people with smiles, out cleaning up and going through their day and trying to embrace our new normal.”
Atkins said more than 75 percent of all three major islands have been damaged.
“Our economies are heavily based in tourism. What people can do right now is help through donations to the fund so that we can buy specific things that our people need to get through each day,” Atkins said. “Then, when we get things cleaned up and our infrastructure back in place, we’d love to have throngs of people come visit our beautiful islands and enjoy our beaches, attractions and shopping and help us restore our islands and our economy.”
The story and photos of Morris Caribbean Publications employees can be found here. Donations can also be made on the site or by check, payable to the North Georgia Community Foundation and designated for Morris Hurricane Relief, to 615 Oak St., Suite 1300, Gainesville 30501.