Category: Press Releases

St. Croix Foundation Awards $65,000 in Capacity Building Grants to Local Nonprofit Consortium in Celebration of National Philanthropy Day

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) staff@STXFOUNDATION.ORG

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – In recognition of National Philanthropy Day, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is pleased to announce $65,000 in grants were awarded to 13 member organizations of the Foundation’s Nonprofit Consortium. Made possible through the Foundation’s CARE Fund and the newly formed Momentum Fund of the United Philanthropy Forum, the grants serve to build capacity among nonprofits as they advance COVID-19 relief efforts.

Mini-grants totaling $65,000 were awarded to St. Croix nonprofits through St. Croix Foundation’s CARE Fund, which was established in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, to support strategic, high impact investments in the Virgin Islands for disaster recovery and community resilience. Now a permanent Fund of the Foundation’s, the CARE Fund, in this cycle of grantmaking, is prioritizing 1) Stabilizing nonprofits serving vulnerable populations through the Open Door Funding; 2) Providing direct support for frontline NPOs to build or expand programming. The following organizations were awarded mini-grants of $5000:

  1. Caribbean Center for Girls and Boys of the Virgin Islands
  2. Caribbean Museum Center for the Arts
  3. H.A.N.T. (Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism)
  4. Clean Sweep Frederiksted
  5. Liberty Place
  6. FYR is LIT
  7. Croix Long Term Recovery Group
  8. Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands
  9. Music in Motion
  10. World Ocean School
  11. Croix Environmental Association
  12. Croix Montessori School
  13. Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition

This cycle of the CARE Fund was invitation only and offered to St. Croix Foundation’s Nonprofit Consortium member organizations- a coalition of 25 nonprofits that is working collaboratively around four vital sectors including, 1) health and human services, 2) education, 3) environment (built and natural)and, 4)arts, culture, and heritage.

Funding for this round of Grants was made possible by a $65,000 grant award from the United Philanthropy Forum’s Momentum Fund, which is advancing “a model of philanthropy that unapologetically centers racial equity and explicitly prioritizes the needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities as part of our national recovery from the COVID-19.” President and CEO of St. Croix Foundation, Deanna James, stated, “Every November, St. Croix Foundation celebrates National Philanthropy Day, a day to pause and say thank you to the countless donors, social impact organizations, and civic and corporate partners who believe, as we do, in the nobility of Philanthropy (defined as ‘the love of humankind’). St. Croix Foundation could think of no better way to recognize National Philanthropy Day than to support local nonprofits who are in turn supporting Our Community.”

To date, the CARE Fund has invested over $1.8 million into the Virgin Islands community’s ongoing recovery efforts through innovative and strategic grantmaking, workforce development, and food security initiatives.

St. Croix Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to the United Philanthropy Forum and to the Virgin Islands nonprofits, national partners and foundations, businesses, individuals, churches, associations, grassroots movements, and everyone in between for their incredible gifts of time, talent, and treasure, as well as the Foundation’s Grants Review Committee for its engagement.

For more information on how you can support this special fund, or to support the Foundation’s numerous other projects/programs please contact St. Croix Foundation at 340-773-9898, staff@stxfoundation.org, or visit its website at www.stxfoundation.org. For information on the Momentum Fund, visit www.momentumfund.org.

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ABOUT ST. CROIX FOUNDATION
Established in 1990, the Foundation has served as a conduit for over 42 million dollars in funding for community-based projects throughout the Virgin Islands. With an incomparable track record of successful community development initiatives and national recognition for its work in education reform and small business development, the Foundation has also received international acknowledgment for its community revitalization initiatives and, today, continues directing its focus on energy independence, workforce development, education, youth and families, and of course, the broad-based support of nonprofits, including fiscal sponsorship, grantmaking, and the Nonprofit Consortium.

St. Croix Foundation Receives Grant to Support Capacity Building for Local Nonprofits Serving Under-Resourced BIPOC Communities

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) staff@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 29, 2020

The recently launched Momentum Fund is exemplifying a model of philanthropy that unapologetically centers racial equity and explicitly prioritizes the needs of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) communities as part of our national recovery from the COVID-19

Washington, D.C. – St. Croix Foundation for Community Development announced today that it has been awarded a $65,000 grant from the newly-formed Momentum Fund to advance its COVID-19 relief work. The grant will support nonprofit organizations serving communities of color, low-income populations, and other groups disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. As one of 129 grants totaling $8.5 million that was awarded by the Momentum Fund to 501(c)(3) organizations around the country, St. Croix Foundation’s grant will be regranted, providing direct support to St. Croix-based nonprofits.

Launched in May 2020 with a vision of ushering in a new model of philanthropic giving, The Momentum Fund unapologetically centers racial equity and explicitly prioritizes the needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. The National Fund is managed by United Philanthropy Forum.

Through the Momentum Fund’s award, St. Croix Foundation will open an invitation-only grant cycle through its CARE Fund to award up to $5000 in capacity-building grants to local nonprofits serving populations who have been impacted by Covid-19. Organizations eligible to apply include those active in the Foundation’s Nonprofit Consortium, a 25-member coalition of local nonprofits serving the community in the areas of health care, youth and education, and environmental preservation (built and natural), and arts and culture. NPC members will be invited to submit a proposal beginning November 2, 2020. Applications are due by November 9, 2020 and awards will be announced on November 16, 2020.

Due to the risks surrounding Covid-19 and the annual threat of hurricanes, in June St. Croix Foundation relaunched its CARE Fund as a permanent fund to support immediate and long term needs relating to mitigating risk from crises while nurturing community resilience.  The CARE Fund’s priority areas include: (1) Open Door Operating Support for Essential Nonprofits, (2) Programmatic Support for Frontline Responders, (3) Data Collection for Strategic Recovery, and (4) Support for Community Resiliency and Systems Innovations. In this phase of grantmaking, the Foundation will be focusing on grants to support priorities #1 and #2 to ensure local nonprofits remain operationally strong enough to deliver services to residents in need.

Deanna James, President and CEO of St. Croix Foundation, stated, “Today, despite the dire circumstances facing our Territory, indeed the world, Philanthropy is being afforded an unparalleled opportunity to build innovative global models for isolated, rural communities. Our priority at the Foundation is to fortify and inoculate vulnerable populations by ensuring that those social impact organizations serving on the front lines are sturdy and resilient.” To date, the CARE Fund, established in 2017 immediately following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, has invested $1.8 million into the Territory, providing direct support to front-line relief efforts as well as holistic, long-term recovery strategies.

“We are witnessing a historic and unprecedented level of suffering and need that must be addressed before this nation falls even further into a state of absolute humanitarian crisis,” said Amanda Misiko Andere, CEO of Funders Together to End Homelessness and Chair of the Momentum Fund Advisory Board. “It is essential that the philanthropic sector continues to dedicate itself to this work, which includes addressing the devastating and deadly human health, economic, and social impacts that are befalling millions of people of color and vulnerable families across the nation every day.”

To view a complete list of Momentum Fund grantees, visit www.momentumfund.org. For more information on the CARE Funds 2020 Open Door Grant opportunity, please contact staff@stxfoundation.org.

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ABOUT ST. CROIX FOUNDATION
Established in 1990, the Foundation has served as a conduit for over 42 million dollars in funding for community-based projects throughout the Virgin Islands. With an incomparable track record of successful community development initiatives and national recognition for its work in education reform and small business development, the Foundation has also received international acknowledgment for its community revitalization initiatives and, today, continues directing its focus on energy independence, workforce development, education, youth and families, and of course, the broad-based support of nonprofits, including fiscal sponsorship, grantmaking, and the Nonprofit Consortium.

St. Croix Foundation Celebrates 30th Pearl Anniversary

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) DJAMES@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

St. Croix, U.S.V.I. — St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is celebrating 30 years of service to the U.S. Virgin Islands community on September 24, 2020.

Since 1990, St. Croix Foundation has been advancing a unique, grassroots, and holistic model for philanthropy in under-resourced communities of color like the Virgin Islands. Established in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, today the Foundation continues its work in community development as a pathway to economic prosperity, self-sufficiency, and sustainability.

According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “As the story goes, during the ideation process of conceiving the Foundation, our founders, Philip Gerard and Michael Neuburger, sat in the middle of Sunday Market Square debating the name of the Organization. Would it be St. Croix Community Development Foundation or St. Croix Foundation FOR Community Development? The latter won out as they determined that the mere word “FOR” demonstrated intention around our mission and our purpose.”

Although unendowed as most conventional foundations are, to date, St. Croix Foundation has served as the conduit of over $42 million private and public sector dollars invested into the Territory. Since its inception, the organization’s impact has netted national recognition in almost every priority area – from economic development and community revitalization to public health, education reform, and nonprofit development.

The overarching impact of St. Croix Foundation’s investments are reflected in some highly visible and noteworthy initiatives spearheaded throughout the Territory over the past three decades, including:

  1. Providing more than 1.2 million dollars in small business loans for the creation and expansion of over 60 small businesses
  2. Securing grant funding for the first Territory-wide security camera system some of which they maintained for over 7 years
  3. Repainting, resurfacing, and clearing brush from over 200 properties in Historic Downtown Centers Territory-wide through its Scrape, Paint, Rejuvenate Grant Program which the organization conceived and led for almost 10 years
  4. Being recognized by the US Small Business Administration for managing the nation’s top Women’s Business Center, which served to transition women into the workplace
  5. Spearheading the renovation of Sunday Market Square properties and Roadway
  6. Leading one of the most comprehensive educational initiatives in the Territory through which over 1 million dollars was invested into the Territory’s public education system. Through their Model Schools Initiative, the Foundation also drafted educational resources and white papers that continue to serve as references for policymakers and education stakeholders
  7. Launching one of the Territory’s first Small Business Incubators
  8. Raising, investing, and awarding 1.8 million dollars for civic-based recovery and resiliency efforts, including its Solar Workforce Development, Agro-Business, and Nonprofit Capacity Building Initiatives following Hurricanes Irma and Maria
  9. Being selected as the Territory’s new Kids Count Grantee by Annie E. Casey Foundation in early 2020

James also stated that, “St. Croix Foundation is proof positive that it’s not about money; it’s about will, innovation and collaboration, and for St. Croix Foundation, the results evidenced by the fact that we have done more in 30 years than many community foundations 10 times our size.”

Today, the Foundation remains grounded in the philosophy of its founders, who believed that functioning as a grassroots community-centric philanthropic entity was the single most effective format for a community with such significant needs and socio-economic disparities as well as scarce donor resources. Founders were also unwavering in their intention for the Organization to serve as a conduit rather than a container of philanthropic resources.

In honor of 30 years of leadership and service, the Foundation would like to extend its deepest appreciation to its longstanding sustainers, donors, sponsors, partners, and vendors; every volunteer, former board member, and staffer who has helped to lead the organization to this milestone.

The Foundation invites anyone interested in learning more and supporting its current projects to contact Deanna James at djames@stxfoundation.org.

St. Croix Foundation Continues to Foster Recovery and Resiliency Three Years After Hurricanes Irma and Maria

CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands— As the Virgin Islands community marks the third anniversary of Hurricanes Irma and Maria this September 19, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development wishes to update the Community on the status of projects it has led since Maria devastated the Territory 3 years ago. While our islands continue to recover from the incredible destruction wrought by the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria amid the unimaginable impacts of Covid-19, the Foundation hopes its program updates will inspire the Community to continue to seek and leverage the inherent assets and innovative work that is being done throughout our Territory.

According to Deanna James, St. Croix Foundation’s President, “over the last three years, the Foundation has served as a catalyst, convener, and coordinator in the recovery process, helping to promote impactful collaborations across the nonprofit, private, and public sectors. Since the hurricanes, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to supporting an innovative and progressive recovery, uplifting the nonprofit sector, and reminding our Community of its innate resilience which will help us weather any future crises.” Five projects in particular which are currently being spearheaded by St. Croix Foundation are facilitating a holistic recovery.

  1. Creation and Completion of Pilot Solar-Supported Community Center Project and Workforce Development Initiative

Funded in partnership with the VI Department of Labor, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, GlobalGiving, and several other national philanthropic entities, the Foundation designed and implemented a creative workforce development pilot program that will solarize vital community centers. Nine students ages 18-28 completed a 6-month National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) course, received intense classroom instruction in NCCER Core Curriculum, Electrical Levels 1-4, Solar PV Installation, and workplace soft-skills and readiness training. Students then received on-the-job training installing Solar Photovoltaic Systems by completing the installation of a solar system on the Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI facility in Frederiksted. The Foundation will next solarize Flamboyant Gardens and Mon Bijou Community Center. As an example of the Foundation’s approach to grantmaking, these centers will serve as community resiliency hubs and relief distribution sites during times of disaster. All nine students have been hired by local solar installation companies because of their participation in the program, providing a high impact community model at the intersection of resiliency, energy independence, and workforce development. To date, the Foundation has invested over $279,673 in this initiative.

  1. Bringing AmeriCorps VISTA to St. Croix’s Nonprofit Sector to Aid Capacity Building and Community Resiliency

In 2019, St. Croix Foundation was awarded a $340,157 grant by the Corporation of National and Community Service to assign 15 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers to support eight St. Croix nonprofits with community engagement, fundraising, and other forms of capacity building. This is the first AmeriCorps VISTA team active in the Territory in over 20 years. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, St. Croix Foundation surveyed on the status of nonprofits and found that 70% reported an increase in demand for their services while 64% were operating on a limited basis or not at all due to loss of funding, facility damages, and staff relocation. In response, St. Croix Foundation identified the AmeriCorps VISTA project as a strategy to boost the sector’s ability to respond to the community’s needs. VISTA volunteers will support St. Croix Landmarks Society, Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, St. Croix Montessori, Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the VI, St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group, Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office, and St. Croix Foundation.  St. Croix Foundation’s VISTA Project will directly benefit youth development, historic preservation, food security, green spaces, and relief and recovery services. Currently, six VISTA volunteers have been onboarded at five of these nonprofit organizations and the Foundation has recently received notification that it has been awarded its second year of funding.

  1. Bridging Disaster Preparedness, the Arts, and Economic Development with the Alexander Theater Disaster Safe Room Retrofit

Located in Sunday Market Square, the Alexander Theater was one of the Territory’s first indoor movie houses. It served as a center of economic activity in Christiansted town from the mid-1950s and operated until 1989 when it sustained catastrophic damage from Hurricane Hugo. After temporary repairs, the 12,000 square foot historic landmark became uninhabitable after damages suffered during Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. It was acquired by the Foundation in 1998 and has been a core component of the Foundation’s longstanding vision for the revitalization of the Sunday Market Square ever since. In May of 2019, the Foundation was approved for a Phase 1 FEMA Hazard Mitigation grant, which will enable the Foundation to renovate and retrofit the Alexander Theater. During blue skies, the Alexander Theater will serve as a performing arts center and convening space, helping to, once again, transform the Square back into an epicenter of culture, arts, and economic development. The Theater will also function as the only disaster safe room and shelter in historic Christiansted town for residents and tourists visiting nearby hotels at the time of a disaster. The Theater and adjacent buildings will be built to FEMA disaster safe room standards and will be used during times of crisis for years to come. This facility will have the capacity to safely house 300 or more people and will serve as a disaster supply distribution site when our community needs the Foundation and our recovery partners the most. Phase 1 of the project, including architectural design and planning, is currently underway and groundbreaking on Phase 2 construction is projected for 2021.

  1. Helping Local Farmers Expand their Businesses through the Farm Tienda Initiative

When St. Croix’s farmers were devasted by the 2017 hurricanes, it wasn’t a quick recovery. Crops were lost, and an entire growing season was delayed or abandoned due to damages to and losses of fields, irrigation, equipment, and supplies. Believing that local farmers are key stakeholders in our community’s resiliency and well-being, St. Croix Foundation launched the Farm Tienda Initiative as a strategic grantmaking and small-business development program in partnership with Coca-Cola Company, Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, and the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture.

Farm Tiendas are durable and moveable farm stands made from steel containers that will be outfitted with solar panels, Wi-Fi, and potable water to allow farmers to expand their businesses while also providing community resiliency hubs in the aftermath of future disasters. To date, this innovative project has provided Farm Tiendas to seven local farmers on St. Croix to stabilize and strengthen their agriculture-based businesses. In testimony to the value of this project to farmers during blue skies, GLG Farm recently expressed they were, “extremely grateful that there are people working to support farmers in our community!”  And, Dale Brown of Sejah Farm, whose operation was severely damaged, stated that, “Thanks to St. Croix Foundation, my business has regained critical infrastructure that will allow us to stabilize and expand. We simply couldn’t have done it without you, and we pledge to be the resilient community hub our island needs and to pour passion into food security for all.”

  1. Philanthropy and Grantmaking

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, St. Croix Foundation also launched the CARE Fund to provide direct support to front-line relief efforts and holistic, long-term recovery strategies. Since then, the Foundation has raised and reinvested over $1.8 million to support strategic, high impact initiatives in the Virgin Islands for hurricane preparedness, resilience, and recovery, to local nonprofits and a number of charitable projects under St. Croix Foundation’s fiscal sponsorship umbrella. One of those projects, St. Croix LTRG, is providing essential coordination and recovery assistance for individuals and families in our community with nowhere else left to turn for help.  As of July, this grassroots organization has rebuilt over 73 homes and provided vital case management services for over 100 residents. The Foundation also stewarded an additional $275,000 in philanthropic resources from national funders that went directly to local recovery projects and nonprofit organizations.

Concurrently, the Foundation has made critical investments to grow the capacity of the nonprofit sector to meet the increased cultural and social services needs of our community as champions and facilitators of the Nonprofit Consortium, an impact-focused collaborative made up of 29 local nonprofit organizations. Today, the CARE Fund is a permanent Fund of the Foundation’s that is providing support for a targeted response to COVID-19 and will serve to support the Virgin Islands community through future disasters and crises.

According to Deanna James, “With COVID-19 upon us during a very active hurricane season, we know that now more than ever, the way forward for the USVI must be shaped by the unique assets and strengths of our community coupled with an unwavering commitment to equity. In the years to come, our community can count on the St. Croix Foundation to continue to do what we do best: leverage resources and cultivate deeply rooted local and national partnerships in order to catalyze holistic community development.”

For more information on the Foundation’s CARE Fund and disaster recovery work, visit www.stxfoundation.org or call 340.773.9898.

St. Croix Foundation Joins 450 Philanthropic Leaders in Unprecedented Letter: Don’t Cut the Census Short

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) DJAMES@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 5, 2020

St. Croix, USVI- On August 5th, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development joined approximately 450 philanthropic organizations in an unprecedented letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau calling for a retraction of cutting the census short.  A full press release facilitated by Gary Bass of the Bauman Foundation is as follows:

WASHINGTON — Around 450 philanthropic organizations, alarmed by the announcement that the U.S. Department of Commerce intends to “drastically cut short” 2020 census operations amid a surging coronavirus pandemic, urged the U.S. Census Bureau not to rush the significant enumeration and data processing that remain unfinished.

“Rushing the census…would hurt a diverse range of rural and urban communities, leaving them underrepresented locally and in Congress and cutting their fair share of federal funding for Medicaid, economic development, child-care, schools, road and public transit improvements, home heating assistance for senior citizens, and many more vital services,” read a letter the philanthropies made public today.

The letter reflects an unprecedented consensus among national, state and local grantmakers and philanthropic institutions that have given a total of more than $100 million to help ensure an accurate census.

The Administration is planning to end door-to-door census enumeration and self-response operations Sept. 30, a full month earlier than it announced when it modified the 2020 census timeline as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States. The philanthropic leaders that signed the letter share the belief that the additional month is needed to complete the count; nearly four in ten households were still yet to be counted as August began.

“The bottom line is that shortening the census in the face of national public health and economic crises will result in inaccurate data, distorting the true picture of America for the next decade,” said Gary D. Bass, executive director of the Bauman Foundation and chair of a national philanthropic collaborative to promote a fair and accurate census. “An inaccurate census is not an inevitable outcome. This letter is a nonpartisan plea to the Administration to fulfill its constitutional requirement to count every person in America.”

“State and local funders have supported the 2020 census with a focus on historically undercounted communities, including people of color, low-income and immigrant families, and young children,” said Jocelyn Bissonnette, director of the Funders Census Initiative, which supports funders in their get out the count efforts. “Philanthropy has raised its voice at this critical moment because communities deserve to be fairly and accurately counted, resourced, and represented.” The full text of the letter and list of signatories can be found at https://funderscommittee.org/resource/letter-funder-letter-to-commerce-secretary/.

About St. Croix Foundation
Since 1990, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development has been advancing holistic community development as a pathway to economic prosperity, self-sufficiency, and sustainability in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Established in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, today the Foundation is one of the premier place-based philanthropic leaders in the Virgin Islands. Having served as the conduit of over $42 million private and public sector dollars invested into the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Foundation’s impact has netted national recognition in almost every priority area – from economic development and community revitalization to public health, education reform, and nonprofit development. St. Croix Foundation’s mission is to encourage greater philanthropic activity, to marshal resources, and to act as a catalyst to benefit the people of the Virgin Islands.

2020 National Kids Count Data Book Paints Compelling Picture of Black Children Living in Poverty

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) DJAMES@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JuLY 15, 2020

ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS – The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) released its 31st edition of the Kids Count National Data Book on Monday, June 22, 2020, that highlights indicators of child wellbeing in 16 areas. Supported by a national network of non-profits, foundations, and consortia, Kids Count includes members from all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. St. Croix Foundation for Community Development (SCF) was invited in January 2020 to lead the Kids Count initiative for the U.S. Virgin Islands. Launched in 1990, the National Kids Count Data Book is widely used as a means of sharing critical data about the welfare of children at the federal, state, and local levels and is aimed at increasing public advocacy and informing policy and decision-making in states, the district, and the territories.

Kids Count Network partners collect local data related to child wellbeing and are tasked with disseminating their findings publicly through a local Data Book and other communication formats that promote local engagement and action. Geared toward the needs of local Virgin Island communities, St. Croix Foundation is designing tools and strategies to tell the story about how children in the Virgin Islands are faring in multiple and compelling ways.  Central to its approach will be identifying ‘hot spots’ as well ‘bright spots’ among quantitative data indicators, while also presenting the findings from a systems perspective. SCF’s plans for Kids Count are grounded in two central premises: one, that data is information that can tell a powerful story, and that story can be told in multiple formats and; two, while data is necessary, it is also insufficient without a focused emphasis on advocacy and engagement that shifts public policy and leads to collective action that improves outcomes for children. “We are all connected,” stated Lilli Cox, Senior Program Officer at St. Croix Foundation. “Our vision is to create a local Kids Count Network in which every member of our community – every organization and agency – sees themselves in the data and is empowered to activate levers within the system to improve the lives of our children, youth, and families.”

One of the striking indicators presented in the 2020 National Data Book focuses on American children living in poverty. In a decades-long trend, Black and Native American children in the nation represented the highest populations of children living in poverty, hovering at 32% and 31%, respectively, in 2020. The national average is 18% (Annie E. Casey Foundation).  In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the rate of child poverty correlates to national statistics. According to the 2019 VI Kids Count Data Book, child poverty rates in 2013 and 2014 were 35% and 37%, respectively. The rate decreased to 30% in 2015; however, in that same year, the national rate of child poverty was 21% (Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands).

St. Croix Foundation is developing a progressive platform for the Territory’s Kids Count initiative, connecting with major governmental agencies that produce territorial data related to child and family wellbeing. Having joined the Kids Count National Network this past January, SCF’s goal is to produce a Territorial Snapshot in the fall of 2020, with the expectation that the 2020 Census, along with local governmental data, will provide current data for a deeper assessment and trend analyses of our children’s welfare in 2021 and beyond.

SCF will also rely on the participation of its Non-Profit Consortium (NPC) on St. Croix to help build and support community engagement and advocacy for Kids Count. Founded one year prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the NPC’s thirty-plus non-profit members network and collaborate around shared work in four sectors – Youth & Education, Health & Human Services, Arts & Culture, and the Built & Natural Environs. The strength of these non-profits’ collective capacity and ability to work together was tested Post-Maria, as they served as first responders, meeting the needs of families and communities impacted by the storms. The SCF Kids Count team is also reaching out to local non-profit leaders on St. Thomas and St. John to enlist their support for a collaborative effort that will increase stakeholder engagement, advocacy, and policy action.

According to SCF’s President Deanna James, “St. Croix Foundation has spent almost 30 years building a holistic portfolio of high impact programming and investments, and we are honored to have been selected by AECF to lead this important work. Today, we are grounding our Kids Count strategy in an unwavering commitment to addressing the needs of the whole child. We ultimately believe that by honing in on targeted pressure points, our Territory can activate the data in the Kids Count Data Book and, in turn, reduce vulnerabilities, build reinforced safety nets, and improve overall outcomes for all children.”

About St. Croix Foundation
St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is a place-based operating foundation in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Founded 30 years ago in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, SCF has been dedicated to the issues of equity and holistic, community-rooted development, and has directed laser focus and resources on highly strategic grantmaking, direct services, and community building.  For more information on Kids Count, visit St. Croix Foundation website: www.stxfoundation.org

About Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation (AECF) was established in 1948 and is devoted to developing a brighter future for millions of children at risk of poor educational, economic, social, and health outcomes. AECF focuses on strengthening families, building stronger communities, and ensuring access to opportunity through grants that help federal agencies, states, counties, cities, and neighborhoods create more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children. www.aecf.org

St. Croix Foundation & the Patrick & Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund Award $16,000 in Scholarships to St. Croix Students for 2020

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) STAFF@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 29, 2020

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands – St. Croix Foundation is pleased to announce $16,000 in scholarships were awarded to six St. Croix graduates on Monday, June 29th at a virtual presentation headquartered at St. Croix Foundation (SCF) in Sunday Market Square. Scholarships were made possible through the third annual cycle for the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund and SCF’s Foundation Scholars Fund.

Four scholarships totaling $14,000 were awarded though the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund, which was established by Mr. Junior Gaspard in 2018 to provide opportunities to youth who have persevered despite seemingly overwhelming challenges. Whether they are forced to push through Category Five Hurricanes, global pandemics, or the myriad socioeconomic obstacles young people face, the Williams Opportunity Fund supports students who see education as a means to achieving personal and professional success. Awards were presented to the following students:

  • Djamel Boucenna, Arizona State University, Major: Biomedical Engineering
  • Jayme Colbert-Williams, Florida A & M University, Major: Biochemistry
  • Jhylie Roebuck, University of the Virgin Islands, Major: Undecided
  • La’Monique Berrios, Morgan State University, Major: Engineering

An additional scholarship was awarded to Quincy King (Civil Engineering) and Shadéjah Charles (Biology/ Medicine) through the Foundation Scholars Fund (in conjunction with Pro Communications) for attendance at Howard University and Nova Southeastern University respectfully.

To date, the Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund has provided a total of $35,000 in scholarships to eight students who have had to overcome obstacles to continue their education, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria and now COVID-19. Applicants were required to meet specific criteria that include being a graduate from St. Croix, maintaining a GPA of 2.0 or higher, demonstrating financial need, and most importantly, submitting personal essays that spoke to the reality of their challenges and their journey to pursue their dreams. All recipients are required to submit reports to the Foundation.

A native of St. Croix and a graduate of Central High School and John H. Woodson Junior High School, Gaspard and the rest of the family wished to honor his grandparents in a meaningful way in the aftermath of the hurricanes of 2017. It was deemed that launching a named scholarship fund would allow for a longer-lasting impact on the lives of students in the community and allow the lessons learned from his grandparents about resilience and perseverance to be passed on to the next generation of leaders. Junior Gaspard, who presents awards annually, stated that “Hurricanes, COVID-19, economic uncertainty and life circumstances – all of these continue to present challenges to our recipients, but their character, perseverance, and grit have helped them overcome those challenges. We are excited to see what the next chapter holds for each of these extraordinary students. We are also proud to be able to support these students in this time, just as our grandparents would have wanted.”

Scholarship recipient Djamel Boucenna expressed his appreciation, stating that, “A river lies between my dreams and reality. At first, I thought I would have to swim across, filling my pockets with the student loans and debt that attempt to hinder me from realizing my goals; however, with the Patrick and Amelia Williams Scholarship awarded to me by the St. Croix Foundation, the river seems to be drying up and crossing has become much more possible. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and thank you so much for supporting me in my dreams.”

According to St. Croix Foundation’s Senior Program Officer, Lilli Cox, “As the territory continues to recover from the 2017 hurricanes and another hurricane season begins, this time against the backdrop of a pandemic, these scholarships represent a pathway for our youth to access systems that lead to real opportunity. The original purpose of these funds becomes more relevant and more critical with every passing year.”

St. Croix Foundation extends its deepest appreciation to the Gaspard family for their partnership and philanthropic spirit as well as the Foundation’s Grants Review Committee for its engagement. The Patrick and Amelia Williams Opportunity Fund welcomes gifts to allow for additional students to be provided the chance to pursue their education. Additionally, St. Croix Foundation would like to thank the ProTouch Cares Fund for its partnership and contributions to the Foundation Scholars Fund.

For more information about the Williams Opportunity Fund, and how you can support this special scholarship opportunity and those like it for our young people, please contact St. Croix Foundation at 340-773-9898 or visit our website at www.stxfoundation.org to learn more and contribute.

St. Croix Foundation President Joins 60 Black Foundation Leaders in Push for Justice and Equity in Black Communities

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) djames@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2020

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands- On June 11, 2020, St. Croix Foundation for Community Development joined the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) and 60 other Black Foundation Executives in a Statement requesting action by philanthropy on anti-Black racism, including imperatives for the philanthropic sector.

The statement reads in part: “While COVID-19 is novel as a virus, the pestilence of anti-Black racism that dictates its disproportionate impact on Black communities is centuries old… For several weeks ABFE worked with over 60 Black Philanthropic CEOs in the US, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, to craft a set of imperatives for ensuring the well-being of Black communities to guide the philanthropic community’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. As we set to release our statement, the country erupted in righteous rage at the brutal murder of George Floyd and the demand to defend Black lives from state-sanctioned violence. As the Black community struggles to manage these overlapping pandemics, we challenge philanthropy to be bold and be inspired by the courage of the protestors who are risking their well-being for the sake of defending Black lives.”

Imperatives for the philanthropic sector, outlined in the ABFE’s Statement are as follows:

  1. BUILD AGENCY. Increase public and private investments in Black-led organizations.
  2. PUSH STRUCTURAL CHANGE. Consider policy and system reform needed to improve conditions in Black communities.
  3. ENCOURAGE SHARED RESPONSIBILITY. Through the targeted investment of all philanthropies as well as public dollars to transform conditions in Black communities.
  4. USE ENDOWMENTS. Prioritize spending on the most vulnerable communities. In addition, now is the time to utilize the full set of resources of philanthropy by increasing asset payout and employing various investment strategies to provide much-needed capital to Black communities.
  5. CENTER BLACK EXPERIENCE. Black leaders and communities must be engaged in the development of short and long-term philanthropic and public policy solutions to ensure that well-intentioned “helping” efforts do not exacerbate existing disparities.
  6. TRUSTEE ACCOUNTABILITY. Foundation boards should take stock of the level of grantmaking to Black communities and engage in racial equity assessments of their investments.
  7. ENGAGE BLACK BUSINESSES. Foundations and the public sector should actively engage Black businesses in investment management, banking, and other professional services to address the pandemic’s negative impact on Black earnings and wealth.
  8. LIFT UP GENDER. The health and economic well-being of both Black people are under threat due to COVID-19. Response efforts must… ensure that all people of African descent are connected to economic opportunities, healthy and are safe.
  9. REACH TO THE DIASPORA. Black communities in the U.S. territories have been left out of many relief efforts. During crises, we must remain vigilant of how anti-Black racism impacts people of African descent around the world.
  10. ADDRESS DISPARITIES IN PRISONS. S. prisons are disproportionately filled with Black and Brown people. Current efforts must support the safety of those currently imprisoned, and advance sustained investments in alternatives that reduce reliance on incarceration over the long-term.

The Full Report can be found at https://abfe.egnyte.com/dl/NhwadCaj6s/

Standing in the heart of the Diaspora, St. Croix Foundation has committed to continue doing its part to push for equity and to support the advancement of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Foundation also shares ABFE’s long-term goal of challenging the field of Philanthropy to make intentional, sustained, and radical investments in Black Communities.

According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “ABFE’s CEO, Susan Taylor-Batten, her Board, and her Team have become real champions and advocates for the Territory over the past three years. Lifting up the importance of the U.S. Caribbean and tying the stories and conditions of Black Communities across the Diaspora together seamlessly, ABFE has served as a steady force in the field of Philanthropy and the advancement of Black lives.”

“Fortunately, none of these efforts are new to St. Croix Foundation,” James continued.  “Even without the support of National Philanthropy, which has a legacy of disinvestment in and neglect of the U.S. Caribbean and poor Black communities all across the nation, St. Croix Foundation has focused our own investments on most of the priorities laid out by ABFE from our inception.

Long before the 2017 hurricanes and COVID-19, St. Croix Foundation has been investing in our community in holistic and strategic ways for almost 30 years: 1) by supporting local nonprofits, as the Territory’s preeminent Fiscal Sponsor and nonprofit convener; 2) through 15 years of targeted educational programming, policy research, and system analysis; 3) by foregoing endowment building, instead serving as a conduit (rather than a container) of philanthropic funds; 4) by building regional alliances through participation in civic consortia like the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance; and 5) by ensuring that our Board and our staff are both diverse and reflective of our Community.

St. Croix Foundation is deeply honored to be a signatory, endorsing this historic philanthropic call to action. According to James, “The ultimate goal of this work and crucial partnerships like this is to advance St. Croix Foundation’s core mission, which is to encourage greater philanthropic activity in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Foundation is hopeful that this movement will right the wrongs of National Philanthropy’s disproportional investment in Black Communities and historical disenfranchisement of the U.S. Virgin Islands. This pattern of neglect has ultimately had a significant impact on the operational stability and capacity of local nonprofits who are serving a community with deeply entrenched and growing needs. As a signatory of this unprecedented national philanthropic appeal at an unprecedented time in American History, St. Croix Foundation is adjoining its core mission with a broader strategy of advocating for racial equity.”

St. Croix Foundation extends its sincere gratitude to ABFE for their leadership, mentorship, and stewardship of this critically important work. The Foundation is also grateful and honored to stand beside the courageous Foundation Executives who are standing with them in making this call! For more information on how to support the Foundation’s community rebuilding and Nonprofit Development efforts, please email the Foundation at staff@stxfoundation.org, or visit their website at www.stxfoundation.org.

About St. Croix Foundation
St. Croix Foundation for Community Development is a place-based operating foundation in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Founded 30 years ago in the wake of Hurricane Hugo, SCF has been dedicated to the issue of equity and holistic, community-rooted development, and has directed laser focus and resources on highly strategic grant-making, direct services, and community building.  In the summer of 2016, in demonstration of the Foundation’s commitment to a more holistic approach to community development, SCF launched its Nonprofit Consortium. A dynamic collaboration comprising staff and board members of over 40 local nonprofits, the Consortium of civic partners is committed to working together to strengthen operations, build its collective capacity and amass peoplepower and advocacy around four distinct sectors:  Arts & Culture, Health & Human Services, Youth &Education, and Built and Natural Environs.

About the Association of Black Foundation Executives
Established in 1971, ABFE is a membership-based philanthropic organization that advocates for responsive and transformative investments in Black communities. The all-volunteer organization was credited with many of philanthropy’s early gains in diversity. More information on ABFE can be found at www.abfe.org.

St. Croix Foundation Solar-Supported Community Center Project Translates into Full-Time Employment for Local Youth

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) STAFF@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 23, 2020

St. Croix, U.S.V.I. — St. Croix Foundation is pleased to announce the completion of the first phase of its Pilot Solar-Supported Community Center Project and Workforce Development Initiative, which is solarizing several carefully selected community centers on St. Croix. The project was officially launched in June 2019 and is serving as a holistic model through which local youth are helping the Foundation build a skilled local workforce of solar installers. Funded in partnership with the VI Department of Labor, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, GlobalGiving and a number of other national philanthropic entities, 4 community centers are scheduled to be solarized including The Caribbean Center for Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands and Flambouyant Gardens Senior Independent Living Center.

During this first phase of the Project, 9 students aged 18-28, successfully completed a 6-month National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) course, receiving intense classroom instruction in NCCER Core Curriculum, Electrical Levels 1-4, and Solar PV Installation. Students received a stipend during the program in addition to uniforms and toolkits that they were allowed to keep upon completion of the program. At the conclusion of the classroom component of the program, students received on-the-job training installing Solar Photovoltaic Systems by completing the installation of a full solar system on the roof of the Caribbean Center for the Boys and Girls of the Virgin Islands (CCBGVI). In the event of future disasters, all selected solar-powered community centers have committed to serve as neighborhood hubs for individuals and families in walking proximity. CCBGVI, followed by Flambouyant Gardens and two more strategically located centers, will enable residents in the neighborhood to store medication that requires refrigeration, charge electronic devices, and use an internet connection to communicate with family.

Community centers will also have the capacity to serve as localized distribution sites from which aid and relief items can be stored and disseminated in the future. Equally important, this Initiative is nurturing a culture of resilience by empowering nonprofits to achieve a reduction in utility costs, the savings from which can be reinvested in direct services that benefit the communities and vulnerable populations they serve.

According to St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, “This program is a perfect representation of how the Foundation is activating its recovery agenda and its commitment to holistic Community Development. By leveraging a cross-sector of public, private, and civic partnerships, the Foundation is able to marshal resources and sector competencies for multi-layered benefits. The ripple impacts of this initiative are far-reaching, touching on every priority that the Foundation has established since the hurricanes, from energy independence and nonprofit capacity building to workforce development and community self-sufficiency.” “The Initiative also demonstrates the power of our Territory’s Civil Society to drive sustained progress and resilience, “James continued.

The Foundation is most excited to report that this pilot Initiative has also proven that demand exists in the Virgin Islands for a local, skilled workforce in green energy: five students have already been hired by a local solar company, ProSolar, and are thriving. Committed to students’ long-term success and employability, the Foundation dedicated targeted resources to expanding the program to incorporate soft skills and workplace readiness training. ProSolar has also committed to serving as a critical strategic partner of the Foundation’s in support of students’ success. Through ongoing coaching and mentoring, they will be tracking students to ensure the final outcome is not just employment for participants but the launch of real careers and, over time, entrepreneurial ventures in the future.

The Foundation is deeply grateful for all of its community partners for their support and collaboration in making this project a reality including the Department of Labor, Commissioner Gary Molloy and his Team on the Workforce Development Board, Sustainable System and Design International, Lions Den, and course instructors Ian Caesar, Kevin Dubois, and George Christian.

The Foundation wishes to invite other local solar installation companies to support this project by offering long-term employment opportunities to qualified participants is to build a skilled solar workforce for a burgeoning demand occupation. For more information, please feel free to contact the Foundation at 340-773-9898 or visit their website www.stxfoundation.org for more information about the Initiative or to support this and other St. Croix Foundation initiatives.

ABOUT ST. CROIX FOUNDATION
Established in 1990, the Foundation has served as a conduit for over 42 million dollars in funding for community-based projects throughout the Virgin Islands. With an incomparable track record of successful community development initiatives and national recognition for its work in education reform and small business development, the Foundation has also received international acknowledgment for its community revitalization initiatives and, today, continues directing its focus on energy independence, workforce development, education, youth and families, and of course, the broad-based support of nonprofits, including fiscal sponsorship, grantmaking, and the Nonprofit Consortium.

Philanthropy and Race in the U.S. Virgin Islands

By: DEANNA JAMES, PRESIDENT
(TEL) 340.773.9898, (EMAIL) STAFF@STXFOUNDATION.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 17, 2020

Over the past several weeks, since the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, like many people around the country and the world, all of us at St. Croix Foundation have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the meaning of this moment for those of us in the field of Philanthropy and for us as Virgin Islanders.

St. Croix Foundation fundamentally believes that healing and evolution can come from shining a light on the interplay of Race, Power, and Privilege everywhere, even here. But, more specifically, for the field of Philanthropy, where high net worth often represents disproportional, sometimes unchecked power, Light and Courage must both be our tools!

This letter represents the very personal reflections of St. Croix Foundation President, Deanna James, on the dynamics and power of philanthropy within the context of race and equity right here in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

To read the full-text article, please continue reading.

Full-Text Article

I begin this letter to the community in the same manner that I begin most messages about my work—through a lens that has been shaped by service. I believe deeply in the nobility and power of Philanthropy. In its rawest definition, Philanthropy is the Love of Humankind. It holds virtuous space in world economies, and its stewardship demands great care.

Of course, that’s the ideal. Unfortunately, the practice and principles that govern the field often fall short of that lofty standard. Five years ago, when I reluctantly agreed to take the helm of St. Croix Foundation, I didn’t realize that I would become the first native Virgin Islander and woman of African descent in at least 20 years (possibly longer) to head up one of three community foundations in the Territory. But I knew my leadership journey would demand a distinctive suite of competencies and would be wrought with unique challenges.

Having spent 12 years sitting stoically in front of donors—a predominant number of whom were white, older, and male—I have had to hold my chin up high as I listened to conversations most people of color in the Virgin Islands will hopefully never have to endure. Early on, I was exposed to blatantly racist, subtly bigoted, and implicitly discriminatory exchanges on a regular basis. I have had a donor’s rep prep me for a meeting by telling me not to make eye contact unless the donor approached me first because he did not like Black people. I witnessed a donor walk away from the Foundation after being told by our Board that they would not be permitted to wield their wealth and power to destroy important partnerships and alienate crucial constituents.  Most egregious is that, in a parting gesture, that donor wrote a letter to their peers (many of whom were also donors) declaring St. Croix Foundation to be a racist organization– against white people! That was well over a decade ago, yet the echoes from that letter still reverberate through our Community today.

Since that time, there have been far too many micro-aggressions to document.  In all cases, I had to endure white donors weaponizing their economic power and their “philanthropy” in ways few in the Territory have experienced or have been willing to discuss. In fact, those experiences have hardened the Foundation. They have also inculcated a real reverence for Equity in our organizational culture, forcing us to develop internal protocols to vet and artfully steer away donors who simply do not meet our standards of social integrity. We now hold firm to the precept that not every dollar is a good dollar. But on the bright side, I am proud to acknowledge that the vast majority of the donors we interface with today are not simply transactional relationships; they are bonafide Partners, Collaborators, and Co-conspirators who share in our commitment and conviction to real Philanthropy.

However, back in 2015, immediately following the departure of the Foundation’s previous president, Roger Dewey (himself an older white man, who was both my professional partner and friend for 12 years), contributions declined rapidly. On the surface, it could be reasoned that this was in large part because many of the donor relationships nurtured by Roger were personal ones that he carefully cultivated over the course of his 22 years of service. But I also knew that the shift was rooted in a much more complex phenomenon seen in other local and national nonprofits.

Conducting some cursory research, I noted that 15 to 20 years prior, at a time when many nonprofits on St. Croix were fiscally ‘healthier,’ not only did we have ‘older’ money floating around our community as well as a more intrinsically philanthropic donor base, but it just so happened that a significant number of leaders at some of the largest civic organizations on St. Croix were indeed white. This is, of course, not an indictment on those leaders in any way. It is just an honest assessment of our philanthropic and civic landscape that may get overlooked at times because Black people represent the majority population here.

While there are those who may argue that those white leaders were simply better administrators, I counterbalance that premise with this— they also had more donor access. Still others may argue that racism and implicit bias are not a factor in phenomenon like this, and definitely not in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where race issues are muted and ‘seem’ less pervasive.

But the data reflects a much more complex and nuanced dynamic. According to a recently released study conducted by the Bridgespan Group, “research found that, on average, the revenues of Black-led organizations are 24 percent smaller than the revenues of their white-led counterparts. When it comes to the holy grail of financial support— unrestricted funding—the picture is even bleaker. The unrestricted net assets of Black-led organizations are 76 percent smaller than their white-led counterparts.”  Ultimately, systemic issues of race in America do not take a siesta at our shorelines. Our systems here in the Territory are governed by and rooted in the same structurally unequal, unjust, and racially biased national systems.

With this understanding, one of the first priorities I set in my new role was to begin convening local nonprofits on St. Croix around an ambitious goal of amassing people-power and leveraging scarce resources. Our Nonprofit Consortium was launched in the summer of 2016, with over 50 organizations holding a seat at the table as we began meeting regularly to talk about the sustainability of our sector. What instantly came to light was the level of diversity sitting at our Consortium table. We looked like the United Nations. And with that realization, quite subtly at first, conversations of financial stability transitioned into conversations about equity, which then dovetailed with issues around race.

Concurrent with the evolution of the Consortium, the Foundation conducted the most extensive Donor Study in our history, really digging deep to understand our small pool of donors and their willingness to support not just us but our Consortium of civic organizations. What we learned from that study was quite insightful. We learned that there was a disproportionately high number of nonprofits on St. Croix; estimated at approximately 300, including religious-based organizations. We learned that most of our donors felt burdened by the gravity of needs in our Community. We discovered that a significant number of our donors represented a deeper pool of resources than we realized but were giving at a level that, in fundraising terms, equated to ‘charity’ (i.e., 4 and 5 figures). Few were giving at truly transformational levels (i.e., 6 and 7 figures). And for those who were making transformational gifts, most of those gifts were not being directed to 501c3 organizations in the USVI (where they were filing taxes).

With the results of that study in hand, I challenged my Team to look up and out in developing a prospecting strategy that would diversify our donor pool beyond our shores. This strategy was intended to achieve two goals: 1) to relieve local donors of the burden of giving and 2) to diffuse the power that some high net worth individuals wielded over local nonprofits. Also, seeking to hold firm to our Founders’ pledge to limit local fundraising in order to minimize competition with our Territory’s nonprofits for scarce resources, we began seeking out new national philanthropic networks and partners.

It was undoubtedly an ambitious strategy because in addition to the complexities of leading a community foundation in a small, remote, under-served community, the Virgin Islands (as the only predominantly Black American colony) has also represented an aggravating blind spot to National Philanthropy. Whether that blind spot resulted from our Insular status, which often relegates us to international status; or our negligible expat advocacy power; or the same systemic racial inequities seen in other governing sectors, we knew it would be an uphill battle to try to upend wholescale neglect and historical dis-investment from the national field of philanthropy.

Fortuitously, almost two years into my tenure, I was ushered into a new national network through doors I had not even known existed, with a personal invitation from an almost 50-year-old philanthropic affinity group named the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE). The invitation was to attend a small retreat for approximately 40 Black female executives in the foundation world. That convening exposed me to a different context of Philanthropy. It was a new world where Black foundation executives (a glaring minority in the field) were talking about, and intentionally developing strategies to direct resources toward all the same systemic issues of race and equity that are now bubbling up today all over the country. In fact, they had been tackling (and funding) these issues for decades.

As a Black woman in this field of Philanthropy in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I had accepted that the lay of the land was the lay of this land; that those of us in Philanthropy would never go too deep; that I would exist as a minority in my work while living as a majority in my community. That is until I joined a new coalition of Philanthropists filled with powerhouse women (and men) fighting for justice long before the world came to know about George Floyd. Four of those women (Susan Batten, CEO of ABFE; Janine Lee, CEO of the Southeastern Council of Foundations; Gladys Krigger-Washington, formerly of Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation; and Sherece West-Scantlebury of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation) ultimately became the impetus for me to propose to my Board of Directors that we host our own funders retreat here on St. Croix.

Make no mistake, my proposal had a few local detractors who questioned the rationale for the convening and who went so far as to suggest that the retreat was a cover for giving my “new Black friends” a free vacation. Despite the fact that the cost of the retreat (held in February 2017) was less than $7000, with our guests footing the bill for their own travel expenses, that meager investment translated into over $1 million in direct grants from national foundations in less than one year. Those funds were, in turn, regranted to local nonprofits in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Our Network quickly expanded beyond our first retreat Partners to include both national and international funders and allies who have awarded substantial resources to our Community and our Consortium of Nonprofits over the past 2 years.

The Foundation, along with our new national Partners and our Consortium of Nonprofit Leaders, also used our first philanthropy retreat to launch a courageous conversation on Race, right here in the Virgin Islands, seven months before Hurricanes Irma and Maria. With ABFE as our conversation guide and steward, that dialogue has continued and has gotten deeper and more honest, starting with topics like implicit bias and evolving into issues surrounding gentrification, structural racism, environmental injustice.

Today, we now open every single convening with a powerful presentation by Sonia Jacobs-Dow, Executive Director of St. Croix Landmarks Society, who roots our work in our Virgin Islands story, in our history of enslavement and rebellion and resilience. Through repetition, repetition, repetition, we are sensitizing our local stakeholders and a growing roster of national partners to our story, which is deepening our NPC conversations and consciousness. While we still have a long way to go on this journey of healing and understanding, the openness with which we collectively discuss race may serve as a model for the rest of the community and beyond.

At one of our (now annual) retreats, one of our guests, who proclaimed himself to be ‘a white guy from the mid-west,’ affirmed that our convening is one of the most progressive and transparent conversations on race he has ever participated in. He was mostly awed by the raw humanity of it that enabled people of diverse backgrounds and races to sit unified in a collective and shared space of Truth and Justice. We are indeed proud of the climate we have nurtured and the safe space we have held for honest discourse on race long before the pandemic and tragic murder of George Floyd. Our hope is that these conversations will deepen in the weeks and months ahead.

Over the past several weeks, since the brazen public lynching of George Floyd on May 25th, like many people around the country and the world, St. Croix Foundation has spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the meaning of this moment for those of us in the field of Philanthropy and for us as Virgin Islanders. We’ve contemplated how the issues being laid bare for the world surrounding racial injustice and systemic inequities have led to a disproportionate loss of Black lives due to COVID-19; how police violence has led to an overwhelming loss of Black lives for decades in America; and how broken systems have exacerbated educational disparities for our children and enabled disparate investment in the social infrastructure of Black communities like ours.

That our educational systems are underfunded; that our schools serve as a pipeline to the criminal justice system, manifesting in one of the highest per-capita homicide rates in the nation; that the largest oil refinery in the entire world just happened to be built on one of the smallest, most remote, under-represented, and predominantly Black depots in all of America… these are not coincidences. Undeniably, the same racial, environmental, and economic injustices adjoin Black people in the Virgin Islands to Black people in America and beyond. While there are some superficial differences relative to our majority local Black leadership and our majority Black demographics, the systems that undergird every aspect of our lives are the same as those in mainland Black and Native American communities. Their fight is our fight.

So, today as we collectively begin to build real understanding around that rallying declaration that Black Lives Matter, as Virgin Islanders, we must not only state that truth, we must stand in it as we excavate and interrogate its deepest meaning. St. Croix Foundation stands in that truth as well. As we have done for nearly 30 years, we also remain resolute in our commitment to advocate for and invest in fortified, resilient, and, most importantly of all, EQUITABLE Systems and accessible pathways to and through them.

All of us at the Foundation fundamentally believe that healing and evolution can come from shining a light on the interplay of Race, Power, and Privilege everywhere, even here. But, more specifically, for the field of Philanthropy, where high net worth often represents disproportional, sometimes unchecked power, Light and Courage must both be our tools!