With Tropical Storm Maria quickly intensifying as it reaches major hurricane status with winds reportedly as much as 150 mph, the Caribbean islands are bracing for another assault that many fear could further devastate paradise.
As of Monday, the storm had reached Category 3 strength and remained on track to move through the Leeward Islands as a dangerous hurricane.
Baltimore area residents who have lived in Maryland – for most of or parts of their lives – and whose families and loved ones still live in the Caribbean, are not only concerned, but they’ve taking steps to help.
A group of individuals have founded a new nonprofit called the Caribbean Disaster Relief & Recovery Alliance, Inc., whose model is “helping people recover their lives.”
“This effort is more important than ever and, based on the weather projections, we may have even more islands impacted,” said Loughton Sargeant, a St. Croix native and senior electrical engineer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who serves of treasurer for the nonprofit.
“The most important message I can give to folks is that people are suffering and we need help,” Sargeant said. “Some have no food, no clothes and it’s critical that we reach out,” he said.
The Caribbean Disaster Relief and Recovery Alliance was established this month to help address the needs of disaster stricken islands like St. Thomas, St. John, St. Marteen, Antigua, Tortola and Barbuda.
Elaine Simon, a member of the nonprofit, said those islands will need assistance for years to come.
She said group has enlisted the help of former senator and WOLB talk show host Larry Young and radio DJ Lolo, who also hails from the Virgin Islands.
“We are in direct contact with individuals from those islands in addition to what the governments are doing, they need our help,” Simon said.
The nonprofit has started collecting non-perishables, baby clothes and wipes, sheets, towels, feminine products, tooth pastes and many other items as well as cash to assist those in need.
They’ve identified churches and other organizations to ensure that those in need receive the donations as soon as possible.
Later, the organization will work to help with larger requests, like doors, windows, hammers and nails to help rebuild the islands – particularly Barbuda where that island has been totally devastated, Simon said.
They’ll also include donations to Texas and Florida victims, too, she said.
“We do have brothers and sisters and families in Texas and in Florida and we need to give back to them and this group is very diverse and very committed,” Simon said.
The organization also plans to reach out to cruise ships, airlines and hotels for assistance, Sargeant said.
“I’m hoping they will give back but right now I’m not hearing much,” he said.
“It’s important that they take the lead when these types of disasters occur because, in the long run, they benefit as much as the folks who live there because these are tourists’ destinations with the beautiful beaches, islands and tropical weather that everyone enjoys and that they earn a lot of money from,” Sargeant said.
Beginning at 3 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 28, the Caribbean Disaster Relief and Recovery Alliance plan to collect donations at 801 McCulloh Street in Baltimore. They’ve also established a donation drop off location at Island Cuisine, 8128 Liberty Road in Windsor Mill.
“We’ll take whatever; 50 cents, $1. It will all help with shipping and purchasing items in addition to what we’re already collecting,” Simon said.
For more information or to donate, call 443-869-1835 or visit, www.cdra-inc.org.