St. Thomas non profit continues work on roofs 20 months after Irma

“This particular home the entire roof came off in one piece,” Dan Lewin, a construction coordinator with local St. Thomas non profit “St. Thomas Recovery Team” said.

“I talked to a bunch of the neighbors and they said that the entire structure was sitting in the middle of the road.”

Lewin and a group of just about a dozen volunteers are working to put a real roof over one St. Thomas home.

A blue FEMA tarp was in place for the past 20 months. 

A family of five lived in here that entire time with only a generator supplying them with just a few hours of power a night.  

“Not only is this running all of our tools but for the last 20 months this is the only electricity they’ve had at the site, the home and up until Friday there five people living in here, including two kids,” Lewin added as he walked back into the home.

The St. Thomas Recovery Team is a non-profit group born out of 2017’s two category five hurricanes to help rebuild the homes that FEMA didn’t. 

That list of homes Lewin shared with us is overwhelming. 8,000 homes in total still need roofs. 

Lewin said he takes it 12 cases at a time, otherwise the task becomes daunting. 

But he hasn’t once stopped. 

“Hopefully once we get it repaired it will be the fourth generation living in this house. I think that’s something really important. To keep St. Thomas people in their generational homes and it’s something that I’m happy to be a part of.” 

Others happy to help Lewin on his mission, a group of volunteers. 

Some have never even picked up a tool. 

But were willing and ready to learn. 

“Honestly I didn’t have a lot of construction experience. So Dan’s been really great showing me how to mortor, how to use all the tools. I didn’t have any experience doing that,” volunteer Constance Griffin from Detroit, Michigan said.

Griffin came down to the US Virgin Islands to volunteer after hearing about the opportunity through her church in Michigan. 

She said she jumped at the invitation. 

“You can go to the beach after and it’s really great work. You know, there’s nothing like this,” she added.

Some familiar faces are joining this home rebuild. That is the crew from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

You may remember them from our story back in March at Mr. George’s home. 

Well they’re back and ready to, as they tell us, do more good.  

“When they called and said that they had an opportunity to come back I jumped on it. I couldn’t not want to come back. It was a great experience,” volunteer Jack Corbett with the Alternative Break Group at the University of Alaska Fairbanks said.

Corbett traveled with a group of 10 all the way to the small island in the Caribbean to leave families with a new roof. 

For Corbett and his team, they were surprised at how much work is left to do now nearly two years later. 

“It’s shocking that it’s been this long and we still haven’t gotten roofs on homes that still need roofs. It is shocking that more isn’t being done to help in my mind.” 

But groups on the ground continue to push forward, especially in this neighborhood where this home is located near Tutu Park Mall. That was one of the hardest hit on the island. 

Despite the damage and long wait time for some of these families, Lewin said major progress is being made here. 

“Everytime I drive through I see a few less blue tarps. I see more work being done. I see more houses coming back better and stronger than they were before which is what we’re trying to do here which is what we’re doing here. We’re actually exceeding all the building codes on this making it twice as strong as it needs to be. So, hopefully if we have another storm event these people won’t suffer in the same way.” 

If any storm does come this way, we can trust that St. Thomas Recovery team and their dedicated volunteers will be here with a tool in hand ready to help. 

USVI NEWS stopped by with some pizza for the crew after the interview to keep them going. 

You can pitch in too by donating here:

Or contact St. Thomas Recovery Team here: