The Israel family, owners of The Inn at Saratoga, hosted a benefit concert for hurricane relief for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico that raised more than $10,000. About150 guests, including some who traveled from as far as Minnesota, came to support the event on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, at the family’s hotel on Broadway. Proceeds were split between The Giving Circle in Saratoga Springs and My Brother's Workshop charity in the Virgin Islands. My Brother’s Workshop has made more than 10,000 meals for hurricane victims with the help of volunteers and donations. The Giving Circle recently sent two truckloads of supplies to Houston and Florida, among other relief efforts.
The owners of the Inn at Saratoga have close personal ties to St. Thomas, the gateway isle of the Virgin Islands, as they also own Mafolie Hotel and Restaurant on the island. Elizabeth Israel said her brother and family were displaced and have finally made it here to Saratoga. With all the devastation that occurred on the islands, the family wanted to help. They reached out to The Sun Mountain Band, featuring fiddler Dick Solberg, who has entertained in the U.S., St. Thomas and abroad for more than 38 years. Many musicians who have played with Solberg in the Caribbean over the years came to perform at the event, giving it a truly St. Thomas feel. The performers shared the stage with Tim Wechgelaer, Chris Carey, Mike O'Donnell and Becky Walton, to name a few.
Musician Rob Johanson, the only accordion player on the entire island of St. John, spoke briefly to the guests about the state of the island, which is about four miles from St. Thomas. Electricity isn’t expected to return until January, and 90-degree days have made day-to-day activities almost unbearable. He said the Red Cross has been on the ground helping people with health and personal issues, serving over 1,000 meals a day. Restaurants are feeding people at no cost to make sure everyone has at least one meal per day. Roads are still flooded and many boats have sunk, leaving very few left on the Island. Miraculously, no land deaths occurred during the storm.
Despite the devastation, the people of St. Thomas and St. John have pulled together, working side by side to rebuild their communities. Music has been a very huge part of those communities, bringing people together to heal.
If you would like to donate to the relief and reconstruction efforts, visit mybrothersworkshop.org and thegivingcircle.org.