Making a difference

Hotel concert for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands

The Israel family, owners of The Inn at Saratoga, hosted a benefit concert for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Sunday, Oct. 15 at its hotel. More than $10,000 was raised with approximately 150 guests, who traveled from as far as Minnesota to support the event. Proceeds were split between The Giving Circle in Saratoga Springs and the 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 owners of the Inn at Saratoga have close 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 happened on the islands, the family wanted to help. It reached out to The Sun Mountain Band, featuring fiddler Dick Solberg, who has entertained in America, St. Thomas and abroad for more than 38 years. Many musicians who have played with Solberg in the Caribbean over the years came to play at the event, giving it a true St. Thomas feel. Solberg 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 island of St. John, spoke briefly to the guests about the state of the island. 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 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 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.

To donate to relief and reconstruction efforts, visit



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