NORFOLK, Va. - In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a local nonprofit group is getting ready to help one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Citizens Tactical and Safety Association in Norfolk plans to take the next available flight to St. Croix. The group has tools and supplies ready to help the island rebuild and recover.
“Worst hurricane since Hugo down there -- all power and communications are out. We were lucky with Irma – not so much with Maria,” Nick Vandergrift said.
Equipped with chainsaws, blowers, generators and other tools—Vandergrift is prepared to ship supplies and two trucks to the island, as soon as the airport reopens.
“It's just gonna be a large cleanup for a long time because there's debris everywhere. There's boats that aren't supposed to be where they are, there’s trees completely uprooted and all the debris that's blown all around the island,” he said.
St. Croix holds a special place in Nick's heart. It's the island where his nonprofit will eventually send military members to vacation for free.
“It’s where we send down military, law enforcement-- someone who's done something really great – bring them down there for a little R&R – for a little relaxation.”
It’s called the Warrior's Retreat. Two months ago Vandergrift secured a property that sits on a hill— it overlooks the beautiful waters of St. Croix.
“This is my way of giving back to our country. I believe everybody has to give something-- you can't just keep taking,” he said.
Hurricane Maria put his plans to start the retreat program on hold. For now, the Warriors Retreat will be used as a shelter for Maria victims.
“Never saw this coming--this is kind of a game changer, but it's no problem -- it'll be good,” Vandergrift said.
Vandergrift is currently working with the military to find a service member and his/her family to send to the Warrior’s Retreat. He hopes to send the first military family to vacation by January of next year. The Citizens Tactical and Safety Association is currently taking donations for the Warrior’s Retreat. Donations can be made here.