When you’re in the business of awarding grants, there’s an overwhelming number of choices and opportunities that are presented. Sifting through the choices is our challenge. And while we generally limit our grants to specific geographical areas, every now and then opportunities find us. This was the case when Eileen Gross, President of Phillips Charitable Foundation, was in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and through introductions from family and friends, she met up with an organization whose mission aligned perfectly with the Foundation's; providing dignified living for vulnerable children.
Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands provides life-saving care for the most vulnerable of the Virgin Islands. Its first service program, the Queen Louise Home for Children, opened in 1904 with one infant girl. Since then it has continued to be a place where neglected and abused children can finally feel safe and cherished.
Junia John-Straker, CEO of Queen Louise Home for Children, explained that sometimes they receive phone calls in the middle of the night that a child or set of siblings needs immediate placement. Their nursing staff is always ready at a moment’s notice. They clothe, feed, and provide comfort to the children during their difficult transitional time.
Eileen Gross visited the Queen Louise Home after learning that they hadn’t yet fully recovered both physically and financially from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. After meeting with Junia John-Straker and the children of both Queen Louise Home for Children and Sister Emma Cottage she learned how long it has taken to recover from Maria. Although government funding and red tape had stalled some efforts of recovery, it didn’t put a damper on the spirit of the children.
“They were delightful and welcoming on my visit,” explains Eileen. “Clearly this is a place of hope for these children and it is the essence of our mission to provide funding for dignified living for vulnerable populations.”
A few months later, Phillips Charitable Foundation awarded the Queen Louise Home with a $75,000 grant for operational costs. Little did we know how important those funds would be with COVID-19 just around the corner.
With the pandemic came many additional challenges and costs. Safety became the number one focus at Queen Louise Home. They created a schedule to accommodate virtual learning and virtual therapy sessions with their therapists / social workers. They also added outdoor activities and play to stimulate their growing bodies, cognitive, and social/emotional development.
As with parents and caretakers around the country, the staff is spending a lot more time with the children since the pandemic began. It’s a silver lining in all this craziness. It has enabled them to observe them even more closely and determine areas where the children need additional help. They increased the staff on hand to ensure each child stayed engaged and received the love and attention they need.
The operational grant from PCF helped to continue to serve all of the children in need and maintain all services. The additional staff made it possible to add activities and experiences to keep the children engaged.
“We are grateful to Phillips Charitable Foundation for helping us bring hope to the residents at Queen Louise Home for Children” stated Junia John-Straker. “As we wait out for the pandemic to die away, we are confident the residents in our care will continue to receive the love and care they need during this time.”
For more information on the Queen Louise Home and other programs with the Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands, check out their website at LSSVI.org