The Caribbean island of St John is still recovering from two major hurricane strikes, Irma and Maria in September.
“The story down there is that everybody calls it a Category 7," said Colorado resident Jo Edmondson, the owner of a vacation home in St. John. "It was completely brown, through the beaches, up over the hills, over the roads and back down to the other beaches.”
Edmondson said that most of the critical infrastructure is back in place, but the work of returning St. John back to the island paradise that it was, is far from done.
“They work all day long, and they try to get their places back together, and their homes back together. They sleep a little and they’re back up,” Edmondson said.
She's owned a vacation home with some friends on St John for 30 years and said that the island is driven by tourism. She said the restaurants and other businesses are being sustained by workers that are there to help with restoration, but they need the tourists to return if St John is going to be revived.
On a recent visit to St. John, Edmondson noticed an aesthetic void. The focus was switching to rebuilding, to revitalizing. She realized that the island was lacking in something that, coincidentally, she possesses a unique expertise: shade.
Edmondson runs a business, where she lives most of the year in Hotchkiss, Colorado, called ShadeScapes Americas. They make commercial umbrellas and other shade solutions. So basically, she’s an expert in shade.
“There was so much need because the people had lost so much, and the vegetation again, the trees, peoples roofs, everybody’s starting over again,” Edmondson said.
This was an opportunity for her to give back to the tropical community that she has been in love with since she was 20 years old.
She donated $65,000 worth of umbrellas from her company, and she and her employees from Hotchkiss, made the trip there to install them in restaurants and schools.
They put up 50 canopies and umbrellas at restaurants and schools on St. John, which Edmondson said not only takes care of some of their shade problem but also adds some of the color and character back into the community.
“No matter how much you love the sun, and that’s the reason you go to St. John, you still need the shade,” Edmondson said.
ShadeScapes Americas will also continue to donate 25 percent of their sales from their online outlet to the St. John Shade Project to continue helping with the hurricane recovery.
Long time St. John resident, and country music star Kenny Chesney also continues to raise money for his beloved island through his charity, the Love for Love City Foundation.