Community leaders and volunteers in southeast Queens came together to raise funds and collect non-perishable food items, clothing, personal hygiene items and personal protective equipment for the victims of the volcanic eruption on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
VP Records — known for successfully advancing the careers of Jamaican musician Sean Paul and other Jamaican and Caribbean artists — and Kerryanne Burke, a candidate for City Council in District 27, led a group of volunteers and community members to collect the relief.
After sitting dormant for 42 years, the active La Soufrière volcano began erupting on April 9, destroying homes and forcing 20,000 Vincentians to evacuate. Thousands had to seek refuge in shelters, while others are staying with family and friends.
The intermittent eruptions, which went on for days — scientists say that the volcano is still active, and explosions can happen with little warning — have blanketed large parts of the Caribbean island in heavy ash while lava streams were flowing down the mountainside. The water system and the electric grid had to be shut off, and cleanup efforts were aggravated by heavy rainfalls at the end of April, causing destructive landslides and flooding.
Community members were encouraged to drop off items for Vincentians in need in the parking lot of VP Records on 170-21 Jamaica Ave., which were placed in four shipping barrels.
After the drop-off, they got to enjoy home-cooked Jamaican food like curried chicken or goat, snapper fish, pepper shrimp, rice and beans, and salad prepared by Chef Doreen White.
Mrs. White, who is from Jamaica, started cooking the food at 3 in the morning and distributed it with the help of her family and friends.
It wasn’t the first time the 73-year-old helped out the people of the Caribbean. She coordinated a drive for the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian devastated the island in 2019.
“The last time, I collected nine barrels for the Bahamas,” White said.
Kerryanne Burke, an attorney whose family is Jamaican, isn’t a stranger to serving her community. She has helped distribute free food and school supplies and supported less fortunate Jamaicans by sending barrels with food, clothes and school supplies to the island.
“As a Jamaican descendent, it is critical to support our brothers and sisters on the islands during times of natural disaster,” said Burke, who was born and raised in southeast Queens.
She reached out to VP Records, which organized the drive, to lend her support as she felt it was important to give back to those going through a difficult time because of a natural disaster on top of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The eruption of volcanoes is a really tragic situation. I’ve never experienced it. I’ve seen hurricanes, but volcanic ash is really hard on anybody,” Burke said. “I can’t even imagine what that feels like to lose your home and your property to a volcano eruption.”