A family business fights in the storm
When Hurricane Dorian crawled across The Bahamas in 2019 it thrashed and battered many homes and businesses on one of the country’s largest islands, Grand Bahama. In the island’s biggest city, Freeport, the Wednesday night fish fry is a popular weekly event beloved by residents and tourists alike. But after Hurricane Dorian hit, the mostly outdoor restaurant that hosts the weekly event, Outriggers Beach Club, was heavily damaged— like so many other establishments along the shoreline.
Brother and sister Janet and Marcel Wilson are two of the nine siblings who run Outriggers Beach Club. They were determined to get it going soon after the storm struck even though their kitchen equipment and much of the restaurant’s physical structure was destroyed. The siblings hosted only a handful of fish fries after Hurricane Dorian before the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to close again—taking away the weekly island celebration so many had looked to as an escape from hurricane cleanup.
To help businesses like Janet and Marcel’s get back on their feet, the American Red Cross is funding an economic recovery program—implemented by MercyCorps— that provides financial grants to small businesses affected by Hurricane Dorian, like Outriggers Beach Club. The Wilsons are using the money to buy new shingles and roofing, to paint the space and to adapt the business to meet health standards set by COVID-19 like floor distancing markers and glass dividers. “The program was a blessing” Marcel said.
While working toward the day they can fully reopen, the siblings’ beach club has turned around to help the Bahamas Red Cross provide food to local people. The Outriggers Beach Club prepares meals in its kitchen for the Bahamas Red Cross to deliver daily to local residents. The siblings feel like they’re able to give back a little after being the ones in need. “We got helped, and to know we’re preparing meals for someone looking forward to it every day…I think that’s the best feeling in the world to know that you’re helping somebody,” Janet said. “After a hurricane, people come together. The whole island is helping each other. Even the little you have, we’re always helping each other.”
Local favorite keeps serving community
A short walk from Outriggers Beach Club is a bright green outdoor restaurant called Penny’s, still sitting empty since Hurricane Dorian. The storm and the pandemic were two blows that were almost too much for the business, and owner Penny Williams was afraid she wouldn’t be able to get back to work. Penny has owned her restaurant in Freeport for about 30 years serving up fish, jerk pork and chicken to a steady population of regular customers.
“The storm ruined my fryers, my stove…everything just stopped,” she said. Penny was selected to benefit from the American Red Cross and Mercy Corps program, and she says the money has helped her so much. “It was a relief; a wonderful thing because if someone didn’t come, we would have been struggling for years.”
When the global pandemic halted the repairs and improvements she was making on her restaurant, she decided to give back and help the Bahamas Red Cross meet the increased need for food for her neighbors. Penny started cooking out of a nearby church to prepare meals for the Red Cross to deliver.
While the Bahamas Red Cross has its own kitchen to prepare the food, extra help was needed to meet the need as many people struggle with the double crisis. Together, the three groups are bringing more than a meal to hundreds of people on the islands, but the comfort of reliable food and knowing they won’t have to be hungry or wonder if there will be lunch that day.
For Penny, she says cooking is her passion, and while she isn’t open yet for businesses, by providing the meals to the Bahamas Red Cross she is still able to cook and give back at the same time. Neither Outriggers Beach Club nor Penny are required to cook for the Bahamas Red Cross, but instead see it as an opportunity to support others doing what they love to do.
“This is my way,” she says. “We are feeding people.” She plans to use the grant money to replace equipment and buy new furniture and whatever else she needs to open again and serve her local customers.
For dads like Brenicko Moxey, he said the food delivery makes each week a little easier. “It’s a lot of pressure off of us, a big weight off of our shoulders,” Brenicko remarks. With four children, he says having lunches delivered for the whole family is such a help, especially while still fixing his house after Hurricane Dorian. When the Bahamas Red Cross van rolls up, the kids usually run outside because, “they know it’s lunchtime.”
American Red Cross in the Bahamas
The American Red Cross has been working in The Bahamas since Hurricane Dorian hit in September 2019, supporting the Bahamas Red Cross to distribute emergency relief items, food, water and millions of dollars in cash--in addition to repair work and rental assistance to those affected. Thanks to the amazing generosity of the American public, the Red Cross is able to continue providing critical support to families still working to overcome the intense challenges presented by a hurricane. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Red Cross continues to keep safety the main priority and is adapting our programs and efforts to follow all health guidelines while still delivering our mission. For more information on Hurricane Dorian recovery, visit www.redcross.org/dorian.