ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Watching a place she once called home get battered by two intense hurricanes within two weeks of each other, Jennifer Lockwood said the urge to help was immediate.
"I was completely heartbroken," Lockwood said, recalling how she felt seeing the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria and Irma in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Many on the island continue to live without electricity or running water.
Hurricane Maria crossed many Caribbean islands at Category 5 strength, lashing homes, businesses and marinas that had already suffered terribly in Hurricane Irma's wake less than two weeks prior.
Before moving to Florida, Lockwood lived for five years on the island of St. Croix.
"It was absolutely beautiful," she said. "But the people are what really made it amazing.”
Now it's a place that, in many ways, is nearly unrecognizable.
"It's a different world right now," she said. "The chain of help is nowhere near complete.”
Lockwood set out to help.
Through a partnership with St. Pete Air, the flight school where she is employed, and the Glasscock Family Foundation, Lockwood began collecting donations.
Donations can also be dropped off or mailed to St. Pete Air, located at 107 8th Ave SE in St. Petersburg.
The response was overwhelming: generators, batteries, water, diapers, food, tarps, and money. In many instances, donations have arrived by the truckload, according to Lockwood.
“It’s heartwarming," she said, adding that she continues to get calls daily from people who are looking to donate. "I’m just really happy to see everybody step up.
Last week, she piloted two flights with supplies to the U.S. Virgin Islands. She was also able to bring back several people fleeing the destruction.
First thing on Monday morning, she plans to make a return flight. It will be the first of several trips planned for this week to both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
As long as the donations continue, so too will the flights, Lockwood told 10News.
“The islands are making progress, but they’re still completely devastated," Lockwood said. "It’s been great that we’ve had the support to keep it going... and it seems like it's going to keep going."
President Trump is expected to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands Tuesday, the same day he is scheduled to tour Puerto Rico, where storm relief efforts are also underway.
USA Today contributed to this report.
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