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Family Prospers As a Result of Their Time at The Home

What’s regarded as the worst natural disaster to hit the U.S. Virgin Islands almost sunk one family who made their home on St. Croix.

Peter serves fulltime with the U.S. Army National Guard. In 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit the Virgin Islands, he and his family survived the deadly storm, literally with only their lives intact.

“They lost everything,” said VFW National Home Advanced Case Manager, Naomi McClurg.

The next thing they knew, the native Caribbeans, Peter, his wife Shereen, and their 12-year-old daughter Ariana, found themselves plunked a long way from home, far up north, in the dead of winter. The Army National Guard relocated its devastated St. Croix base to Grand Ledge, Michigan while they rebuilt.

“The financial strain took a huge toll on our family,” explained Shereen.

Not long after, the couple not only welcomed baby Ezekiel to their family, but received some life changing news.

“I remember getting the call that our application was approved and we could move to the VFW National Home. That moment was breathtaking,” recalled Shereen.

The family survived one disaster only to be plunged into the Covid pandemic with the rest of the world. But tucked safely into the VFW National Home’s Minnesota house, they quietly moved forward taking advantage of their newfound opportunity despite the shut-down.

The support from the Home enabled the couple and their two children to rebuild their lives as Peter continued to work at the temporary base as well as take classes to qualify him for future promotions. Shereen took college courses toward a nursing degree and the couple paid off debts, saved money, and even participated in counseling to strengthen their marriage.

Eventually when the Covid threat decreased, Ezekiel began attending the Early Education Center on campus and Ariana joined longtime staffer Rhonda Kennedy for piano lessons.

“The EEC has some very special teachers that helped Ezekiel to be more independent and confident and Ariana valued her time with Rhonda,” said Shereen.

Shereen’s extensive list of the merits of living at the VFW National Home include their caseworker Naomi McClurg, Cootie Christmases, the Donated Goods Bank, and caring staff who took an interest in her children.

“The VFW felt like a family to us. We are Caribbean people living around people of different cultures and traditions and we were welcomed, accepted, and loved,” she said.

“They were a very hardworking family with their eyes on their goals and they worked hard to make them happen despite all they had to overcome,” said McClurg.

Recently the VFW National Home staff bid goodbye to the family who was well prepared to be on their own.  They purchased their own home in Georgia where Shereen and the children will live while Peter is back at the St. Croix base newly promoted and working until his nearing retirement.

“The VFW National Home helped us tremendously. We achieved goals that we couldn’t have without the program. We are very grateful for all the donors and everyone who has and is still contributing to making this program possible,” expressed Shereen.

“They do the work and we just provide the opportunity,” added McClurg.

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