Mike Jackson has turned his grief over the loss of his father into a legacy of action.
Jackson has pledged 1,000 volunteers to assist with hurricane recovery efforts in 2018 in his father’s memory. With the help of Mountain Christian Church in Edgewood, Md., he is steadily nearing his goal.
Jackson’s father, Maurice Jackson, was a Virgin Islands Daily News team member for many years. His death was a direct result of Hurricane Maria.
“This started with my dad’s passing away during Maria and the family coming down to lay him to rest,” said Jackson. “I witnessed the destruction, and seeing it firsthand, it’s definitely a different scene.”
When he returned to his home, he heard about the hurricane relief initiative started by Mountain Christian Church, of which he is a longtime member. They set a goal of sending 1,000 volunteers to U.S. areas affected by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2018.
“I saw that they included Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico, and I was shocked that they didn’t include the Virgin Islands. After making my church leadership aware of how badly the USVI was affected and reminding them that my dad had died as a direct result of Maria, they were happy to include the V.I. I quickly volunteered to spearhead the effort, which will specifically focus on St. Thomas.”
To start up this initiative, he sought the help of Bishop Edward Gumbs, an old Navy buddy of Jackson’s father and the officiate at his funeral.
Bishop Gumbs coordinated with James Rollins, a representative of Episcopal Relief and Development, which provides relief assistance all over the world. Working with Episcopal Relief and Development, Bishop Gumbs and his staff at the Diocese of the Virgin Islands provide the Mountain Christian Church volunteers with housing and transportation during their stay.
After an assessment visit in early in the year, the first team was sent to St. Thomas for a week in March. Since then, small teams of 10 to 12 volunteers have been sent to St. Thomas nearly every month. Volunteers have worked primarily with My Brother’s Workshop and, on occasion, with All Hands and Hearts.
Projects have ranged from home renovations to yard cleanups to beach cleanup projects sponsored by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
All of the teams have volunteered on St. Thomas with the exception of the July team, which volunteered on St. Croix.
Jackson co-coordinates the overall effort from Maryland, but returned with the team scheduled for September.
“It was important for me to personally lead a mission trip during the week of September 20th to mark the anniversary of Maria’s battering of the island and Daddy’s subsequent passing on that day,” said Jackson. “Leading this churchwide initiative is my way of helping my hometown recover, rebuilding my island and honoring my father’s legacy and memory.”