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A bucket list vacation with an unexpected twist



Imagine planning a bucket list vacation, doing something that you have dreamed about for years, and you were finally going to make it a reality. This Texas couple did just that. Their bucket list vacation started gloriously and was perfect in every fashion, except for Hurricane Irma.

A Perfect Digital-detox Vacation

It had been a dream of Doug and Tonya Davenports for many years to rent a self-captained sailboat and explore the warm tropical waters of the Caribbean. Self-captaining a boat meant that they could go where they wanted when they wanted – relax, unwind, and unplug from their hectic lifestyle. A perfect digital-detox vacation.

It was just as they imagined until they were caught in the direct path of Hurricane Irma trapped on St. Thomas. The eye of Irma passed almost directly over top of them, they survived in part by remembering their idyllic dream vacation and with the help of the welcoming residents of St. Thomas.

The Davenports

I sat down with Doug and Tonya on a warm afternoon in October and listened intently as they recounted their once in a lifetime tale of adventure, survival, and human compassion.

I asked them if booking their vacation during hurricane season was a concern for them.

Tonya replied, no. They had taken vacations before during hurricane season. Encountering a hurricane can be a significant drawback, there are positive aspects of vacationing during that time of year.

“August thru November is the offseason for warmer destinations because of hurricanes, so costs are usually significantly less,” replies Tonya.  “Also, many people don’t travel during that time, so there are no crowds.” Tonya says, “in terms of sailing that meant that we had entire bays to ourselves. Being able to snorkel and dive among coral reefs without crowds was amazing. Fewer people is more important to us than threats of a possible hurricane”.

The Call

On the fifth day of their bucket-list vacation they received a call from the charter office – return to port, a hurricane is approaching. They returned to port in Tortola in time to catch the last ferry to St. Thomas but not in time to make the flight out of St. Thomas to the U.S. mainland. They were going to have to weather the storm in a hotel along side other tourists seeking shelter.

“We watched it from our balcony window,” Doug says as Tonya holds his hand, “it was like a six-hour tornado. I stood there off and on for six hours trying to stabilize the sliding glass doors that were bowing so much from the 165-mile hour winds that I could slide my hand through the seams of the two doors.”

When asked if they were concerned for their safety, Tonya responded, “Having never gone through something like that, we didn’t know enough to be scared. We asked the management, how do we handle this?” They said, “don’t open your doors. This building has been here for 29 years with minimal damage from other hurricanes. We will be fine.”

“We sat in the room, well our friends and I sat, Doug stood at the door,” teases Tonya. “There was a distinct lack of information about the hurricane and St. Thomas. The usual places I go to for news and weather just skimmed over St. Thomas. Everything was about Florida”.

With an edge of frustration, Tonya said she pulled up a radar app on her phone to watch the progression of the hurricane. “We saw our blue location dot and a rainbow of colors swirling toward us. We watched as the 400-mile wide hurricane came at us. We were guessing how much time we had – then we lost power.”

The Eye Passes

“In hindsight, this is pretty cool,” says Doug with a touch of engineers excitement, “As I watched the hurricane advance, I noticed a pattern in the waves. I remember hearing people talk about how winds change during a hurricane. I am watching, thinking about this, the waves first start coming from the north, then shift and start coming directly toward us, then they come from the south. I realized, it is not the winds that change, but rather it is the front, side, and back of the hurricane that I am seeing. It was an interesting revelation.”

Checking In

Shortly after that, the hotel management knocked on the door, going room to room checking to make sure all the guests were ok and took a quick inventory of the damage.

“As we walk out of our room and see the devastation that is left, we were astounded,” Doug says. “That morning the trees covering the hills were lush and green. Now they were barren. It looked like winter. Fallen trees made walkways impassable.”

Thankfully the hotel weathered the hurricane with just a few missing shingles, some broken glass, and the front door blew off its hinges. Other neighboring hotels and homes were not so lucky.

“That first evening after the hurricane passed,” Doug said, “we worked side by side with residents, in the rain, with 30 to 40-mph winds, using machetes to clear paths to get to other buildings and guests. We worked until dark.”

Tonya said, “I had never experienced the 80/20 Rule before where 20 percent of the people will lend assistance. We just survived a category five hurricane by the grace of God and Louie (the owner of Emerald Beach Resort), we have no idea when we will be rescued. There were people in their rooms lamenting about the situation. We could not do that. There was no way we could sit there and do nothing.”

Rolling Up Imaginary Sleeves

Doug comments. “We already felt helpless. We were in a situation with zero control. We could not wallow in our self-pity while other people were trying to piece together their shattered lives and destroyed homes.”

So what did they do? They rolled up their imaginary sleeves. They were in vacation clothes – shorts, t-shirts, and sundresses – and got to work cleaning up broken glass and lumber, debris washed in from the ocean, emptying damaged rooms to get them ready for repairs, and piles upon piles of trees and shrubs.

Louie continued to feed his guests three meals a day – without charging them. Doug said that all charges had stopped from the time they lost power. Later they learned that some resorts continued to charge their guests for meals and rooms even after the hurricane.

Doug described Louie as a saint. “He was kind and selfless, went out of his way to care for us as best he could under the circumstances. It was humbling and caused me to look inside myself. If I can learn anything from this mixed adventure, it is to be a better person, like Louie.”

Doug and Tonya did bring that home. They, along with other vacationers they met on St. Thomas, keep in contact with some of the resort’s employees through a Facebook page. There they learn what dire items are needed. Care packages are then put together in USPS flat rate boxes and sent over.

Tonya said, “When we were rescued, it pulled at my heartstrings knowing that we were returning to running water, air conditioning, a complete roof over our head, and a refrigerator full of food. The residents were so kind and helpful, neighbor helping neighbor. I can’t – I won’t forget that”

Please Help

Hurricanes were destructive in 2017. Thousands of people in St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and even here in Texas are still trying to rebuild their lives. Many are still without simple basics like electricity, clean water or batteries.

They need your help. Please help by donating cash, volunteering, or adopting a family in need. Visit these websites to help a community in USVI, Texas or Puerto Rico.


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Get Involved:
Improving the Plight of Homeless Animals



Submitted by Cindy Castle, President, (nonpaid), of Easy Street Animal Shelter

Animal shelter or animal rescue. Two terms that are often compared and confused. Depending on where you look, they can be defined differently. For example, one issue that can change the definition or work of a shelter or rescue is whether the facility is a government funded or non-profit organization. When it comes down to it, they all have the same mission, to find forever homes for previously homeless animals.

A homeless animal can be one that was a stray, relinquished by their owner, abandoned or impounded, and the general health of the animals can vary. No matter what issues there may be, most animal welfare groups will do all they can to improve their health. While many organizations provide full vetting, including vaccinations, preventative medications, microchips and sterilization, the laws concerning these medical procedures are not required for animals to be released from the organization. There are laws concerning rabies vaccinations and sterilization, but many times, those important issues are not completed by the releasing organization and are left for the new owner to complete. Let’s take a quick review of the laws in place.

To read more, pick up a copy of the March/April issue of LiveIt Magazine. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.

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Meals on Wheels: Serving the Senior Residents of North Texas



One of the largest and most well-known nonprofit organizations serving the senior residents of North Texas is Meals on Wheels, but what these volunteers do is so much more than provide a meal.

Meals on Wheels America operates in almost every community in the country to help prevent senior hunger and isolation. It was all began by a small group of citizens in Philadelphia back in 1954 as a caring idea to help out neighbors.

It has since grown into one of the largest movements in the United States of America. In fact, according to the organization, millions of volunteers across the country enable 221 million meals to be delivered to 2.4 million seniors each year. It is the oldest and largest national organization that provides funding, leadership, research, education and advocacy support to empower its local member programs to strengthen their communities, one senior at a time.

To read more, pick up a copy of the January/February issue of LiveIt Magazine. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.

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Good Works: Don’t Forget to Feed Me



Don’t Forget to Feed Me is a nonprofit organization in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex focused on supplying pet food to local agencies in support of pet owners. Its statement of vision reads as follows: “Don’t Forget to Feed Me Pet Food Bank envisions a community in which all pet owners are able to feed their pets.” By providing pet food for those in need during challenging financial times, the organization offers an alternative to surrendering or abandoning family pets.

It all began with the economic crisis of 2008. Many faced extreme hardships and unfortunately were forced to choose between feeding their family or their pet. Two local women stepped up to help those in need with the goal of helping keep pets with their families. A committee was formed, and working through the Tarrant Area Food Bank, DF2FM was created with an inaugural Valentine pet food drive in February 2009.

To read morepick up a copy of the November/December issue of LiveIt magazine. To subscribe, call 940-872-2076.

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