Silverthorne couple works to bring relief to Bahamian village

Arial view of Pelican Point following Hurricane Dorian.
Associated Press

SILVERTHORNE — Years ago, Silverthorne couple Susan Rubin-Stewart and Calvin Stewart fell in love with a small community on Grand Bahama called Pelican Point. As Summit County residents of about 34 years, they were looking for a tropical place to fish, scuba dive and escape “shoulder season” and found Pelican Point to have more full-time residents than vacationers. 

“We just really fell in love with the community,” said Susan. “It’s not a big vacationer’s place, they’re just really welcoming and we decided to buy there because of the community.”

Two years ago, the Stewarts made the decision and bought a vacation home in the Bahamas. They were able to afford the expensive homeowner’s insurance, as did the owners of the other two vacation homes in Pelican Point. However, the 20-plus local homeowners did not have insurance.

To say Pelican Point was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian is an understatement. As reported by the Washington Post, Pelican Point withstood over 25 hours in the eyewall of the hurricane with five hours consisting of Category 5 winds. The village was left devastated and without basic needs such as freshwater and electricity.

“The closest town is 50 minutes away and that’s now doubled with all the (debris),” said Elissa Stewart, Calvin’s daughter and Susan’s stepdaughter, who grew up in Silverthorne. “With them being an island, they also don’t get a lot of government help.”

In order for the Stewarts to try and help their friends in the Bahamas with the resources available, they have started a GoFundMe page to buy the supplies needed. Calvin left on Saturday to travel to Pelican Point and help rebuild.

“Calvin’s been a builder in Summit County for about 25 years. So we’re trying to raise money to help them rebuild the village because they have no money. Calvin has the skills. So we really need money for materials, equipment and gas for big machines to remove the rubble,” said Susan.

Aside from rebuilding homes, there are several urgent needs that need to be met. Fresh water, for example, is currently unavailable as the water tower was destroyed. Another immediate need is to fix the local church in order to build a community center where people can get fresh water, wash their clothes, cook using gas stoves since the power is still out, gather and sleep if needed. 

Calvin went first to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he bought tools and supplies including a generator, compressor, nails, guns, tarps and other basic supplies. On Sunday, he traveled to Pelican Point by ferry, bringing the tools with him. The couple fears that the village will not receive proper relief aid, which is one reason they have taken their own action.

“It’s a very small community that is going to get overlooked by the big fundraising groups and rescue organizations because it’s just such a small village,” said Susan.

Of course, the main reason the Stewart’s have dropped everything to help is because of the friendships they have formed within the close community, which Susan compared to Summit County when it was less populated.

“It’s like Summit County was when we first moved here, just such a tight knit community. It would be like if Summit County burned down,” said Susan. “We bought there really just because of the people. They’re just wonderful and warm and welcome. These are their primary homes, they don’t have anywhere else to live, right now they’re just dispersed among extended family. It was very traumatizing for these people.”

For those who would like to learn more about the Stewart’s efforts and donate to their cause, visit their GoFundMe page. Susan also said that Calvin will be spending most of the winter in Pelican Point helping to rebuild the community and anyone who is willing to volunteer to help is encouraged to join in rebuilding efforts. 

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