Dallas real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist Gene E. Phillips offered his private plane for a humanitarian flight to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands recently. St. Thomas was damaged by Category 5 Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean.
The flight was the first nonmilitary large aircraft to land on the island since before the storm, a press release stated. The final 300-mile approach to the island was made without air traffic control assistance.
“Once we received notice that the flight was approved, we had 72 hours to coordinate donation items to fill the plane,” stated Don Phillips, brother of Gene Phillips, in a press release. “I enlisted the help of a few coworkers, and by Monday night we had 10,000 pounds of cargo.”
Michael Garrett, is the CEO and founder of Trusted World. His response and turnaround time was less than 24 hours; his organization donated pallets of baby items, cleaning supplies, general hygiene products, flashlights and batteries.
The Hart family of Arlington and the Dwyer family of Dallas also provided a truck full of water and food. Three firefighters helped unload the plane at St. Thomas’s Cyril E. King Airport.
“They were shocked at the amount of useful items that we had carried in, and commented on how much thought had gone into what was sent,” stated Joanna McDonald, a flight attendant, in the release. “While unloading, we learned that the firefighters didn’t have much of what they needed either. They didn’t even have toothpaste. There was much excitement and a couple of tears when we shared some of the necessities with them and pulled any extra cokes and snacks off of the plane for them to have.”
In total, the effort was able to bring 21 people from St. Thomas to Atlanta and Dallas. Several passengers were in St. Thomas after Hurricane Irma to help with infrastructure repairs, insurance claim assistance, and general relief when they got stranded due to Hurricane Maria. The other passengers were all St. Thomas residents who lost everything in the storm and were leaving to live with relatives. One special passenger needed immediate evacuation to be able to continue her much needed medical treatments.
“I was happy to lend my resources to get much needed donations to the people of St. Thomas,” stated Gene Phillips. “We were also approved to help people leave the island. Our ability to transport people otherwise unable to leave was such an honor. St. Thomas and its residents still need so much relief and support.”