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Sunday, January 29, 2023



Oct. 30, 2001 — Chuck Ulrich knows what the restorative powers of St. Croix's calm beauty can do for frazzled nerves. So after watching New York City firefighters deal with the carnage wrought by terrorists on the World Trade Center, Ulrich, the owner of an Internet-based travel agency, knew what he had to do.
His agency, Bluewater Travel, focuses on bringing people to St. Croix by booking them at hotels and vacation villas. Why not bring some of the New York City firefighters who provided rescue efforts during the initial stages of the attack down for a little free R-and-R, he thought.
"It's fun when you take someone who is burnt out from working and traveling to a villa and they look out at the view and the beauty of St. Croix and just say, 'Wow,'" Ulrich said. "They are not people with a lot of money to spend; they are people who need a vacation and need to get away. If anyone ever needed to get away. it is these firemen."
To make the "wow" happen, Ulrich and Marti Gotts of Vacation St. Croix, another villa broker, have put together free vacation packages on St. Croix for the New York firefighters and their families. Ulrich said it started with the idea of a complete vacation package involving a five-night stay on St. Croix plus one-night stays on St. Thomas and St. John, as well as lunch and dinner.
To make things happen, Ulrich contacted the Family Crisis Center of the New York City Fire Department and told them about the available packages.
"They called me back and said that three families including five kids … wanted to come for Thanksgiving week," he said.
That meant more packages had to be added. Gotts then spoke with several villa owners and managed to get seven more. Victoria Finke, owner of Villa Margarita, also donated one of her suites.
There are now 12 packages, which can be viewed at http://www.st-croix.net/firemen.html.
The next step, Ulrich said, was to look for discounted or donated airfare, but he has had limited luck in this area.
"I was seeing airfares of over $500, and because they are families of up to five people, being able to get a donated fare for them was going to determine whether they would be able to come," he said. "I told my story to American Airlines, and they gave me a great fare to be used for this first group."
But still, it was expensive for the families. Hearing the call, Carl Gotts, Marti’s husband, said his company, Gotts Insurance, would donate the airfare for this first group of 13. Ulrich said he is now looking for donations to cover airfare for the remaining firemen who will receive the packages.
To handle donations, Ulrich talked to Roger Dewey, executive director of the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, which agreed to set up a fund. Ulrich said the effort can take any donation, no matter how small.
"I’m especially welcoming the smaller things that make a difference," he said, ranging from massages to taxi rides. "Here is a group of Americans helping Americans, and it’s more than just a hotel room."
To make a donation of goods or services or for information, e-mail Ulrich at bw@viaccess.net or call 340-773-1902.
To contribute toward airfare costs, please send or take donations to St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, 202 Chandlers Wharf Bldg., Gallows Bay, St. Croix VI 00820. Make checks payable to St. Croix Foundation (put "firemen's visit" in memo).

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