Cruise brings cargo of books to Virgin Islands children

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ST. CROIX - A small group of smiling children from the Boys and Girls Club of St. Croix stood proxy for children across the island Tuesday as passengers from the Carnival Valor cruise ship donated more than 2,000 books to the community.

Fran Geocaris, who welcomed the group on behalf of the St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, said the association is about more than just working towards finding ways to raise hotel occupancy on the island, but it is also about making improvements any way it can to help the community.

The group of passengers were a part of Blue World Travel Agency's "Festival At Sea," which caters primarily to African-American passengers and has been cruising and donating books to 10 Caribbean nations, in South Africa and Hawaii.

This year the group chose St. Croix as its community service destination.

Peggy Taylor, onboard communication officer with Blue World Travel Agency, said she was thrilled to be a representative of the caring passengers aboard the ship. She said everyone was excited to get out and see what the island had to offer, but they also were invested in their responsibility to share the books with the children of St. Croix. She said each of the passengers was asked to purchase at least one book to donate when they booked their trips.

"We have passengers from all across the United States, the United Kingdom and Barbados, and we are grateful to be able to share these great gifts of knowledge, inspiration and what can happen next with these children," she said.

Patricia Yarbrough, president and owner of Blue World Travel Agency, said the group has been in place for more than 20 years, and their group members take their efforts seriously. She said each of the passengers has placed information inside the books that includes their name, city and state, and they believe that it is important that the children realize the importance of sharing even with people you do not know.

St. Croix School Superintendent Gary Molloy echoed the sentiments on lessons of sharing and said the books will serve the island's children through the department's early literacy initiative, the governor's summer reading challenge program and through other literacy initiatives in the district.

"This is certainly a great lesson in gratitude for our children to see that people that know nothing about them picked out these great books for them," he said.

Chantel Figueroa, acting Tourism commissioner, said she was an avid reader as a child and realizes the many doors that reading opens up. She thanked the organization for choosing St. Croix as a destination and for choosing the islands' children with whom to share their gifts of books and reading.

She encouraged the visitors to enjoy the food and music of the island and to be sure to come back with more of their friends and family at a later date. Figueroa also extended a special invitation to the cruise ship passengers to return to the territory in 2017 for the celebration of 100 years under the American flag.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email

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