HOVENSA donates equipment to schools and nonprofits
Published: August 2, 2012
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ST. CROIX - For Juanita Gardine Elementary School principal Chermaine Hobson-Johnson, it was just a little bit like Christmas on Friday.
"It was the best Christmas Day in July ever," Hobson-Johnson said. "It was good."
On Friday, Juanita Gardine was among a number of other local schools and nonprofits that benefitted in recent weeks from HOVENSA giving them a variety of items - ranging from office furniture and supplies to CPR training dummies and air-conditioning units - that the former refinery no longer needs.
HOVENSA suspended making money donations to local charities after its Jan. 18 announcement that it planned to cease refining operations and convert into a petroleum storage facility.
But recently, the company provided another sort of donation.
"We knew we were not going to need all the resources we had. As a way to transition, we came up with the idea of, 'Let's donate,'" said David Roznowski, who was spokesman for HOVENSA when The Daily News interviewed him for this report on Monday, his last day with the company.
HOVENSA saw donating excess office furniture, equipment and office supplies as one way "we can help ease the transition for our community partners," Roznowski said in a prepared statement.
Even though HOVENSA did not make an announcement about the donations, word spread rapidly among schools and nonprofits on the island.
"While I received requests from more than 50 organizations, with the short time to execute this program, a priority was put on supporting education and social service programs that would benefit the most needy areas of our community," Roznowski said.
A number of public and private schools, along with nonprofits, such as the American Red Cross, the Animal Welfare Center and Ten Thousand Helpers, were among a large number of organizations that received donated items.
The items varied, depending on the organization and its needs. All organizations got office supplies, Roznowski said.
Among the more unusual donations were CPR training dummies for the St. Croix Dolphins and beds and mattresses from the "Man Camp" at the refinery to Lutheran Social Services and The Village, Roznowski said. The "Man Camp" was a self-contained camp behind the HOVENSA training school where workers brought in for turnarounds - when the refinery shut down units to conduct major maintenance - were housed temporarily, he said.
Hobson-Johnson said she had heard about the giveaway and wanted Juanita Gardine to get in on it. Ultimately, she contacted Roznowski, who told her she needed to write a letter.
"Juanita Gardine is in one of the poorest areas of this island. I told him about the plight of the school and what we're trying to do," Hobson-Johnson said. "It's a school in need. We're really trying to get Juanita Gardine back at the top. There's a lot of facility issues and a lot of broken equipment."
Hobson-Johnson also would like to add some new elements to the school, such as a parent center, she said.
She told Roznowski about some of the items the school would like to have, including a refrigerator and microwave for the parent center.
On Friday, she and some staff from the V.I. Education Department went to HOVENSA to meet with Roznowski and pick up the items.
"He took us to maybe six different areas, where he told us to walk around, and if you see anything you want, take it,'" Hobson-Johnson said. "He said, 'Tell me what you're taking, but take it.'"
At one point, after they had picked out some office supplies, Roznowski questioned whether they had enough and encouraged them to go back for more, Hobson-Johnson said.
"It was really, really awesome," she said.
The items Juanita Gardine received included metal filing cabinets, bookcases, chairs for classrooms, trash cans, desks for students, picnic tables, conference tables, a printer, a refrigerator, a microwave, surge protectors and office supplies, she said.
Some of the office supplies will be shared with Charles Emmanuel Elementary School, she said.
While HOVENSA had not yet put a dollar value on the items donated, Roznowski said it was "easily over $75,000."
Vehicles were one of the most requested items, but they were not given away, he said.
HOVENSA is planning to auction off the vehicles - including cars, trucks and passenger vans - that comprised the refinery's fleet to recoup some of the lost revenue of the last three years, Roznowski said.
The vehicles will be offered first to employees and former employees and then to charitable organizations and finally to the public, he said.
HOVENSA is planning a series of vehicle, furniture and equipment auctions during the next six to 12 months, but the details still are being worked out, he said.
Once details are in place, HOVENSA will communicate and advertise "as appropriate to notify the public of any auctions," he said.
The donations of equipment and supplies to nonprofits are complete for now, Roznowski said. HOVENSA maintains a list of other organizations that made requests and should the resources and manpower become available, those organizations will be contacted, he said.