WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Vivian St. Juste knows a thing or two about withstanding and recovering from hurricanes and she’s using that knowledge in her new job in Wilmington.
St. Juste, the new executive director of the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence, was on WECT’s News Now Friday afternoon to discuss the job she started on Monday and her history of handling personal and professional business during and after a hurricane.
In 2017, Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the Virgin Islands in a 12-day span. St. Juste stayed with an elderly cousin during the storms and found a desolate scene when she walked three miles back to her once the weather improved.
“Nothing that looked like life was left,” said St. Juste, a UNCW graduate who was the executive director of a family resource center in the Virgin Islands for nine years before returning to Wilmington. "There wasn’t a green leaf on a tree. Then I found a potted plant tucked behind two walls and it had flowers on it. It was the first sign of life I had seen in like five days. It was so amazing to me.
"We endured. Being involved in agency recovery efforts took my mind off my situation."
Although she's only been on the job at BRC for a week, St. Juste said she has been impressed with local efforts to help families recover from Hurricane Florence and the remnants of Hurricane Michael that hit southeastern North Carolina in the last month.
BRC serves families in a 140 square block of North Wilmington known as the Youth Enrichment Zone.
"It's a measure of preventing violence and providing support they would otherwise not have," St. Juste said. "We make direct contact with youth and their families.
“(BRC) took a lead, joining hands with other organizations in providing relief support (after Florence). ... I applaud them for that. Seeing the agency that I was about to join taking a lead role in hurricane relief was impressive to me.”