As hurricane relief efforts from Irma and Maria continue in the Caribbean, Offshore Passages Opportunities (OPO), the largest crew networking service in North America, is using the power of its membership to make a difference in St. Maarten and Dominica. Through its Friends of St. Maarten Relief Fund and Caribbean Mooring Field Development Foundation, OPO has raised almost $30,000 in funds that will be used 100% toward recovery on the islands, and organized the Irma Relief Crew for St. Maarten Recovery program to provide “boots on the ground” assistance.
“For OPO members, St. Maarten and Dominica are not just beautiful places to visit,” said OPO Founder Hank Schmitt. “They are places we identify as our ‘other homes,’ where we know the locals by name and have identified ways to give back to their communities. They have become family.” St. Maarten traditionally is a destination for OPO’s annual North American Rally to the Caribbean (NARC), which recently departed from Newport, RI, while Dominica – which took a direct hit from Maria a week after Irma devastated St. Maarten – was the first beneficiary of OPO’s mooring field concept, which creates a means of revenue for island residents.
Schmitt started the Friends of St. Maarten Relief Fund to raise money for St. Maarten and shortly thereafter broadened the Caribbean Mooring Field Development Foundation’s mission to raise money for Dominica. Schmitt says that OPO volunteers, who already have begun sailing relief supplies to the Caribbean on their own boats or as crew on others, can also volunteer to help with rebuilding efforts this winter. “OPO may not have enough members available to handle the needs, so we have started a free signup list for anyone who wants to stay in touch with us about the plans.” For more information, contact Schmitt at 1-800-4-PASSAGe or visit sailopo.com.
Barby MacGowan at Media Pro International contributed to this report.