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HELP NEEDED TO BRING FDNY FAMILIES TO STX

Dec. 18, 2001 — St. Croix resident Chuck Ulrich may not look like Santa Claus, but to more than two dozen New York City firefighters and their families he sure does.
Ulrich is the driving force behind the effort to bring firefighters who grappled with the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center to St. Croix for a little rest and relaxation. But if Ulrich is Santa, he now needs the help of many, many elves.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, five firefighters and their families — a total of 22 people — were guests of Ulrich, owner of Blue Water Travel, a St. Croix-based villa-brokering firm, and a host of other island businesses and residents. Among a bevy of activities, the firefighters were feted at a Jump-up Street Festival in Christiansted, boat trips to Buck Island and dinners around the island.
The idea to offer some R-and-R to the men came after Ulrich watched the events of Sept. 11 and the subsequent rescue efforts unfold on television. Ulrich decided to put together a vacation package of a donated villa and other perks for a firefighter and spouse. He told Marti Gotts of Vacation St. Croix, another villa broker, about his plans and she got several more villas donated.
Ulrich then contacted the Family Crisis Center of the New York City Fire Department and told them about the available packages. Response was immediate, and the Thanksgiving visit was a unqualified success.
But the list of firefighters who want to come to the island didn't’t end there. Ulrich said Monday that he has 25 firefighters set to visit St. Croix between now and next November. Counting family members, there will be some 85 people visiting.
As with the first group during Thanksgiving, airfares are proving to be the most difficult obstacle to over come.
"We raised the funds to bring down the first group," Ulrich said. "Now we need to do it again. The only expense is airfare and American Airlines came through for us with a deep discounted fare of $300 per person for the firefighters and their families."
Carl Gotts, Marti’s husband and owner of Gotts Insurance, donated the airfares for the first group of families, which even at the discounted rate, were too much for a family of five to afford. While the V.I. Department of Tourism is covering the airfare for the 25 firefighters coming down over the next several months, there is still a need for donations for family members. And that is were Santa Ulrich is looking for the help of some elves.
"We have the villas ready to accept guests," Marti Gotts, owner of Vacation St. Croix, said. "We just need to get them here."
Anyone interested in contributing toward airfare costs can send or take donations to the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, 202 Chandlers Wharf Building, Gallows Bay, St. Croix VI 00820. Checks can be made payable to St. Croix Foundation and write "firemen's visit" on the memo line.
"We just found that with the first group down here, the family thing is what really made it," Ulrich said. "Because they have been so busy, you could see it was really nice for them to get together with their family members."
For more information on the effort to bring the firefighters and their familes to St. Croix, click on www.st-croix.net/firemen.html.

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Dec. 18, 2001 -- St. Croix resident Chuck Ulrich may not look like Santa Claus, but to more than two dozen New York City firefighters and their families he sure does.
Ulrich is the driving force behind the effort to bring firefighters who grappled with the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center to St. Croix for a little rest and relaxation. But if Ulrich is Santa, he now needs the help of many, many elves.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, five firefighters and their families -- a total of 22 people -- were guests of Ulrich, owner of Blue Water Travel, a St. Croix-based villa-brokering firm, and a host of other island businesses and residents. Among a bevy of activities, the firefighters were feted at a Jump-up Street Festival in Christiansted, boat trips to Buck Island and dinners around the island.
The idea to offer some R-and-R to the men came after Ulrich watched the events of Sept. 11 and the subsequent rescue efforts unfold on television. Ulrich decided to put together a vacation package of a donated villa and other perks for a firefighter and spouse. He told Marti Gotts of Vacation St. Croix, another villa broker, about his plans and she got several more villas donated.
Ulrich then contacted the Family Crisis Center of the New York City Fire Department and told them about the available packages. Response was immediate, and the Thanksgiving visit was a unqualified success.
But the list of firefighters who want to come to the island didn't’t end there. Ulrich said Monday that he has 25 firefighters set to visit St. Croix between now and next November. Counting family members, there will be some 85 people visiting.
As with the first group during Thanksgiving, airfares are proving to be the most difficult obstacle to over come.
"We raised the funds to bring down the first group," Ulrich said. "Now we need to do it again. The only expense is airfare and American Airlines came through for us with a deep discounted fare of $300 per person for the firefighters and their families."
Carl Gotts, Marti’s husband and owner of Gotts Insurance, donated the airfares for the first group of families, which even at the discounted rate, were too much for a family of five to afford. While the V.I. Department of Tourism is covering the airfare for the 25 firefighters coming down over the next several months, there is still a need for donations for family members. And that is were Santa Ulrich is looking for the help of some elves.
"We have the villas ready to accept guests," Marti Gotts, owner of Vacation St. Croix, said. "We just need to get them here."
Anyone interested in contributing toward airfare costs can send or take donations to the St. Croix Foundation for Community Development, 202 Chandlers Wharf Building, Gallows Bay, St. Croix VI 00820. Checks can be made payable to St. Croix Foundation and write "firemen's visit" on the memo line.
"We just found that with the first group down here, the family thing is what really made it," Ulrich said. "Because they have been so busy, you could see it was really nice for them to get together with their family members."
For more information on the effort to bring the firefighters and their familes to St. Croix, click on www.st-croix.net/firemen.html.