For several days earlier this month, Brenda Simmons was riveted to her television, obsessively watching weather reports as Hurricane Irma, a powerful category 5 storm, barreled its way toward the Caribbean.

The Southampton Village resident had something personal at stake—her second home.

Ms. Simmons, who owns a timeshare in St. Martin and also has an apartment that she uses more often there, watched from her house in Southampton as the storm moved closer and closer to her home-away-from-home. On September 6, the eye of Hurricane Irma passed over the small island that sits about 190 miles east of Puerto Rico, bringing with it a massive storm surge and winds in excess of 175 mph.

Ms. Simmons, who has been visiting St. Martin for 10 years, said that once the storm made landfall, all communications with her friends on the island were cut off. For three to four days, she said, it was torture not knowing what happened to the island. She said she was on the internet nearly 24 hours a day and praying that her friends and family had survived.

Finally, Ms. Simmons said, she was able to get in touch with a person doing a live internet feed from a hotel in Philipsburg on St. Martin. The hotel was partially destroyed and operating on a backup generator. The live feed provided reports on daily activities and first-hand videos and pictures of the destruction.

Ms. Simmons said the pictures and videos showed that, in less than 24 hours, the “beautiful island” was transformed into a “war zone filled with streets of rubble” and cars piled on top of each other. Roofs were ripped away from homes, buildings were toppled and the streets were flooded.

After seeing the devastation, Ms. Simmons began making efforts to pull together medical supplies, clothes and food to send down to St. Martin, with the hope that she can help the island and its residents recover.

“I’ve been on a mission to find a way to get the much-needed medical supplies, first and foremost, to Saint Martin, as well as the other donations,” Ms. Simmons said on Monday. “This is a personal labor of love, but it has been very challenging.”

Ms. Simmons explained that she has been in contact with multiple shipping companies in search of a way to get the supplies to the island. Some efforts have fallen flat, while others have led to a solution.

One company suggested by a friend seemed like a possible solution until she learned that the supplies would not arrive for at least a month. On Monday morning, Ms. Simmons finally found a better alternative.

As long as Ms. Simmons can make arrangements that her barrels filled with supplies can be picked up from a local business, a shipping company called FreightCenter will pick them up and take them to Miami for $400. Then, a company called Four Star will fly the barrels to St. Martin in two days, for another $611.

“That’s for three barrels,” Ms. Simmons said.

Ms. Simmons said she purchased the three blue 55-gallon plastic drums from the Key Food grocery store in Middle Island, and intends to fill them with medical supplies, clothes, diapers and nonperishable foods like beans and coconut milk. So far, she’s received a variety of medical supplies from Robert Chaloner, the CEO of the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, and Bob Grisnik, owner of Southrifty Drug in Southampton Village. She’s also received help from other Southampton residents who visit St. Martin regularly.

Mr. Grisnik said his family has been going to its timeshare in St. Martin since 1990, and he has formed a number of relationships with its inhabitants.

“When [Ms. Simmons] said she was getting a few things together, we supplied a few hundred dollars’ worth of medical supplies,” said Mr. Grisnik, who added that the supplies could be used in a surgical room. “We had to help because of our connection to the area.”

Last week, Ms. Simmons received an urgent call from a friend, whom she did not identify, who thought she was still in St. Martin. After assuring the person that she was okay, Ms. Simmons said, they discussed ways to rally support and deliver as many supplies as possible to the Caribbean island.

One way or another, Ms. Simmons said, the goods will make it to St. Martin, and she’s thankful she found an air travel option for the barrels. She is now looking for someone she can trust to pick up the barrels in St. Martin so that once there, they can be distributed to those in need.

She said if anyone is interested in donating goods or money, they can contact her at

Ms. Simmons said her current focus is trying to secure some cash donations to help cover the cost of sending the barrels. But she added that she is determined to see her effort to completion, regardless of cost.

“Now the mission is to get funding,” she said. “If people want to give, great. If not, I’ll pay for it myself.”



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