Kenny Chesney knew, as the texts and pictures started filling up his cell phone, he was going to do everything in his power to help the Virgin Islands. Immediately setting up the Love for Love City Fund, Chesney began cutting through red tape, helping get supplies in and people off the islands. Indeed, one of the first planes most people saw after the storm was dispatched by Chesney.
“The destruction was too much,” Chesney allows, “and there were too many other places that were hurting. When I realized the help that had to happen, I did what I could to facilitate getting things done. But even more powerful to me were the people of the No Shoes Nation, who stepped up and gave what they could. They showed me how people come together in times of crisis to lift up people they don’t even know.”
That support added up to seven figures – and helped provide generators, medical supplies, food, water, tarps, tools, transport, shipping and workers to fulfill specific needs. The difference was substantial. Not only was Chesney able to airlift people – and abandoned animals – off the island, but his Love for Love City has had a hand in rebuilding the islands, from a water treatment machine to park clearing/clean-up, solar lights to replace ones that were torn out of the ground, instruments for the St John School of the Arts and school supplies.
Recovery is going to take years, not months. Knowing that his life evolved and songwriting shifted in the Caribbean, it seemed appropriate the 8-time Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year would turn to songwriting for solace and inspiration. Writing “Songs for the Saints” as Irma was blowing in, followed by “Love for Love City” two days later, he realized music could be a way to give back for years to come.
“I didn’t necessarily have ‘a plan,’ but these songs needed to be written,” Chesney recalls. “And a friend said, ‘You should call the album Songs for the Saints, make it something that honors the people and the life on those islands, but also provides for them long after what happened has fallen off the news cycle.’ It hit me, that was what I was already doing and hadn’t realized it.”
With every ask being vetted through Chesney’s Love for Love City Fund, the songwriter is working hard to make sure the money is truly going to the island to help restore lives, rebuild houses and create park restoration that will endure rather than merely patching the holes. “In the Virgin Islands and the other surrounding islands, there is so much more to the needs than just materials. It’s going to take time, careful thought and making some good decisions. It’s an education, but it’s also part of doing this in a way that will matter.”
Beyond selling Love for Love City t-shirts and hats at every tour stop, Songs for the Saints will raise money for the continued Virgin Island recovery and restoration. As Chesney says, “I never in the world thought I’d talk to FEMA people, but every day, there was a new problem to solve. I’ve never made a record in the middle of such chaos and anxiety, but I took every bit of that into the studio – and you can hear it in the vocals. Looking back, what a beautiful way to make a record for people I love so much. And now, I can give that music back to them in a way that makes a difference.”
The Love for Love City Fund:
The Fund will support and give to local and national 501c3 charities aligned with our mission of getting relief where it’s needed, immediately and ongoing in the Virgin Islands. Love for Love City Foundation is a fund of Renaissance Charitable Foundation Inc, a 501(c )3 publicly supported charity registered with the IRS. Contributions can be made at: http://www.loveforlovecity.org