If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you’ve heard the name Charlotte Berglund. Lucky for me, she was one of the first people I met when I went to Anguilla in 1984 on a job assignment. In the story of my life, the kind and generous woman is a principal character.
Charlotte and her husband Dave lived a few hundred yards down the road from me at Corito. Together, they gave a great deal to Anguilla, which was a small island with many big needs. Dave was a veterinarian from the Chicago area. Charlotte was a registered nurse. Mostly, they gave to animals in need.
They also gave a lot to me.
When Dave passed away about four years ago, Charlotte stayed in Anguilla; the island had been her home for four decades. She set her mind to beginning the next stage of her life. At the time she was only 71-years old, and she was a larger than life character who still had plenty of life to live and still give. She continued to give it to Anguilla by helping with the Anguilla Food Bank, and by being an active player in the Anguilla Animal Rescue Foundation (AARF).
About six months ago Charlotte sold the home she and Dave had shared for many years at Seafeathers Bay. It had a pool, and it was a big villa; it was too much to maintain all by herself. With her sweet rescue dog Bambi and two cats, Charlotte moved into Nautilus Villa — she called it “The Pink House” — which was next door.
Charlotte had many, many friends; with some of them she made great progress converting the former rental into her new pink home. New windows, new paint, some other nice touch ups, and then BOOM! Hurricane Irma hit Anguilla on September 6th with a Category-5 fury — 185+ MPH sustained winds — that the island hadn’t seen in a century.
Charlotte, Bambi, and the cats, like just about everyone else in Anguilla, endured the storm and its ravaging destruction. If anything, you have to know that Anguilla and Anguillians are extremely durable and resilient. They’re like the abominable Bumble in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Bumbles bounce.
Of course, Irma continued on a path through the northeastern Caribbean, and devastated the British and U.S. Virgin Islands next. On the heels of Irma, it was Maria. Together, the islands took a one-two punch.
In the middle of it all, my wife Robin received an email from a company called Polkadog Bakery, which is based in Boston not too far from where we live. The pet food company-bakery had just started a fundraising effort for animals in need on many of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, which were hard hit by Irma and Maria.
Robin forwarded the email to me. In a tweet, I asked Polkadog to consider helping Anguilla, too. Polkadog responded immediately. Soon enough, a pallet of pet food was earmarked for animals in need in Anguilla. A couple of days later, Deb Suchman, Polkadog’s founder was coordinating an effort to get the pallet of food to Anguilla.
Deb and Polkadog were connected with the Anguilla Progressive Association of New York (APANY), who provided an address in New Jersey for Tropical Shipping. I connected with Charlotte via What’s App, because Anguilla was still mostly without power and phone service, and she connected with Suzie Donahue of AARF. Just like that, a generous, multi-handed effort was underway to get the food to Anguilla.
In another one of life’s greatest and unexpected curveballs, Charlotte suffered a stroke on November 2nd. Two weeks later she was air lifted from Anguilla to a hospital in Texas. Anguilla’s great friend and even greater caregiver passed peacefully on Thanksgiving Day surrounded by members of her family. She was 75-years old.
Earlier today, I was copied on an email from Suzie Donahue of AARF in Anguilla. It was addressed to Deb Suchman and her team at Polkadog, as well as myself.
Here it is:
Hello Deb, Gina & Gary, Great news - we were able to get your donation duty free and delivered to the shelter on Friday. I was able to distribute by contacting people who lived in specific villages on the island and knew people who might need dog/cat food more than others. I also distributed in the West End and Long Bay where I live. Those that I was able to help were very grateful and when I told them the food was a donation from Boston, one gentleman said "all the way from there!". I also gave the the bags that Charlotte requested to Larry who is staying at Charlotte's and will give to Claudette as she had requested. Additionally while delivering I found people with cats & dogs that need help with spay/neuter surgeries - so not only did your donation assist in feeding but also opened the conversation re the importance of spay & neuter! Finally when I mentioned your donation to a lady here from Boston she knew about Polkadog and she came by and picked up dog food to distribute to some homes she knew where the dogs needed help! I hope you all are as happy as I am with the results of your very generous and kind donation. Thank you for helping AARF to make things better for the dogs and cats of Anguilla. All my best, Suzie Donahue - AARF Shelter
In a mad, mad, mad, mad world, I wanted to share this story because it’s easy to get lost in the discomforting dark and cold murkiness of madness. As this story shows, it’s just as easy to find yourself in the comforting warmth, light, and clarity of kindness, if you care enough to let others in.
Thank you Polkadog Bakery for your kindness and generosity.
Rest in Peace Charlotte, our kind and generous friend.
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