Thanks to a new initiative introduced by the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) in January, students facing food insecurity, financial hardship and other challenges will receive the support they need through the Essential Needs Pantry.   

This collaborative effort between the Division of Student Affairs and sponsored by six chapters of the Eastern Area, The Links, Incorporated (Eastern Area Links), will offer a range of resources including food assistance, personal care items, and various supplies to address the immediate needs of both residential and commuter students. 

“UVI is committed to ensuring that every student has access to the tools, resources and support needed to fulfill their academic aspirations. The Essential Needs Pantry symbolizes our dedication to educate, nurture, and empower our students in every aspect of their lives, allowing them to focus on applying themselves fully to their studies,” said University President Dr. David Hall. 

Under the direction of Dr. Colvin T. Georges, Jr., dean of Students at the Albert A. Sheen Campus, and Dr. Leslyn Tonge, interim dean of Students, Orville E. Kean Campus, the student pantry initiatives were launched on Jan. 17, 2024, and Jan. 19, 2024, at the St. Croix and St. Thomas campuses, respectively. 

“I am extremely proud that UVI has successfully launched our Essential Needs Pantry. This initiative is more than just a resource. It’s a commitment to the well-being and success of our students. In partnership with the Eastern Area Links, we are addressing critical issues like food insecurity and financial challenges that can have a direct impact on our students’ ability to persist and succeed in their studies,” said Dr. Georges. 

Addressing the pantry’s future, Dr. Tonge indicated that immediate plans are for the University to host events on both campuses in March. Our launch events far exceeded our expectations, and we are looking forward to another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our students at the next pantry event. We know that our students need support both in and out of the classroom, and this is one tangible way for us to help meet some of those needs,” she stated. 

Expressing gratitude to the Eastern Area Links, President Hall noted that generous support from the international, nonprofit organization made the launch of the student support initiative possible. The Eastern Area Links are committed to transformative service, enriching and sustaining the cultural and economic survival of diverse individuals. 

The University is exploring expanding the Essential Needs Pantry to include contributions from a broad range of supporters from within and outside the UVI community.  

“We are so grateful that the leaders of the Eastern Area Links group are aligned with the University’s ethos of fostering a supportive and nurturing environment for our students – the future leaders of our Territory, our country, and our world. Our fervent hope and long-term vision for the pantry is that many others, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members and businesses around the Virgin Islands will see the tremendous value in being part of this essential initiative,” stated Dr. Hall. 

The initiative has already received positive feedback from students. One student from the Albert A. Sheen Campus said, “I feel very included and noticed by this food drive. The University is really making me feel wanted and at home.” “I feel very grateful for this food,” said another St. Croix-based student. 

University officials hope the growth and expansion of its Essential Needs Pantry will eventually provide a sustainable, year-round service for students, with food and other needed items donated through food drives, individual and group donations, as well as monetary donations. 

Persons, businesses, or organizations interested in contributing to the Essential Needs Pantry at the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix should contact Dr. Colvin Georges, Jr. at 

The point of contact at the Orville E. Kean Campus on St. Thomas is Dr. Leslyn Tonge, 

About The Links, Incorporated

The Links, Incorporated is an international, not-for-profit corporation, established in 1946. The membership consists of nearly 14,000 professional women of color in 284 chapters located in 41 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the United Kingdom. It is one of the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer service organizations of extraordinary women who are committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other persons of African ancestry.