Stating that younger souls are needed to work in the vineyard, a Brooklyn-based Vincentian organization is making a fervent appeal for the youth to join the group.
“It’s difficult to get young people to get involved,” said Olson A. Thomas, president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Humanitarian Organization in addressing the group’s annual fund-raising Prayer Brunch on Saturday at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center in Brooklyn.
“I’m making an appeal for young people to take part in this organization,” added the retired school teacher in Brooklyn. “Our membership has declined due to illness, retirement and deaths. It has become very hard to recruit new members who are willing to devote time and energy to humanitarian work.
“We are looking in the direction of our young people,” he continued. “They are our future. Call or speak to us if you like what we are doing and want to become a member.”
Thomas paid tribute to two members of his group — his widow Cecelia Thomas and Julie Peters — who went to the Great Beyond in 2011 and 2012, respectively, saying: “We miss them dearly. May they rest in peace.”
Later, Thomas, who was principal of the Union Methodist School in New Grounds, South Central Windward in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, before migrating to New York in 1971, told Caribbean Life that that his appeal was not just confined to his group, stating that there’s a dearth of young people playing active roles in Vincentian organizations in New York.
“If you notice with the other organizations, the members are [generally] 40-plus, 50-plus [years old],” said Thomas, a former New York City “Math specialist,” who taught public and private schools in Brooklyn for 26 years before retiring.
At the same time, Thomas urged Vincentian groups in New York to tailor their programs to attract more youth.
He said he had raised the issue at a fact-finding meeting in March of the Brooklyn-based Vincentian umbrella group in the United States, the Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), adding that it was well received.
With the goal of providing aid to poor, sick and needy Vincentians, particularly those in the Georgetown area, the nation’s second largest town, where most members were born, Thomas said the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Humanitarian Organization was founded in 1998.
Over the years, he said the group’s activities primarily surrounded raising funds to send barrels of supplies — including food, clothing, hospital and school — to needy nationals, especially at Christmas.
Recently, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Humanitarian Organization has dispatched cash gifts to needy nationals, and provided financial assistance for the purchase of books and other school supplies to students, said Thomas, adding that students have also been provided with a stipend. Photos of some of the group’s beneficiaries were displayed in the Prayer Brunch’s program.
Thomas said his group plans to broaden its aid – to include the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in capital city Kingstown and the Lewis Punnett Home in Glen, adjacent to the town of Calliaqua.
In his message, guest speaker, Jamaican-born, the Rev. Omar Hall, of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Brooklyn, lauded the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Humanitarian Organization for its work, using a prosaic axiom, “One, one fill basket.”
“If somebody helps somebody else, we’ll all be better off,” he said. “There’s still hope. All God needs is someone who’s willing to just say ‘yes.’
“This is a great legacy that you’re doing,” Rev. Hall told the group. “It takes a village [to raise a child].”
The brunch also featured singing by, among others, the Praise and Worship group and the Jamaican trio “Third Generation.”
Prayers were offered for the youth by Sis. Claudette Muckett, of the Attributes of Christ Ministries in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; for the United States, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and other nations by Brother Quashie; for the sick, poor and needy by Rev. Hall; and for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Humanitarian Organization by Laverne McDowald-Thompson, COSAGO president.
Vincentian Louis “Sally” Penniston, walking with the assistance of a cane, brought the house down with passionate renditions of “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” and “One Day at a Time.”
Penniston and many patrons openly wept after his renditions. He received a standing ovation.
Thomas praised public relations officer Arlene Peters as the driving force behind the sumptuous brunch; vice president Alington James, who gave the vote-of-thanks; and secretary and treasurer Ronica Sam and Earl Bailey, respectively.