The Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania (SVGOP) on Nov. 6 concluded its independence anniversary celebrations by honoring four outstanding nationals and a Jamaican-born supporter.
Three of the Vincentian honorees are SVGOP members: Ex-police officer Wendel “Secky” Leslie and disc jockeys Chris Bailey and Vedal Cupid.
The other Vincentian is 101-year-old Myrtle Paynter, whose grandson, Ivan Paynter, received the award on her behalf at a gala Dinner and Dance, at Penn’s Landing, at the Philadelphia waterfront. Ms. Paynter was born on Aug. 20, 1911.
“Myrtle Paynter, the SVGOP salutes you,” said James Cordice, the group’s untiring president, before presenting the plaque to her grandson.
Joy Cain, a former sales manager with Air Jamaica, received the other award.
The ceremony – which was co-chaired by Cordice and former presidents, Kenrick Mitchell, the founder, and Lorenzo DeCaul – also marked the group’s 15th anniversary.
Leslie – who served, for four years, in the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, before migrating to the United States in 1981 – is the chairman of SVGOP’s Special Projects Committee.
Childhood friends Bailey and Cupid, dubbed “The Caribbean Connection”, said their early passion for “DJ entertainment” was influenced by local radio and television personality Ferrand “Randy D” Dopwell and former radio personality Curtis “Willie D” Williams. Leslie is also a self-proclaimed comedian.
Cain, the group’s long-time supporter, currently serves as Sales Manager, North East U.S.A., with the Montego Bay, Jamaica-based Half Moon Golf Resort and Spa.
“SVGOP, you’re one of the best organizations that I’ve worked with at Air Jamaica,” said Cain in receiving the award. “We see a well-oiled machine.
“You’ve thought us all how to work together for the common cause of humanity,” she added. “It’s been wonderful working with you.”
In reflecting on the group’s activities, over the years, Cordice, who was among two honorees during independence anniversary celebrations in New York two Sundays ago, said while much has been accomplished, much more still needs to be done.
The other honoree was Arnold “Lydon” Charles, past president of the Brooklyn-based Vincentian umbrella group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), which bestowed the honor].
“We must continue to give of ourselves in volunteerism, continue to labor for social justice, continue to stand up and be counted – the way we did when we partnered with the U.S. Census 2010, when we painted the schools [and] fed the homeless,” said Cordice, who was in the vanguard in the push for the recent approval by the Philadelphia City Council for the raising of the Vincentian flag, for the very first time, on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.
“In recent years, SVGOP came together to aid Grenada, then Haiti, in the aftermath of their disasters. Now, we must rely on your generosity to aid in the rehabilitation of SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in the aftermath of our brush with Hurricane Tomas, where millions [of dollars] were destroyed [lost] in agriculture, schools, housing and the fishing industry,” he added.
Arlette Dopwell-James, vice president and a younger sister of “Randy D”, saluted the group’s past and present leaders and members for their “tremendous contribution, leadership, dedication and love of this organization and SVG.”
“Your efforts, time, presence, commitment and hard work are greatly desired, and [are] the reason for where we are today,” she said. “We have accomplished much, over the years, and this could not have been possible without your input.”
In remarks, read by Osram Soleyn, counselor/alternate representative at the SVG Embassy in Washington, D.C., Ambassador La Celia Prince praised SVGOP for being “one of the most vibrant and motivated Vincentian Diaspora Organizations in the United States” and for its “unstinting dedication and support to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
COSAGO executives and friends, members from Vincentian organizations in Boston, Mass., and Washington D.C., as well as the Bronx-based Garifuna Coalition, were among patrons at the spectacular event.
On their way home the next day, COSAGO and Boston executives and friends stopped by the neighboring South New Jersey residence of Mitchell for an “after party get-together,” where they dined on local delicacies and jammed to Vincy soca vibes.