The Philadelphia-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, Inc. (SVGOP) on Saturday night honored two individuals and a group for their exemplary service to the community at a gala banquet marking the nation’s 36th anniversary of political independence.
The group bestowed the special awards on ex-St. Vincent and the Grenadines police officer Linford “Kenny” Lewis, Jamaican community organizer Irwin G. Clare, and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts, Inc. at the sell-out event that also served as SVGOP’s 20th anniversary celebration.
Besides Vincentians residing in Pennsylvania and nearby South New Jersey, several nationals trekked from Massachusetts, New York and Washington, D.C., among other places, to be part of the ceremony that was held for the very first time at the Vincentian-owned Calabash Banquet and Catering House on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia, renowned as the “City of Brotherly Love.”
The Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian organization, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), organized a bus-load of nationals to attend the event.
“I thank SVGOP for recognizing me; I’m very proud that they recognize me tonight,” said Lewis, who was born in the most-northerly village of Fancy, in his very brief acceptance speech.
“I really appreciate that they considered me to be honored in a very special way,” the very taciturn Lewis, a member of SVGOP, who received the “Outstanding Member” award, subsequently told Caribbean Life.
Monica Laborde, president of the 20-year-old St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Massachusetts, Inc., said her group was “pleased, honored and humbled to accept this award.
“An enormous salute to the other honorees; each of us have made an incredible contributions to SVGOP and the community,” said Laborde, who resides in Newton, MA, flanked by some of her executive members, after receiving the “Outstanding Organization” award.
“To the president and members of SVGOP, with great gratitude I join with my members to extend a heartfelt thank you and congratulation of 36th Anniversary of Independence to our blessed nation,” she added. “Tonight, as we celebrate and appreciate the significance of our nation‘s independence, we should never forget to pay tribute to our resilient leaders who paved the way for our success.
“Despite all the adversities facing our people at home, we are still a blessed people, a blessed nation,” Laborde added. “My people, that is why we here in the Diaspora need to continue working together to ensure this happens.
“We need to set aside our political affiliations and differences for the common good of our people — to make sure the island of our birth remains safe and maintain the spiritual principles that it was built on,” she continued.
“As always, this effort demands an enhancement of our strengths and possibilities,” Laborde said. “Therefore, let us place all hands on deck and stand together in harmony and solidarity to build a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a better Hairouna.”
Clare – the co-founder and managing director of the New York-based Caribbean Immigrant Services, Inc. (CIS) and founder and chief executive officer of Team Jamaica Bickle (TJB) that feeds Jamaican and Caribbean athletes at the prestigious Penn Relays in Philadelphia – said that, over the years, he has been holding discussions with SVGOP, particularly former president James Cordice, on the Penn Relays.
Cordice, an executive member of TJB Philadelphia, is the mastermind behind St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the annual relays carnival, which takes place, for three consecutive days leading up to the last weekend in April, at the Franklin Field Stadium at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
“In the spirit of ‘One Caribbean’, we are making a donation of US$500 to aid [in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ participation in the Penn Relays]”, Clare, who was born in St. Ann, Jamaica, disclosed after receiving the “Outstanding Citizen Community Leader” award.
“Team Jamaica Bickle is ‘One Caribbean’ spirit, which we are committed to,” he later stressed in a Caribbean Life interview. “We work together as one group, so we’re committed as one community.”
SVGOP also presented pens, as “tokens of appreciation,” to foundation members – Lorenzo Decaul, the current SVGOP president, and former presidents Cordice, Kenrick Mitchell and Arlette Dopwell-James.
DeCaul paid tribute to Cordice, Mitchell and Dopwell-James, as well as to former vice presidents Yvonne O’Garro, Joan Martin Farquharsen and Emille Williams.
“These officers, along with our die-hard members, all played major roles in the journey and the success of the organization,” he said.
“As we embark on the celebration of the 36th year of independence of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the 20th year of the incorporation of SVGOP, Inc., we will continue to foster empowerment within our community, cooperation with other organizations, and stand with leaders of our beloved nation,” he added.
Mitchell also praised the owner of the Calabash, Ed Paynter, saying that “after 20 years as an organization in this city, we’re able to put on an event like this tonight.
“For the past 19, 20 years, we’ve been knocking on different doors,” he said. “And, tonight, we’re having it at our own Vincentian-owned restaurant (wide applause).”
Counsel General Selmon Walters delivered brief remarks, and Harvard-educated Vincentian Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Dr. Loni Philip Tabb, delivered the feature address at the gala ceremony.