In keeping with this year’s theme, “Women Who Empower Our Nation,” the Internet-based group VincyCares, Inc. on Saturday night honored five outstanding Vincentian women during its 6th Anniversary Dinner / Dance on at the Friends of Crown Heights Center in Brooklyn.
The group conferred its Lifetime Achievement Award on long-standing community advocate Yvonne Patterson for her “significant contributions in sports, community services, disaster preparedness education and women development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the wider Caribbean.”
VincyCares also honored Jean Johnney-Findlay, owner / managing director of Mijé Personal Development and Advertising Agency, and newly-minted Sports Ambassador Gailene Windsor for their “dedication and outstanding contributions to the Vincentian community” at the sell-out gala ceremony.
Additionally, the group bestowed its Visionary Awards on Kimon Baptiste, fashion designer and chief executive officer of Kimmystic.Clo; and Dr. Jacqueline P. James-Lyttle, civil engineer and entrepreneur, and wife of Vincentian-born international soca artiste Kevin Lyttle, who was also present at the ceremony.
VincyCares, Inc. said Baptiste and James-Lyttle have set “the bar for career advancement, self-empowerment and strong commitment to our homeland.”
Patterson and Baptiste were not present for the award, but Patterson’s adopted daughter Annice Bess-Culzac and Camille DeFreitas, daughter of VincyCares, Inc.’s treasurer Garfield “Gary” Palmer, accepted the award, respectively, on their behalf.
In his welcome remarks, VincyCares, Inc.’s president Franklin Dexter “Supadex” Richards, a restauranteur and prominent graphics artist in Brooklyn, said the honorees “contributed significantly” in shaping “the lives of many for the better”, and that they “have given of themselves unselfishly so that someone else can have an easier life.”
Educator and community advocate Sherrill-Ann Haywood, daughter of the late Vincentian fast-bowling great [in cricket] Frank O. Mason and wife of renowned Vincentian community activist Maxwell Haywood, who is the chair of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc., was the keynote speaker.
VincyCares, Inc. said every contribution made to the group at the ceremony, which also served as one of its major fundraising events, “affects the life of a child who might otherwise be unable to achieve his / her educational goals.
“Think about what it means to make a difference in a child’s life,” said the group, which, over the years, has furnished school supplies and scholarships to needy Vincentian students. “VincyCares is very grateful for your continued support to this worthy event.”
Patterson, née Ross, was born to Henrietta Ross and Charles Wilson on the Sept. 20, 1937.
Over the years, Patterson has served many organizations. She was president of the Church Council; and a member of the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA), St. Cecelia Choir and the British Red Cross branch of St. Vincent and the Grenadines before becoming the director in 1984.
Later, Patterson was in the forefront of the Red Cross becoming an independent society, SVG Red Cross Society, and was appointed director general. She served as president of the National Council of Women from 1990-1993.
Additionally, Patterson was a member of the Caribbean Women’s Association, the Commission for the Development of People, the Family Life Commission and Soroptimist, an international volunteer organization working to improve the lives of women and girls in local communities and throughout the world.
She was also chairperson for the visiting committee of Her Majesty Prison; a Justice of Peace; president of the National Council of Women (NWC); and represented the women of St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Conference for the development of unitary states.
Patterson was instrumental in establishing the Family Court of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with former Health Minister Yvonne Francis-Gibson, the coordinator.
Bess-Culzac told patrons that when Patterson told her to accept the award, on her behalf, “I couldn’t reject; I had to accept.”
Prior to migrating to New York, Windsor played netball for St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ National Netball team from 1973 to 1979, and was fortunate to be a part of the team that took St. Vincent and the Grenadines to their first World Netball Championship. In interim, she was secretary of the National Council of Women.
On migrating to New York, Windsor continued her involvement with Vincentian sports and culture, particularly netball, holding several top-level posts, including: President of the American Netball Association; co-founder of the Caribbean American Netball Association; president of the United States International Netball, an affiliate of the International Federation of Netball Association (IFNA); president of Hairoun Sports Club; and secretary of the Brooklyn Soccer League and Caribbean Cup.
Currently, she serves as treasurer of the newly-formed St. Vincent and the Grenadines-USA Sports Association; general secretary of the 67th Police Precinct Community Council; treasurer of the New York Dynamite Calypso Tent; and member of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York.
In Oct. 27, during his Independence Message at Victoria Park in capital city Kingstown, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves named Windsor, along with former national netball captain Stella Boyea-Ashy, among others, as a sports ambassador.
Windsor said she was “humbled to be recognized” by VincyCares, Inc., adding that it was a “true honor.”
Johnney–Findlay, the wife of St. Vincent and the Grenadines pre-eminent cricketer and former West Indies wicket keeper and manager T. Michael Findlay, said she was guided by the senior residents of New Montrose, Kingstown, and members of the Kingstown Methodist Church.
She is a proud graduate of the St. Joseph’s Convent Primary School; the Centennial School, the Girls’ High School; St. Vincent and the Grenadines Teacher’s College; the Commonwealth Youth Program; and the Centre for Management Development, University of the West Indies. Her other areas of study are event planning and make-up application.
Over the years, she was involved in many organizations, such as Montrose United; the Kingstown Methodist Youth Group; the Church Choir; Rotaract Club of Kingstown, rising to be District 7050 Representative; the St. Vincent Red Cross; and the local franchise holder for Miss Caribbean Talented Teen Pageant.
Johnney–Findlay taught, for 17 years, in the primary and secondary school system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She is currently manager, Coreas Pharmacy/ Food Xpress, a division of Corea’s Hazells, Inc.
“A lot of what I do is not me alone,” she said, adding that her husband and their daughter are very supportive of her service.
“To all our special friends: We have a country to build; let’s do it,” she continued.
Baptiste, a top designer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and owner of the Kimmystic.Clo label, is highly sought after for her glamorous non-traditional evening gowns and fabulous ready-to-wear clothing.
Baptiste, who began to develop her God-given talent of fashion design and dressmaking at 13, made her debut in the world of fashion and runway shows in December 1999 at the Fashion Caribbean Show in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
A former Miss St. Vincent and the Grenadines and graduate of the University of the West Indies, Baptiste has participated in numerous fashion shows, including the 2008 launch of the St. Kitts Fashion Week at the Harlem School of Arts in New York.
She has also designed winning gowns for many pageants in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as other Caribbean nations.
In 2012, Baptiste said she was afforded the “amazing opportunity” to work intimately as an intern with Fashion Runway runner-up Victor Luna, allowing her a front-row view and insight into the New York fashion industry.
Two years later, Luna collaborated with Kimmystic.Clo in showcasing his collection at her Deja Vu Fashion show.
In 2015, Baptiste took on a small but coveted role for Michael Costello at the 2015 New York Fashion week.
The Kimmystic.Clo 2015 Jersey Collection has been showcased in Barbados and St. Lucia.
James-Lyttle became the first black female engineering student from the United States Coast Guard Academy to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering, in 2000.
She later received the Master of Science degree in Architectural Engineering and a Ph. D in Civil and Architectural Engineering from the University of Miami.
In 2005, James-Lyttle taught civil engineering courses at the United States Coast Guard Academy. Two years later, the University of Miami recruited her to teach courses in architectural engineering.
That same year, James-Lyttle founded IMARA Engineering Consulting, and currently practices in South Florida.
In 2010, she joined EEP Investing, LLC as chief executive officer, overseeing the management of several companies, the largest of which is Tarakon Records, founded by her husband.
Other brands under the EEP umbrella include James-Lyttle’s brain child KidsVille, a unique babysitting and tutoring concept offered at malls nationwide’ Chill’n restaurant in St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and The Janice Lyttle Foundation, in honor of her husband’s late mother, “to help win the battle for heart disease.”
James-Lyttle said the foundation donated over US$500, 000 worth of supplies and equipment to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the wake of the December 2013 floods.
“If you’re blessed, it’s only right to give back,” she said in her acceptance speech. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”