Home News Local news Sharing Caribbean Plenty: Restore Hope Hosts Holiday Feast

Sharing Caribbean Plenty: Restore Hope Hosts Holiday Feast

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Dec. 16, 2006 — V.I. Restore Hope spread some cheer around Times Square Saturday during its annual holiday feast for the island's less fortunate.
Group members set up tents just before noon and loaded tables with turkey, chicken and containers of peas and rice, raisin-potato stuffing, macaroni and cheese and vegetables to serve to those who need it the most. At some point, group members fanned out in the area to ensure that everyone had received a meal, which also came with a cold drink and apples or oranges.
"Aside from politics, we get involved in the social and cultural aspects of the community," said Jerris T. Browne, Restore Hope's president. Meanwhile, volunteers — including Gregory R. Francis, the lieutenant governor-elect — heaped up servings of stewed chicken with peas and rice for one resident who stopped by.
The group has fed the homeless for the last five years during the holiday season, Browne said.
"We feel it's necessary to do things like this because we're part of a community that has given a lot to us, especially myself, and it's just better to give than to receive," he said.
Browne, a native of Dominica, is a former assistant police commissioner and now heads the Motor Vehicle Bureau after it was separated from the police department by legislative act. In the short period that he's taken the helm, Browne has received rave reviews from senators on turning the agency around.
Group members include natives of Antigua, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Barbados, as well as St. Croix and Puerto Rico. "So what you get here today is a Caribbean Kalalloo," Browne said.
Over the years, he said, those who received a meal from Restore Hope's tables have expressed gratitude: "It's something that we are happy to do."
After eating his fill Saturday, Everette Michael said he was grateful for the effort by Restore Hope.
"It's a good thing for the community," he said as others around him nodded. Many people are not homeless or without jobs but for the grace of God, he said.
"People don't ask to be in those positions," Michael said. "Anything can happen, and it just makes you feel good that people care."
A couple of St. Thomians visiting St. Croix Saturday — Harold Baker, state chair of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and Ira Hobson, commissioner of Housing Parks and Recreation — recalled that growing up, they were taught that giving back was ideal.
"I learned as a child from my mother that, whatever you have, you give it unconditionally and that you should not pass up the chance to help someone in need," Baker said. "We always took care of those in our neighborhood that were less fortunate."
Baker's wife, Ivy, is a contributor to Feed the Children of America, "and she always tells me what a joy it is to give to people and I'm usually around when she's giving, so I see the appreciation on the faces."
Giving back comes naturally, said Francis, who takes office Jan. 1 with Governor-elect John deJongh.
"I recall growing up my mother instilled in us the art of sharing and caring for others," he said, adding that the first plate of food from his mother's table always went to the neighbors, and vice versa.
Last month, deJongh, a regular volunteer with feeding the less fortunate at the Salvation Army's annual holiday meals, did so again just days after getting elected the seventh governor of the Virgin Islands during a runoff election. Doing community service is worthwhile, Francis said, and he hopes others will emulate the politicians' behavior.
"I want to encourage more organizations and more people to get involved in community-service projects," he said. "We want people to share and help the less fortunate in the community."
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