'Butch' Stewart Community Awards to honour unsung heroes
TEN Jamaicans who have devoted their lives to service and community development will receive the inaugural Butch Stewart Community Awards, Sandals Resorts International announced yesterday.
The awards, which will be made to the island's unsung heroes, won the endorsement of Local Government and Community Development Minister Noel Arscott who said they are in keeping with his ministry's efforts to promote public support for community development.
"I want to commend Butch and the Sandals Group for extending their corporate brand to this initiative; it will no doubt lift the profile of the efforts of all social entrepreneurs," Minister Arscott told guests attending the launch at the Jamaica Observer head office on Beechwood Avenue in Kingston.
"It perfectly synchronises with the mission of the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, which is to transform people's attitude towards how they approach community development," Arscott added.
Commending the awards organisers' vision, Arscott noted that many people do not view social activism as important. "As such, we do not sufficiently celebrate the efforts of our courageous men and women who sacrifice themselves to serve their communities. In fact, I'm aware of a number of stalwarts who have made significant contributions to their communities and are often overlooked," the minister said.
"The Butch Stewart Community Awards is now giving those persons a chance to be duly recognised and rewarded," he added.
The awards will be presented in the following categories:
* Health services;
* Youth achievers;
* Farming and agriculture;
* Social work;
* Community growth and development;
* Arts and cultural Preservation;
* Protective services; and
Nominations will open on May 9 and close on June 9. Jamaicans who have received a national award are exempted from the awards which will be adjudicated by a panel comprising Dr Duane Vernon, Dahlia Harris, Oneil Grant, Scarlette Gillings, Kenrick Williams, and Dr Henley Morgan, who was the guest speaker at yesterday's launch.
Sheryl McGaw-Douse, Sandals Resorts Inter-national's group public relations manager, told the launch that after a review process, the top five nominees in each category will be selected and invited to an exclusive luncheon at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort where the winners in each category will be announced.
"Nominees will be assessed on their overall contribution to the development of their community, their contribution to their specific social sector, years of service, the impact their work has had on the lives of community members, and feedback from the community, among other criteria," the organisers said in a news release.
"We're trying to seek out the unsung heroes, celebrate them, recognise them, ...so that they can continue doing what they do," Sandals Resorts International Deputy Chairman and CEO Adam Stewart said as he explained that the awards were conceptualised by several executives in the Sandals Group.
Minister Arscott said many people may wonder why the Sandals group is extending its brand towards this area. He explained that, beyond the general corporate social responsibility for which the group and its chairman are well known, the awards make perfect economic sense.
"The truth is, while tourism is the lifeblood of Jamaica, a healthy tourism environment cannot be sustainable
without harmony in society," Arscott said.
"What it means, therefore, is that Sandals is leading the way by reinvesting in the society. This creates a virtuous cycle, and I hope others in the tourism and business sectors will follow their lead," he added.
In his remarks, Butch Stewart, who is also chairman of the Observer, said he was honoured that his name was associated with an award such as this.
"I really want to thank the team who came up with this award... I think the unsung heroes of Jamaica are the biggest heroes that we have, every community is full of them. We know a lot of them, we see them at their work, we see people making blood out of stone... I really hope his award will start shining the light on a lot of the people in the communities who really deserve it," he said.