MONTEGO BAY, St James — Eighty-one-year-old Gwendolyn Jacob could not contain her excitement after receiving the keys to her new house in Granville, St James, "just in time for Christmas".
"I feel joy in my heart. I feel very nice because the Lord sent you all to bless me," the elderly woman said as she stood inside her new living area.
Jacob's home — a two-bedroom, one-bath dwelling — was donated through a partnership involving immediate past president of the Rotary Club of Montego Bay Amber-Gail Grandison and Food For the Poor, on Thursday.
It was Sheree Blake's leap of faith that led to her grandmother receiving the house. The young woman told the Jamaica Observer that she learned of the opportunity while she was engaged in a summer job at the Poor Relief Department of the St James Municipal Corporation (SJMC) in the summer of 2019.
Acknowledging that her grandmother desperately needed assistance, then 19-year-old Blake immediately decided to apply. Her sole intention, Blake told the Sunday Observer, was to have her grandmother living comfortably, as for many years the elderly woman had been living in an old, dilapidated house.
The young woman is now thrilled that three years later, after applying through the SJMC's Poor Relief Department, her grandmother is now the recipient of a comfortable home.
"I feel good that my grandmother now has somewhere to call home because whenever it rains her roof would leak and her floor would decay, so she was always crying and fretting. I had to be telling her not to worry because I am trying to help," Blake explained.
After seeing a look of contentment on the face of her beloved grandmother the young woman is grateful for the assistance of the Rotary Club of Montego Bay and Food For the Poor. She is calling on other entities to assist needy families across the country.
"She is overjoyed and now comfortable so I appreciate it, and I do hope that Food For the Poor gets more sponsorships to help other people who are in need as well. There are a lot of people across Jamaica who are in need and to see that they are Jamaicans who are helping out Jamaicans, it is wonderful — and I thank them," she told the Sunday Observer.
Jacob's daughter Carmen Watt is also grateful for the donation given to her mother. When the Sunday Observer visited the elderly woman's home in Granville on Thursday, Watt stood proudly watching her mother walk around and admiring the efforts of her donors.
Jacob also received a two-burner stove, a dining table with chairs, three beds, and a mini solar panel. In addition to that, the elderly woman's house is also retrofitted with a loft for additional accommodation.
Watt expressed gratitude on behalf of her 81-year-old mother.
"She needed it so I am glad that she got it. I am feeling very good. We are very happy that she can move inside for Christmas," she said.
The elderly woman's dream of some day owning a house became a reality through a pledge made by Grandison when she was installed as president of the Rotary Club of Montego Bay in 2021. Grandison had shared that this would be her major project as president of the service group.
"I had promised to give a needy family a home in Montego Bay, and through a partnership with the Food For the Poor we were able to identify Ms Gwendolyn as the most deserving and fitting recipient. She has access to land in Granville but she was living in very dilapidated conditions," Grandison said.
After meeting with the family, Grandison told the Sunday Observer that she felt compelled to assist the elderly woman but needed the assistance of her family members to prepare the land for construction. Jacob's relatives were eager to get the process started. This further warmed the heart of Grandison, who was happy to see the level of community support and love extended to the 81-year-old woman.
"We needed some buy-in from the family because a part of the property needed to be levelled, so they came together and assisted in getting the land prepared for construction. You know when you participate in the process you feel more deserving and proud of it, so I am happy that aspect happened," she explained
"For them to have to put that effort into it, I am happy they know that they participated in building this home for her," Grandison added.
Though her presidency ended earlier in June, Grandison told the Sunday Observer that her belief that "promises are to be kept" propelled her to try harder in delivering this home to Jacob.
"The first half of year as president, I wasn't making a lot of headway but this year I went full throttle because I needed to get this done. I had about half of the money needed to get this done from a fund-raiser I did but I needed the rest. My team came together and we rallied around to make this a reality," she said.
The immediate past president noted that her vision for this donation came after seeing a similar activity being carried out by the Rotary Club of Kingston.
"It was a presentation that they were doing in their club meeting where they built a home for a family, and I thought that was admirable so I was inspired," she shared.
For her part, the marketing assistant at Food For the Poor Kadian Tinker told the Sunday Observer that the agency is looking forward to additional partnerships to assist other needy families across the country.
"We are always welcome to partnerships, and we do appreciate the Rotary Club of Montego Bay for coming on board. We appreciate Rotary overall because we get a lot of houses from the club and we are looking for bigger partnerships with the club," she said.