Hometown heroes

13 in Baha Mar Resort Foundation’s second cohort

A. Charlene Gibson is described as a person who prides herself on having a direct and professional approach, but still retains an open-minded easy-going side. It was for this that she was nominated for a Baha Mar Hometown Hero award – in the area of community – and won. Gibson, the business manager at the Children’s Emergency Hostel, was one of a number of winners.

“When I got the call that I had won, I was surprised,” said Gibson.

From the Baha Mar Resort Foundation, she and her fellow Hometown Heroes were awarded a three-night stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, which has to be used by May 31; $500 resort credit; and an experience tied to her category, a cooking class at The Kitchen.

Nominated by Sharana Rolle and Melvenia Munroe, they described Gibson as a “hero” having made “tremendous impact in the lives of the children”. Her nominators describe her as rational-minded, understanding, trustworthy and dependable. They said Gibson is professional with a funny and friendly personality, and always wears a smile that they said complements her pleasant attitude and classy style.

“She maintains a healthy balance between life and her work lifestyle,” they said.

Gibson began her employment with the hostel three years ago today. She went in as the business manager, with a background that saw her work as a marine for eight years, in the public service for 10 and a half years, as well as employment with a number of private entities in administrative capacities. She has an associate degree in French and communications and a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance.

“The board was looking for an all-around person who could manage the facility, deal with fundraising and donation, and be a people’s person and public relations person for the hostel as well as deal with finances, payroll, administration of staff – so, the full gamut.”

Having also worked as a school administrator, the role she took on at the hostel was not new to her.

Her job is not simply administrative. She interacts with the residents and said her background allows her to relate to many of them.

“I grew up in humble beginnings. I know what it is to tote water from the pump, share a meal with five/six cousins, and share clothes, so I understand what these kids go through. I didn’t grow up the way I am. I had to earn my keep like the old people used to say. So, what some of these kids go through, I’m no stranger to it, so I can relate to it.”

Managing the hostel, she said, isn’t a cakewalk owing to the many personalities that have to be dealt with, and having to be a different person for each person.

“I took on the task and at first it was difficult. I had to put measures and changes in place that have since turned out to be positive.”

One of those things was procedures as it relates to accepting donations and the ensuing checks and balances, so that they remain accountable.

One of Gibson’s long-term goals she said is to see the hostel become self-sustaining as their biggest challenge is their overhead with things like utilities and purchasing groceries.

“Some months, we have a lull and some months we have an overflow, but we’re grateful to people that donate,” said Gibson. “The main goal would be to see the hostel become self-sustainable and not have to figure out if to pay utilities or payroll.”

When she is no longer at the hostel, Gibson said she wants to be remembered as a person who made a positive turnaround at the hostel and an impact that will last.

Also winning Hometown Hero awards were Vernie Curry (Community), Aldred Albury (Community), Tamara and Dallas Knowles (Culture), Tamara Knowles (Culture), Lori Roach (Community), Sharmon Callender (Community), Ruth Coakley (Community), Sydney Isaacs (Culture), Bradley Watson (Conservation), A. Charlene Gibson (Community), Eldecia Thompson (Community) and Clarence Clare (Community).

Vernie Curry

Curry was described by her nominee as a dedicated employee who could be considered a legend in the world of softball in The Bahamas. And that one of her greatest passions is for her church, New Lively Hope Baptist, where she serves as treasurer and a member of the culinary team. Many Sunday mornings, he (her nominee) said she loads her vehicle items she baked to take to church along with other food items to prepare, so that members can have snacks waiting for them at the end of services. Aside from cooking, he said she ensures that the church is clean before services as well as weddings and funerals. And is instrumental in ensuring grocery bags are packed for distribution to the less fortunate in the church’s community.

Aldred Albury

Albury is described as “charitable, generous, and selfless” by his multiple nominators. He is said to be a person who volunteers himself whenever and wherever he can. And is a person committed to the advancement of the Bahamian community and to the North Eleuthera region, having devoted himself to a multitude of community cleanup programs and attending every crucial community meeting. Currently, he serves as the local government representative for The Current and president of the National Neighborhood Watch Council for his community.

Albury is also the acting fireman for the only fire truck in North Eleuthera and took initiative getting the requisite certifications, so that he could better assist residents in an emergency. They say he often helps locals with daily tasks like fixing small plumbing problems, internet issues and even installing security cameras on businesses. In the heart of the pandemic, his nominees said he selflessly devoted himself to being a frontline worker by serving as a COVID Ambassador to ensure the safety of the residents of his community. Albury also conducted and volunteered in food distribution programs to assist those in need.

Tamara & Dallas Knowles

Tamara and Dallas Knowles, owners and operators of an excursion experience based in Georgetown, Exuma, in 2013, with support from their family and members of the community, started the Exuma Sailing Club with a goal to train young people in the discipline of sailing, and develop teamwork and good sportsmanship through consistent practices and participation in regattas. Through outside funding, the Exuma Sailing Club offers sailing at all levels to Exuma’s youth for free. They feel it is important for every young boy and girl on Exuma to have access to the sport of sailing, and to learn more about the importance of the country’s traditional way of sailing, regardless of their status or financial means. The sailing club provides regular weekend practice, summer learn-to -ail programs and the opportunity to participate in competitive sailing in Optis, Sunfish, Lasers, and traditional Bahamian sloops.

In addition to their work on Exuma, the Knowles’ were also the voluntary leaders for Team Bahamas (19 junior sailors from Nassau, Eleuthera and Exuma) at the Optimist North American Championship, and spearheaded the junior sailing event at the Best of the Best national regatta.

Lori Roach

Lori Roach, according to her nominator, is truly an unsung hero who consistently gives of herself and her time to a number of different organizations. And that she never seeks kudos for the work she does. They said Roach’s often thankless work makes a real difference in the community.

Roach is the co-founder and ongoing race director for the Potcakeman Triathlon which raises money every year for BAARK! (Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness), helping to control the country’s dog and cat population.

In an effort to grow triathlon in The Bahamas, she co-founded the Bahamas Triathlon Association and sits as a board member, and most recently served as national team manager for the country’s CARIFTA athletes who competed for the country in Bermuda.

Sharmon Callender

Nurse Sharmon Frazier-Callender’s nominator describes Callender as a “gem” with a love for people and dedication to country.

Keva Adams said she met Callender at the opening of the COVID vaccination center at Baha Mar and noticed that she made the operation run smoothly. She said even when the wait seemed interminable, Callender would move from her desk, to give out refreshments, assist senior citizens, including checking people in from her personal device to ensure a seamless process. She said COVID-19 brought a lot of emotions and questions, and that Callender did not hesitate to answer questions and provide information to her associates and the wider community.

Even though most sites have shut down, she said Callender is still doing her part with the Surveillance Unit of the Department of Public Health.

Ruth Coakley

Nurse Ruth Ann Coakley is described as a “well-rounded community supporter” whose life embodies selflessness toward making her community a better place, according to her daughter, Randia Coakley, who nominated her.

“The war against COVID is still happening, however, during the peak, there were nurses who worked around the clock, even during lockdowns. This 39-year nurse veteran never experienced anything like COVID. Ruth worked between Elizabeth Estates Clinic and South Beach Clinic, the latter at one point the epicenter for COVID treatments.”

Coakley said her mother is more than a clinical nurse and specializes in geriatrics care, completing dozens of home visits to elderly patients, weekly. And extends her passion for helping the elderly in her personal life by her daily support of bathing and caring for her neighbor’s mother.

It was her hope that her mom would be named a Hometown Hero because she said she knew she needed the time away to relax and recharge.

“You can’t pour from an empty cup,” said the nominator.

Coakley is also a former softball national team member who now spends her time playing for two softball teams and has also coached a high school team.

Sydney Isaacs

Sydney Isaacs is said to be the embodiment of all aspects of Bahamian culture by his nominator, Bashar Isaacs.

Regarded as a Bahamian historian, he (his nominator) said Isaacs is frequently called upon when discussing historical events of the country. And that his studies allow him to connect a person to a particular island and sometimes settlement based on their last name.

“Sydney is dedicated to passing on knowledge and cultural practices, so they always remain relevant in our developing and modernizing culture.”

Isaacs also works to achieve steady attendance growth for the Cat Island Rake ‘n’ Scrape Festival, collecting Bahamian artwork and music, supporting Bahamian businesses, and investing in cultural youth groups. Under his supervision, Rhythm and Youth Band performed at the festival. He covered stall payments for less fortunate Cat Islanders, so they were able to showcase their business, whether food or artwork. When not organizing the festival, Isaacs’ nominator said he enjoys collecting Bahamian artwork and musical vinyl.

Bradley Watson

Everything Bradley Watson does is to help the conservation initiatives in The Bahamas, according to his nominator Randia Coakley. She said from years at the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) on the ground as a science officer to his love of bird watching and conservation, that Watson’s personal goal is to help the Bahamian community work with the natural environment to secure a future for our people and planet. So much so that he was given the title of Bahamas Youth Climate Ambassador (2021–2022), the highest environmental youth-led position in the nation.

“Mr. Watson empowers people to engage in sustainable economic activities to prepare them for the impacts of future storms or other climate change impacts like food shortages or droughts seen with his real-life researching after Hurricane Dorian’s impact to the fauna and flora of Abaco.”

Watson also organized surveys in search of the Bahama warbler after Hurricane Dorian. After the team found that there were no more Bahama warblers on Grand Bahama, after the storm, the team successfully recommended that the bird be labeled endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to help protect the birds on Abaco, the only remaining Bahama warblers in the world. He helped secure funding for and execute bird research and community training projects while at the BNT. And represented The Bahamas at COP26 (Glasgow) and 27 (Sharm El-Sheikh) by organizing youth meetings, speaking on panels, and helping youth delegates make the most of their speaking and networking opportunities.

Eldecia Thompson

Eldecia Thompson is said to have an “unmatched passion” for education, having served in a number of capacities, according to her nominator Melissa Butler.

Thompson is also a member of the Rotary Club of Eleuthera where she serves as assistant director of youth services with a commitment to giving and serving. She has also served as a member of the vestry at St. Luke’s Parish and as vice president of the Anglican Church Women (ACW).

Whether it’s training students in her community to perform for the National Arts Festival or being a debate coach, Butler said Thompson demonstrates her passion for the youth of The Bahamas.

Clarence Clare

Clarence Clare is first assistant secretary in the Ministry of Education, but he started his journey with the government 32 years ago as a Family Island administrator, responsible for infrastructure, capital works, transportation, and road traffic matters.

“From then until now, he has been working tirelessly, traveling throughout The Bahamas, representing various aspects of the public service and government agencies to enhance community development across our islands,” according to Clare who was nominated by his daughter Azaria Clare.

She said when she was informed about the initiative, her father immediately came to mind.

“As he approaches retirement, after more than three decades of service, I could not think of a more befitting time than to reward him with a stay at Baha Mar. To find out he was selected as a winner, my family and I were overjoyed,” she said.

Culture winners also won a three-night stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, which has to be used by May 31; $500 resort credit; and an experience tied to their category – a guided art class at The Current Art Gallery & Center.

Conservation winners also won a three-night stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, which has to be used by May 31 $500 resort credit; and an experience tied to their category – a private flamingo encounter at Flamingo Cay, home to Baha Mar’s flock of 21 flamingos.

The Baha Mar Resort Foundation’s work champions long-term conservation efforts, celebrating The Bahamas’ diverse cultural traditions and artistic expressions, and strengthens and supports the community.

The foundation first launched Hometown Heroes in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic to recognize local Bahamians who are pillars in the community. Hometown Heroes celebrates those who positively impact society and lend a helping hand – from frontline workers such as nurses and doctors, to teachers who go the extra mile for their students, or a friend or family member who makes all the difference in someone’s life.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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