March 26, 2006 – The stars were out Saturday night on St. Thomas's version of Broadway as the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce honored several community members for their outstanding contributions.
Dubbed "A Night on Broadway," the festivities kicked off with a live performance from Broadway performer-turned V.I. resident, Jessica Hendy Reiff, who wowed the more than 300 attendees at the St. Peter Mountain Greathouse with a selection of four songs from Broadway shows. She was accompanied by popular jazz keyboardist Sally Smith.
Among the honored stars were Jermaine Baptiste, who received the Student Achievement Award; Ruth "Sis" Frank, founder of the St. John School of the Arts; businessman and philanthropist Ricardo Charaf; and Rodney Miller, Schneider Regional Medical Center chief executive officer — all of whom received Wilbur "Bill" LaMotta Community Service Awards.
Andrew Farkas received the Award for Design Excellence on behalf of the $200 million Yacht Haven Grande project.
The PRM group that initialized the Yacht Haven project was given a special award, accepted by Clovis Tobias, for its contribution to the early stages of the development.
Baptiste, an 18-year-old senior at Charlotte Amalie High School, is the epitome of achievement. He is chapter president of V.I. Future Business Leaders of America and a Junior ROTC leader, among other things. He offered encouragement to others saying, "Remember, the sky's the limit." Farkas, after hearing of his accomplishments, during his acceptance speech told Baptiste he already had a job as a manager with his organization whenever he was ready.
Frank, a St. Johnian, was unable to accept her award in person, so friend and colleague Jan Kinder did so on her behalf, saying of Frank, "She cares deeply about the islands, she cares deeply about St. John, she cares deeply about people." She cared so deeply that she took time away from her business to manage the Steel Unlimited Orchestra, prior to founding the St. John School of the Arts. Frank has given of her time and energy to countless other organizations on St. John.
Another one of the award recipients has also been good at giving his resources.
Chamber board member Randy Knight presented the LaMotta award to Charaf, pointing out that under Charaf's chairmanship the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands provides $1 million annually in community assistance.
Knight also lauded Charaf for his many private development projects, which he said all have been earmarked by the "class" that Charaf exudes. Charaf got together with another of the recipients to create a heliport at Schneider Medial Center, which he financed.
The heliport is part of what hospital administrator Miller sees as the role of Schneider Regional in the community. Miller, accepting his award for the improvements he has made at the hospital (including the completion of construction of the $18 million Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute), stated his belief that "The hospital has to be part of the economic engine that drives the territory."
And speaking of an economic engine, calling the Yacht Haven project a "$200 million marine RV park for billionaires," West Indian Co. Ltd. President Edward Thomas, also a chamber board member, introduced Farkas. Thomas said, "Two years ago when we broke ground on the project, I quoted Mr. Rogers, saying, 'Welcome to my neighborhood; I am so glad you are my neighbor.'"
Farkas, who noted he had his entire family on St. Thomas for the celebration (including his parents, his two daughters and his wife) picked up on a remark made by vocalist Reiff that you had to be thick-skinned to be a Broadway actor. Farkas said that also applied to being a developer in the Virgin Islands.
Charaf best summed up the spirit of the LaMotta awards when he quoted his parents, who he said taught him early in life that "the joy of sharing is greater than the joy of having."
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.