May 19, 2007 Community activist Maria Ferreras was still incredulous Friday about the award she received at the Salvation Army's 90th anniversary celebration dinner last weekend at Marriott Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort. It was, clearly, unexpected.
Ferreras, a Salvation Army board charter member, said, "For somebody who was so happy getting her advisory board pin, I was astonished. I've never received such a thing."
She received one of the Salvation Army's highest honors, the William Booth award, the only one ever presented to a person in the Virgin Islands. The award recognizes an individual's dedication to helping others in the community.
FirstBank de Puerto Rico was presented with the Others Award, given for extraordinary spirit of service to others. Capt. Ricardo Fernandez, Puerto Rico and V.I. divisional commander, said, "Since 2002 FirstBank has contributed approximately $1 million to local programs that benefit the Virgin Islands."
Ferreras has a long record of service to the community, not confined to her Salvation Army duties. She has been a persistent voice for the homeless population that fills the downtown streets of Charlotte Amalie. She and others regularly hand out lunch bags to the people they see downtown, where Ferreras works.
Calming down after her initial reaction to her award, Ferreras said, "Now, I've really got to put the pedal to the metal 1,000 times harder. It's just the beginning of more service."
Part of that service will be maintaining a mobile food canteen, which arrived last weekend. It will serve outlying areas, reaching people who cannot get downtown for the Salvation Army's lunches.
Earlier this year, Ferreras spearheaded the army's Care Bag program, which supplied basic necessities, like soap and toothbrushes, to shut-ins and the homeless.
Board chairman Tom Bolt said, "We are confident that with Maria and FirstBank as examples, we can count on more volunteers and committed corporate members to invest in these islands."
Bolt, specifically, was drumming up contributions to the army's ambitious Second Harvest program, which will gather food from local restaurants and food purveyors and redistribute it to soup kitchens, emergency shelters and after-school programs.
Territorial Commander Lawrence Moretz presented local Maj. Federico Craig with a $50,000 check for his Main Street mission at the dinner. Craig said the mission is in the process of setting up a medical clinic on the premises, which needs funding and personnel. He said the check "will be a great incentive to the work here."
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