The 2017 Annual Awards Banquet, “Emeralds of the Sea,” will be held on Saturday, April 8, at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef Beach Resort. At this year’s gala, the Chamber will present the Wilbur “Bill” LaMotta Community Service Award to outstanding Virgin Islanders and recognize members that have been a part of the organization for 25 plus years.
The award was established in 1983, and it recognizes the contributions to the U.S. Virgin Islands of public officials and private citizens whose achievements reflect the commitment and dedication exemplified by the life and work of Bill LaMotta. Prior to his death in 1980, LaMotta was president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, a Small Businessman of the Year, a civic leader as well as a renowned Caribbean composer and musician. The award is presented to individuals who exhibit dedication, sincerity, forthrightness and ethics in the performance of his or her duties or in the practice of his or her business or profession.
The 2017 Wilbur “Bill” LaMotta Community Service Award recipients are:
Cecile Rene deJongh: Cecile has worked as the manager of Southern Trust Company for the past 16 years. She was a member of the Chamber of Commerce Board for eight years, serving as first vice president for four years and focusing on education while there. She is a former first lady of the Virgin Islands. She and her husband, John, have three children.
Prakash “Pash” Daswani: Pash has been a member of the V.I. community for over 30 years. In 1992, he opened his own jewelry store on Main Street: Lucky Jewelers. The success of the store led him to purchase a second store in 2002, Artistic Jewelers. Pash currently serves as president of the India Association of the Virgin Islands.
Lonnie Willis: Lonnie was brought up on Long Island, and he moved to St. John 42 years ago with her husband, Albert, and two sons, Aaron and Robert. Lonnie and her husband ran St. John Car Rental for 41 of those years as well as other businesses including the Fish Trap Restaurant, the Stone Terrace Restaurant, the Raintree Inn, the Cruz Inn and various retail shops (even a drop off laundry). Over these years, Lonnie has been active in the St. John Singers, the St. John Community Foundation. For the last three years, she has been the president of the St. John Historical Society.
In 1999, the board of directors added the recognition of an individual involved in the leadership of a non-profit or charitable organization or an organization for the service it provides to the community. In 2017, the Chamber honors Maria Ferreras, a long-time St. Thomas resident, who hails originally from New York. She has contributed her energies within the V.I. community for years, volunteering with organizations like Virgin Islands Make a Wish, the Salvation Army and the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce.
The evening will begin with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. on April 8, followed by dinner at 7:45 p.m. Entertainment will be provided. Attire is colorful island elegant. Tickets are priced at $140 per person and include dinner and complimentary wine. Please call 776-0100 to reserve your tickets.