June 29, 2003 – A full house of more than 150 benefactors, directors, scholarship and grant recipients and friends of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands bore witness on Friday to a grateful community giving and receiving of the fruits of CFVI's labors over the last year.
The charitable institution founded in 1990 with $500,000 in seed money donated by Henry and Charlotte Kimelman gave away $400,000 over the last year in the form of grants, scholarships and services to individuals, teachers, agencies and programs in the territory. In that same period, the foundation, which manages endowment funds for individual and institutional donors, established 21 new named funds, according to the CFVI board chair, Ricardo J. Charaf.
One recipient, a gardener at and resident of Lucinda Millin Home for the Aged, summed it up perfectly at the foundation's annual meeting luncheon at Marriott Frenchman's Reef when she said: "The little we do is a lot to others."
CFVI giving to programs and individuals can be as little as a few hundred dollars to as much as a few thousand — in scholarships to a couple dozen students or to supplement activities that improve life for children, youth and families in the Virgin Islands.
This year $40,000 went to 31 students, most of whom were at the luncheon.
Jacinda Palmer burst into tears as she accepted the Artrelle M. Wheatley Scholarship award from its founder, Henry Wheatley.
After the ceremony Palmer she'd had "no idea I was getting the scholarship," which is for a year's study at the University of the Virgin Islands, where Artrelle Wheatley spent 24 years of her professional life.
Palmer said that Thursday, which was her birthday, had been a particularly bad day and that she had been "depressed." After finding out the next day she was getting a full year's scholarship to UVI, she was no longer depressed, but "grateful." She said she plans to become a psychologist.
Another emotional moment came when Norma Levin handed a check for $2,000 to UVI graduate Gail Jackson to go toward graduate study in public administration at the University of Akron. Levin said that she decided on her 80th birthday — "since I never expected to live that long" — to start a named fund as a gift to herself.
Another scholarship recipient, Charaine T.C. Skelton, a student at Temple University — and a talented flautist, as evidenced by her performance at Friday's luncheon — is working as a summer intern with CFVI.
The foundation also awards grants to teachers. Two of this year's recipients, both art teachers at public elementary schools on St. Thomas, brought with them to the luncheon tangible results of the programs they were able to produce thanks to their grants.
Mary Louise Lauffer, art teacher at Joseph E. Sibilly School, displayed items replicated by her pupils after watching local artisans demonstrate how they create their crafts.
Peace Corps School art teacher Chinwe Osaze brought along three of her students to explain the design of the masks they had made with materials Osaze purchased with a grant from CFVI.
Osaze said the project — and art in general — has given her students and "I-can attitude." In the case of the masks, Niko James, who just graduated from Peace Corps, said, "If you guys are wondering how I made this mask, it wasn't easy." The masks all were made of papier mâché utilizing a process that requires time and work building up layer after layer of paper pulp mixed with a glue-type medium to create a three-dimensional form that becomes rigid as it dries.
Osaze said the students, members of the school's art club, didn't realize when they got into the project that it was going to be more than just a one-day effort. But she said they followed through and finished the masks.
As the meeting came to a close, Charaf welcomed new three new CFVI board members, Dr. Thelma Ruth Watson, Judge Ishmael Meyers and Sharon Hupprich.
In what was clearly a surprise move, Charaf said that although the bylaws require directors to step down after serving three consecutive three-year terms, a way around the rules had been found in the case of two board members, Penny and Henry Feuerzeig. The Feuerzeigs, the only remaining founding members of the CFVI board, have served for 13 years tirelessly and with great dedication, Charaf said.
As the organization became more established, he said, the three-term limit was imposed. But Charaf and the other board members have managed to keep the two actively involved on the board by awarding them emeritus status.
Dee Baecher-Brown, CFVI president, presided over the annual meeting.
Brown has led the foundation for more than seven years. Among the organization's many accomplishments during those years has been the production of three annual Kids Count data books reporting on research supported in part by the national Annie E. Casey Foundation. V.I. Kids Count has chronicled in meaningful, and sometimes painful, statistics the economic and social status of the children of the Virgin Islands and their families.
CFVI's 2003 annual report says the importance of Kids Count is to "get people thinking and talking about children and families, their well-being, what we must do to improve their lives." The report goes on to say that "Kids Count is a challenge to our community to work harder on behalf of our children."
According to its mission statement, CFVI's primary goal is to ensure the highest quality of life for both present and future generations of Virgin Islanders by establishing a growing collection of permanent funds whose income will be "used to enhance the educational, physical, social, cultural and environmental well-being of the islands' people."
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