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American Friends Of Jamaica Honors Two At Annual Gala And Auction

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Proceeds to benefit educational, health and community organizations in Jamaica

New York, N.Y. – The American Friends of Jamaica hosted a glittering and inspirational gala Saturday, Nov. 5, delivering yet again a memorable night in honor of Jamaica. The annual affair is the organization’s major fundraising event and is arguably the most impactful in its reach. In addition to being a fundraiser, the evening honored two distinguished companies whose contributions have helped the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) to further its mission of assisting Jamaican charities, conferring on them its International Humanitarian Award. Held at the historic Copacabana in New York City, the 24th annual black-tie dinner recognized Western Union International and Jamaican conglomerate Grace/Kennedy for their commitment to development initiatives in Jamaica.

Ambassador Glen A. Holden (ret.), President of the AFJ, pledged renewed commitment to Jamaica’s educational, health and community organizations with funds earmarked for non-profits on the island in 2006.

This year’s corporate honorees were represented by Douglas Orane, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Grace/Kennedy Limited, and, from Western Union, President Western Union Financial Services, Christina Gold and Western Union International’s Senior Vice President for the Americas Thomas McDermott. Each gave US$100,000 to the AFJ for the purchase of math workbooks for every schoolchild in Jamaica in grades one to five, a goal toward which the U.S. Agency for International Development in Kingston contributed an additional US$25,000. “Education must be re-formalized for today’s children”, said Mr. Orane. “And, giving back to youngsters gives them a positive change in life.” The companies have pledged a similar amount this year, also for primary education.

The Honorable K.D. Knight, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade, was the Gala’s Guest of Honor. “AFJ has donated millions to a number of different institutions, and we truly value your enormous reservoir of goodwill,” he said.

“As honorary citizens of Jamaica, you have first hand knowledge of the challenges. You have consistently expressed your love for our island, in very tangible ways through your contributions to education, health and economic development.”

U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel applauded the organization’s long-standing community efforts. “We have all been blessed with many Jamaicans who have played an important role in the island’s economy,” he added. “On behalf of the U.S. Congress, I promise you all continued, unfettered support.”

Organized in association with AFJ corporate supporters, this signature event also offered a diverse set of auction items donated by Jamaican and American businesses and individuals. They included a collection of contemporary Jamaican and American artists, vacation packages from Strawberry Hill, Tryall Villas, Half Moon, Sandals, SuperClubs, and many others, jewelry, books and other items showcasing the best of Jamaica. Jane Wetherington, Director of Latin American Art at the Pan American Art Gallery, said, “Art is at the core of our business and we are honored to be a part of AFJ’s auction to support worthy causes.”

In little more than two decades, AFJ has emerged as an important international resource for Jamaica. In April 2005, the AFJ presented grants to 17 organizations, ensuring the continuation of its unique contribution to the island. Grants will be awarded again in the spring of 2006.

The American Friends of Jamaica is the premier American supporter of Jamaican non-profits. Founded in 1982 in New York as a 501 (c) (3) organization, the AFJ supporters include American corporations with interests in Jamaica, American winter residents, and members of the diplomatic corps. Past Gala honorees include Ralph and Ricky Lauren, Jamaican born billionaire and philanthropist Michael Lee-Chin, entertainer Harry Belafonte, and New York Congressman Charles Rangel.

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