MIAMI (January 25, 2005) – The American Friends of Jamaica, Inc. (AFJ) has announced plans to stage a South Florida version of its well known New York benefit gala for Jamaican schools, hospitals and charities. The event is planned to occur in mid-June 2005.
Jamaica’s Consul General in Miami, Ricardo Allicock, welcomed the announcement. “Jamaica has significant commercial and social ties to South Florida. As such, I am heartened to know that the AFJ has decided to hold a benefit dinner in Miami, and expect that the event will further highlight the tremendous goodwill Jamaica enjoys in this community.”
Known for their elegance as well as their good purpose, AFJ benefits are attended by the businesspeople, political figures, and diplomats that are the organization’s traditional supporters. Honorees at the New York dinner have included American fashion icon Ralph Lauren and his wife, Ricky, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, Sandals’ founder Gordon “Butch” Stewart, and SuperClubs head John Issa. Last fall’s honoree was Canada’s Michael Lee-Chin, the Jamaican-born billionaire, philanthropist, and high-profile investor.
“Our Miami fundraiser,” said former U.S. ambassador to Jamaica Glen A. Holden, the charity’s president for ten years, “will have many of the features of its New York counterpart, but will be very much a Florida production. We have a talented and energetic local organizing committee, and we expect an evening that will not quickly be forgotten.”
Each year the AFJ raises funds in the United States and distributes them to Jamaican institutions. Organizations benefiting from last year’s fundraising included the University of the West Indies, the Jamaica Society for the Blind, the Mona Rehabilitation Foundation, the MoBay Hope Medical Center and 11 other non-profits. Since the AFJ’s founding, over 60 Jamaican organizations have received grants totaling over $10 million in cash and kind.
“I am proud to say that our Jamaican grantees have made untold contributions to Jamaica’s betterment,” said AFJ Executive Director Lacy Wright, acting U.S. ambassador to Jamaica in 1993-1994. “This Miami event fits in with our desire to expand our activities and play an even stronger role in philanthropy in Jamaica.”
Among the many links between Jamaica and South Florida is a professional arrangement between Montego Bay’s MoBay Hope Medical Center and South Miami Hospital. Sydney Engel is the founder of MoBay Hope and the AFJ’s Vice President. “The relationships between South Florida and ourselves are one reason why we have for some time wanted to hold a Miami fundraising dinner.”
The American Friends’ board of directors includes James A. Cada, a Lincoln, Nebraska, attorney and hotel owner in Negril; Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Engel, founders of the MoBay Hope Medical Centre in Montego Bay; Dr. Wilfred Gooden, a Jamaican-born businessman in New York; Mrs. Manuela Cerri Goren, New York radio journalist; Monica Ladd, partner in the Kingston-based Myers, Fletcher and Gordon law firm; Mrs. Lorraine Lorenc, executive director of Z. Paul Lorenc MD FACS Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in New York; Mrs. Guy T. Steuart II of Washington and Half Moon; and Mrs. Becky Stockhausen, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica, as well as Ambassador Holden and Mr. Wright.