Jamaica Focus: Stewart praises Marilyn Nash

You could tell that Adam Stewart has been deeply touched by the passing of Flanker community activist Marilyn Nash.

He spoke with such emotion last Thursday about her work in the tough Montego Bay neighbourhood that it was clear he and his Sandals Resorts group had lost a very close and dear friend.

"She was one of the most incredible persons I have ever met," Stewart said of Nash as he explained the concept that drove Sandals to launch an award in honour of community service which the resort group has named in honour of its chairman, Gordon 'Butch' Stewart — Adam's father.

"She allowed the Sandals organisation to become so much more prominent and allowed us to enter the Flanker community, which today provides about 40 per cent of our staff," the younger Stewart told guests attending the launch of the Butch Stewart Community Awards at the Jamaica Observer head office on Beechwood Avenue in Kingston.

"That community has had very trying times over the years and Marilyn was the lady [who]... didn't only teach people to read and write, but how to use computers, to play musical instruments," he said.

"She had about 150 children that she took care of every day... Her vision of wanting to take her community to the next level is what this is all about. Marilyn is the ultimate example of what the Butch Stewart Community Awards represent," Adam Stewart explained.

"I thought long and hard how to explain what this programme is about. And I think, to understand how it got to this stage, we need to clearly understand the genesis of Butch Stewart's life," the younger Stewart said.

He reminded his audience that his father "grew up on a beach in Ocho Rios as a simple Caribbean boy" and over the years has demonstrated a deep sense of respect for people in communities.

"If you watch him in a function, oftentimes you see him go and shake the hand of the bartender before he shakes the hand of the general manager in our organisation, and it's a constant reminder as to how our organisation got to the stage that it got to," Stewart said.

"The thread of our organisation started with our chairman believing in communities and what communities can do and when you make communities strong the positives it can bring to a country," he added.

Nominations for the awards opened last Friday and will close on June 9. The awards will be presented in 10 categories:

* Health services;

* Youth achievers;

* Education;

* Farming and agriculture;

* Social work;

* Volunteerism;

* Community growth and development;

* Arts and Cultural Preservation;

* Protective services; and

* Entrepreneurship.

Jamaicans who have received a national award are exempted from the Butch Stewart Community Awards, which will be adjudicated by a panel comprising Dr Duane Vernon, Dahlia Harris, Oneil Grant, Scarlette Gillings, Kenrick Williams, and Dr Henley Morgan.

We're trying to seek out the unsung heroes, celebrate them, recognise them, ...so that they can continue doing what they do," said the younger Stewart, who is also the CEO and deputy chairman of Sandals Resorts International.

"We believe as a private sector organisation that we cannot rely and must not rely entirely on Government. We believe that the private sector has a role to play in initiatives like this," he said.

The resort chain explained that the top five nominees in each category will be selected and invited to an exclusive luncheon at Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort where the winners in each category will be announced.

"Nominees will be assessed on their overall contribution to the development of their community, their contribution to their specific social sector, years of service, the impact their work has had on the lives of community members, and feedback from the community, among other criteria," the organisers said in a news release.

Two Saturdays ago at the thanksgiving service for Nash's life, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said she represented "the best example of Jamaican citizenry".

"Her humanity shone forth in whatever she did. She did good for all whom she met and didn't care who they supported politically or what they stood for otherwise. She was a child of humanity," Dr Phillips said.

Nash's life of service did not go unrecognised as she received several community awards, including the Sam Sharpe Award for Community Service in 2004; the Kiwanis Club of Providence International Women's Day Award 2010; and the Social Development Commission Award for Community Service in 2011.

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