July 24, 2015
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – Several Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) employees braved the torrid heat last Saturday to make some major improvements to five local retirement homes. The initiative served as part of the company's ongoing effort to make a valuable impact on the community, and involved four volunteer groups completing a variety of repair jobs at senior citizen homes across the city of Freeport.
Through this project, the GBPA Volunteers Service Club assisted Burrows Home for the Aged, Raybertha's Home for the Aged, Home Away from Home, Central Home for the Elderly and Grand Bahama Home for the Aged, deploying volunteer teams to the sites to perform a range of tasks, including carpentry, painting, masonry work, cleaning and plumbing.
The idea for this service project was entirely conceived by the company's volunteer service club, ably abetted by Fatima Zahra. GBPA President Ian Rolle said, "They decided they really wanted to show their support for the elderly, which was a fantastic idea and I commend them for their effort.
"These persons have given so much of themselves over the many years and they should be appreciated," he said. "One day we will be in the same position that they are in and hopefully somebody will look out for us the way we are looking out for them."
He said the group's desire to ensure that elderly residents at these homes feel safe, comfortable and proud of their residences is not only commendable, but also reflective of the company's mission to have a personal, lasting influence on Bahamians across the island.
"A voluntary exercise like this over the weekend has a two-fold impact," GBPA Vice President Henry St. George said. "It helps to solidify the various teams within our organization that don't necessarily work together on a day-to-day basis, and it reinforces the responsibility the Grand Bahama Port Authority has to Freeport and Grand Bahama as a whole."
Christine van der Linde, Devco customer service manager, echoed the same sentiments, "This kind of team spirit allows our staff members to connect with each other outside the office and on their personal time to join hands to help the community."
In addition to the repairs, volunteers spent time interacting with the residents, sharing stories and playing games with them. President Rolle joined in a lively game of dominos at Burrows Home for the Aged. The group also enlisted members of the Grand Bahama National Youth Choir to entertain residents at the various sites with an a cappella rendition of “The Lord's Prayer” and traditional Bahamian songs. The day ended with a complimentary lunch for the elderly at Mary Ann's Restaurant & Lounge, where owners Dudley and Mary-Ann Ward generously gifted half the luncheon. Residents were also treated to a surprise appearance by Bahamian basketball legend Mychal Thompson and Waltiea Rolle, first-ever Bahamian female athlete drafted to the WNBA.
"We learned of all the needs at various senior citizen homes and wanted to assist the elderly, but more than that we wanted to show them that we care about them," President of the GBPA Volunteers Lucretia Sands said. "These homes are invaluable to our community. Sometimes, elderly people don't have anywhere else to go; sometimes their children work and cannot take care of them. With these homes being around, it provides a sense of comfort knowing that the elderly in our community are taken care of."
Caretaker at Burrows Home for the Aged Brenda Bethel said the assistance from the GBPA Volunteers was a blessing to the residents. She said the home was in great need of repainting but, due to financial challenges, could not afford the repairs. Bethel added that she is always grateful for any help from the community because the home does not receive support as often as she would like.
"It's good that the Grand Bahama Port Authority has volunteered their time to our home. Sometimes people don't really notice how much we're in need of help, so we're grateful for this service," Bethel said.
Rolle said, "Everybody has a responsibility to give back. It doesn't have to be money. Time is the most important thing; and people value that - quality time. So much more can be done if everyone pitches in. We can't leave everything to the government or the Grand Bahama Port Authority. If each individual decides to make a positive change in this community, there's so much we can do."
GBPA Vice Chairman Sarah St. George said that as a community, "We should always try to treat others in the same manner we would want to be treated, and what better way to enlist the support of fellow residents than as a fellow participant? We're very proud of our incredibly dynamic GBPA volunteers and have huge admiration for the caregivers in all Grand Bahama homes for the aged.
"Just because somebody isn't out there every day campaigning for funds, it doesn't mean that they aren't in need. It's up to us to find those people that could use our help," St. George said. "When everybody gets together, you can get a job that might take a month, done in a day. It's amazing."
Since its inception in 2010, GBPA Volunteers has affected Grand Bahama residents from east to west. Among many projects, the group has spearheaded initiatives to assist the youth of Grand Bahama, as well as others in need in the community. The team of volunteers also established lunch programs for students at Walter Parker Primary, Freeport Primary, Hugh Campbell and Maurice Moore Primary Schools.
Funds for the initiatives have been contributed by the GBPA Donations Committee, along with volunteers who set aside funds from their own salaries to extend their support. GBPA Volunteer President Sands commended her colleagues on the significant impact they have had on their community thus far, and assured there would be many more service initiatives from the GBPA volunteer group in the future.
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