Governor general presents first Frank Crothers Awards for Volunteerism at BFN

Governor general presents first Frank Crothers Awards for Volunteerism at BFN
Governor General’s Youth Award volunteers assist Bahamas Feeding Network volunteers in packaging food parcels (PHOTOS: CAY FOCUS FOR DPA)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Viewing first-hand what he declared “the tremendous work being carried out by the dedicated team of volunteers”, Governor General C A Smith recently recognized Bahamas Feeding Network (BFN) founder Frank Crothers, O E, for his vision and generosity and helped bestow the first Frank Crothers Awards for Volunteerism on three recipients.

Three volunteers were singled out for the first Frank Crothers Award for Hard Work, Dedication and the Spirit of Volunteerism. Awards were presented to Sheryl Duncombe, Linda Poitier and Maureen Williamson by Frank Crothers in the presence of the governor general.

Smith toured BFN’s massive distribution warehouse on Claridge Road December 5, which coincided with International Volunteer Day. A stalwart supporter of volunteerism, he witnessed an extra dose of help during his visit as participants from the Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA) program joined the teams of volunteers who keep the food parcels flowing week after week and month after month to help stave off hunger.

L-R, front row: BFN Founder Frank Crothers, Governor General C A Smith and BFN Executive Director Philip Smith; L-R, back row: honorees Sheryl Duncombe, Linda Poitier and Maureen Williamson

Together, young and older hoisted bulk cartons, lifting, shifting like an assembly line, filling smaller boxes weighted down with groceries that could keep a family of four fed for two weeks.

Smith said, “It is highly commendable that in the space of seven short years since its inception, the Bahamas Feeding Network has served over 1.6 million meals to persons in need.

“This mammoth task could only be accomplished by the dedication, hard work, sacrifice and generosity of the more than 70 persons who, every week, generously give their time to do the prepping, cooking or packaging and the distribution of a wholesome meal or a food parcel to the thousands of persons who are in need.”

For a feeding program run on volunteer power and the kindness of others, the ceremony in a tent pitched outside the steel building to ensure social distancing felt like an early start to the holidays.

Before the ceremony to honor the three recipients got underway and would be followed by a presentation to more than 50 others, the governor general had a mission of his own — to lavish praise on Crothers, ambassador to The Bahamas from the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, noting that the quiet and dignified man who founded BFN never sought personal attention but turned it to the program itself.

“Your Excellency Crothers, your many years of prodigious philanthropy is legendary,” said Smith. “I am advised that the Bahamas Feeding Network originated with you providing the financial resources and support to feed those in need.”

The visit complemented the recent launch of the Governor General’s Volunteer Bahamas initiative.

“As a keen proponent of people helping people and being our brothers’ keepers, volunteerism is close to my heart,” Smith continued, applauding the volunteer-run program that distributes to churches, soup kitchens and other NGOs who in turn distribute to their congregations and communities.

BFN Executive Director Philip Smith said: “In the past, we’ve treated our volunteers to retreats in Eleuthera and even a two-night stay aboard one of Royal Caribbean’s cruise ships. Whenever we have the chance to show our appreciation for their enthusiasm and volunteerism, we try our best to do so. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the safety of the volunteers, we opted for an award ceremony and every one of the people you see here today is deserving of being honored.”

The struggle to feed has been especially challenging in the last 15 months, starting with Hurricane Dorian in September 2019 and six months later, the advent of a pandemic that triggered a freefall in the Bahamian economy.

In this period, the term “volunteer” took on a new meaning — they were essential, Crothers said.