Af­fa­ble cen­te­nar­ian cops Sam Sharpe Award

Jamaica Gleaner - - WESTERN FOCUS - Christopher Thomas Gleaner Writer

CEN­TE­NAR­IAN IRIS Den­nis­ton, who has de­voted most of her life in the ser­vice of the Or­ange com­mu­nity, in St James, cre­ated his­tory last Mon­day (Heroes Day) when she be­came the old­est re­cip­i­ent of the Sam Sharpe Award.

Den­nis­ton, af­fec­tion­ately called ‘Aunt Sis’ by fam­ily and friends, was one of seven re­cip­i­ents of this year’s awards, which were handed out dur­ing the an­nual Na­tional Heroes’ Day Civic and Awards Cer­e­mony, held at Sam Sharpe Square in Mon­tego Bay. It was held un­der the theme, ‘Our heritage, Our Legacy, Our Strength.’

“I feel very happy; I could not be more happy, and I thank God for the day, and for the ones who in­vited me to be here,” Den­nis­ton, who was flanked by well-wish­ers, told The Gleaner.

Born in 1916 in the com­mu­nity of Corn­wall in St James, the af­fa­ble Den­nis­ton moved to Or­ange when she was 20 years old and has made the com­mu­nity her home for the past 80 years.

In her early years, Den­nis­ton trav­elled to Eng­land, where she worked for sev­eral years as a ward as­sis­tant. She re­turned to Ja­maica in 1951 just ahead of Hur­ri­cane Char­lie, which rav­ished the is­land and left many per­sons in her com­mu­nity home­less.

CIVIC-MINDED

In re­sponse to the cri­sis at the time, Den­nis­ton opened her home to sev­eral fam­i­lies in need of shel­ter. She later es­tab­lished a farm, where she and her hus­band raised cows, goats, pigs and chicken. Dur­ing that time, she gave milk from her cows to the com­mu­nity free of cost.

Den­nis­ton also as­sisted par­ents in her area by pro­vid­ing a free day-care and learn­ing cen­tre for their chil­dren. She was ex­tremely ac­tive in com­mu­nity af­fairs through the Sud­bury Bap­tist Church, of which she was a mem­ber.

Speak­ing about her ini­tial re­sponse when she learnt that she was se­lected for the Sam Sharpe Award, Den­nis­ton said her only con­cern was the level Iris Den­nis­ton re­ceives the Sam Sharpe Award from Mon­tego Bay Mayor Glen­don Har­ris. of se­cu­rity she would ex­pe­ri­ence in Mon­tego Bay.

“When I first heard, I said. ‘Mon­tego Bay? I must go to Mon­tego Bay and I am so afraid of Mon­tego Bay now?’ And then I said, ‘Never mind, a lot of po­lice will be there, and I my­self will be there’,” said Den­nis­ton. “So I came with­out fear, and I was very happy for it, and up to now, I en­joy ev­ery bit of it.”

The ac­co­lades to be re­ceived by Mrs. Den­nis­ton would not end with the Heroes’ Day recog­ni­tion, as she and fel­low St James cen­te­nar­ian, 104-year-old Levi Ken­tish of Ma­roon Town, were listed among sev­eral se­nior cit­i­zens as guests of hon­our at a spe­cial treat hosted in Montpelier by the St. James Par­ish Coun­cil on Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 20. AL­THOUGH THE Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech) has closed down its cam­pus at the Trelawny Multi-pur­pose Sta­dium, near Falmouth, the univer­sity plans to main­tain a strong pres­ence in western Ja­maica through its Mon­tego Bay-based cam­pus.

Michelle Beck­ford, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager for UTech, told The Gleaner that al­though the univer­sity had shut down the cam­pus at the Trelawny sta­dium, the school’s of­fer­ing of pro­grammes to its stu­dents in western Ja­maica has not been hin­dered.

“The Trelawny cam­pus was just class­rooms, and ev­ery­thing that ex­isted be­fore still ex­ists in another lo­ca­tion, as there is another cam­pus in Mon­tego Bay,” said Beck­ford, in ref­er­ence to UTech’s Mon­tego Bay cam­pus, which is split be­tween its lo­ca­tions at Kent Av­enue and another lo­ca­tion at Bar­nett Clinic, along Bar­nett Street.

NO DE­CLINE IN OF­FER­INGS

“So, there has been no de­cline in the pro­gramme or in the of­fer­ings (de­grees); all the of­fer­ings that were there be­fore are still there, it is just not at that lo­ca­tion (the sta­dium) any­more,” added Beck­ford.

Beck­ford’s dec­la­ra­tion of con­fi­dence in UTech’s capacity to stay rel­e­vant and in­flu­en­tial in the west, some­what con­trast the po­si­tion of coun­cil­lor Garth Wilkin­son, the mayor of Falmouth. At a re­cent Gleaner editor’s fo­rum in Falmouth, the mayor stated that the shut­ting down of the Trelawny cam­pus was a lost op­por­tu­nity to turn Falmouth into a univer­sity town.

“With all the de­vel­op­ment that is tak­ing place (in Falmouth), UTech has now pulled out of the sta­dium and they are mov­ing out of their other lo­ca­tion on Trelawny Street, which is our big­gest dis­ap­point­ment,” Wilkin­son stated at the time. “This is a blow to our plans for Falmouth.”

In fact, in speak­ing to the kind of im­pact be­ing a univer­sity town could have on Falmouth, the mayor said it had the po­ten­tial to be much not big­ger than the im­pact the Falmouth cruise ship pier is hav­ing on the pop­u­lar sea­side town.

“The Falmouth port would pale in com­par­i­son if we had a univer­sity town,” said Wilkin­son. “We are hop­ing the univer­sity would re­think its de­ci­sion to leave the town of Falmouth.”

UTech made its ini­tial so­journ into Falmouth in Novem­ber 2012 with a lofty prom­ise to in­vest more than J$250 mil­lion to de­velop its cam­pus at the US$30-mil­lion Trelawny Multi-pur­pose Sta­dium, which has ba­si­cally been a white ele­phant since it was con­structed to host the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup.

Be­fore that 2012 of­fer, UTech had made a pre­vi­ous of­fer in 2010 to in­vest J$250 mil­lion to de­velop a univer­sity cam­pus on a prop­erty ad­ja­cent to the sta­dium, on con­di­tion that they would be al­lowed to use the sta­dium fa­cil­i­ties. That of­fer was re­jected by the Government.

In­ter­est­ingly, at that time, Richard Bourke, who was then the pres­i­dent of the Trelawny Cham­ber of Com­merce, sup­ported UTech’s pro­posal, say­ing that it would bring sig­nif­i­cant spinoff ben­e­fits to the par­ish, in­clud­ing boost­ing com­merce and hous­ing con­struc­tion.

When I first heard, I said, ‘Mon­tego Bay? I must go to Mon­tego Bay and I am so afraid of Mon­tego Bay now?’ And then I said, ‘Never mind, a lot of po­lice will be there, and I my­self will be there.

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