Vincentians stood proud and tall at the annual celebration of the independence of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. This marked the island’s 40th year of being an independent country.

As is customary for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organization of Pennsylvania, the gala was held at the Penn’s Landing Caterers at 1301 S. Columbus Blvd. in Philadelphia.

This was a formal affair and Vincy pride was beaming from all the faces in the room. The vibrant blue, yellow and green of the flag of St. Vincent amd the Grenadines was evident everywhere.

The SVGOP, as always, presented awards for outstanding service to a citizen and an organization. This year’s recipients were Alisa Branch and the Council of St. Vincent & the Grenadines Organizations Inc., an organization located in New York.

Branch is a writer, speaker, trainer and coach who resides in the Philadelphia area. She received her formal education at St. Vincent Grammar School. and St. Vincent Girl’s High School. She has had an opportunity to travel to France, where she enrolled in a work-study program in the Bordeaux region.

Branch later immigrated to the United States and was accepted at St. Joseph’s University, where she earned undergraduate degrees in management and sociology. She continued her studies and received an MBA in finance from the school.

Branch has worked many years in the corporate world as a consultant designing programs and training in the area of leadership development. In addition, she worked as an adjunct professor at Rowan College in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

This well-accomplished honoree is currently employed at Jefferson Hospital New Jersey, where she works as a senior learning specialist.

COSAGO has a history of supporting the needs of others, especially fellow Vincentians back in the homeland. Its goal is “unity” and its aim is “service.”

Under the leadership of the current president, Laverne McDonald Thompson, COSAGO has made great impacts. This well-deserved award recipient has provided aid to Lewis Punnett Home, the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, The Mental Hospital House of Hope and the Guadalupe Home for Girls to name a few. COSAGO’s most recent humanitarian efforts were offered to the relief efforts to assist the people of the Bahamas after hurricane Dorian.

VIP guests included H.E. Lou-Anne G. Gilchrist, the St. Vincent and the Grenadines ambassador to the United States and permanent representative to the Organization of American States. Gilchrist brought greetings from the government of St Vincent.

The keynote speaker, attorney Curlina Edwards, is a daughter of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. She earned a bachelor of science degree from Stoney Brook University and a master of public administration from Long Island University, where she graduated with distinction as the Graduate Symbolic Recipient. She also obtained a doctorate degree from CUNY Queens Law School.

Edwards has been employed by New York City Department of Mental Hygiene for the past 25 years.

She appealed to Vincentians to become United States citizens and emphasized that the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines encourages dual citizenship. She also encouraged her fellow countrymen to register to vote and become involved in their communities.

As this astute woman gave a message of hope and empowerment, you could see from the expressions on the faces, that she was well received by the audience.

Regardless of the fact that Vincentians came to this independence observance with celebration in mind, SVGOP Vice President Dunniston Woods paused to give accolades to President Yvonne O’Garro, who missed her first ever independence celebration because of her illness. An individual commented that “this is a wonderful celebration but for me it’s not the same because I miss Yvonne O’Garrro.”

Overall the evening was a success. The soca music was mellow and there was great food and drink. It was a wonderful celebration. Congratulations to the executive board of the SVGOP.

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