Wade and VINP To Be Honored at Chamber Awards Dinner

Dust off those Tango shoes, get ready dance the night away and honor two of the most hard-working St. John residents at the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet and Dinner Dance on Saturday night, May 14, at St. Peter Greathouse at 6:30 p.m.

The 17-member band “When,” featuring some of St. Thomas’ most loved musicians, is set to thrill the crowd at the “Nights in Buenos Aires” gala where chamber members will present the group’s prestigious Wilbur “Bill” LaMotta Community Service Award, the Student Achievement Award and Award for Design Excellence.

Established in 1983, the Wilbur “Bill” LaMotta Community Service Award recognizes “the outstanding contributions to the U.S. Virgin Islands of public officials and private citizens whose achievements reflect the commitment and dedication exemplified by the life and work of Bill LaMotta,” according to information from the local chamber.

LaMotta, who died in 1980, was the group’s president, a Small Businessman of the Year, a respected civic leader and renowned Caribbean composer and musician. The award established in LaMotta’s honor is “presented to individuals who exhibit dedication, sincerity, forthrightness and ethics in the performance of his or her duties or in the practice of his or her business or profession,” according to the local chamber.

This year the local chamber is honoring Department of Public Works St. John Deputy Director Ira Wade and Mike “Arjan” Daswani, owner of Royal Caribbean Stores with the Bill LaMotta Award.

Overseeing an empire of stores stocking high-end jewelry, watches, electronics and more, Daswani plays an integral role in making St. Thomas and St. John top shopping destinations.

Ira Wade

Most people who have called St. John home even for a short time, know Wade and his dedication to keeping the island running smoothly. The chamber’s  St. John representative Kate Norfleet last week urged Love City residents to come out to the gala to support the hard-working public employee.

“I really hope a lot of people come out to support Ira,” she said. “Ira is always out there in the streets for us at all hours of the night and day. He’s the only person I know who can stop traffic on Centerline Road and have everyone smile and wave and thank him when they drive by.”

“He’s always out there doing stuff and making things happen,” Norfleet said. “He’s made DPW one of the best entities on St. John. Even with frustrations, he’s responsive and he’s out there doing things.”

In 1999, the local chamber created the Award for Design Excellence to honor an individual or corporation’s “capital investment in the territory, which demonstrates outstanding achievement in quality design, improvement to the environment, commitment to the community, and economic growth,” according to information from the St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce.

This year the group is recognizing the amazing work which has been accomplished on Hassel Island. Ricardo and Josefina Charaf are being honored for Essence Properties, and the St. Thomas Historical Trust is being recognized along with the V.I. National Park for their hard work in reclaiming the rich history on the long-neglected island.

Virgin Islands National Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove

VINP Superintendent Mark Hardgrove will accept the award on behalf of the park and the hundreds of volunteers who helped transform the island. Hardgrove has proven his dedication to the community and his commitment to establishing lasting partnerships, explained Norfleet.

“Mark has done a great job with integrating the park service with the community,” she said. “He is so open and really wants to participate and be involved with the community. He has opened a lot of doors between the park service and the community and it’s my impression that he is truly invested.”

“I definitely have gotten more input and rapport from him within the whole community than I’ve gotten from many other leaders,” Norfleet said.
Collaborating with Historical Trust, Friends of VINP, Department of Planning and Natural Resources and more, Hardgrove has managed to oversee one of the most profound reclamations of local historical  significance, which Norfleet got the chance to experience first hand.

“The work they are doing on Hassel Island is very exciting,” said Norfleet. “I had the chance to hike out there and it was a great experience. There is so much to see and do on one tiny little island.”

“You can see everything from a graveyard to an infirmary and machine shop right there,” she said.

The chamber will also be recognizing two non-profit groups at the gala as well. In 1999, the board of directors established an award to recognize a charitable organization and this year the honors go to My Brother’s Workshop, which provides hands-on learning opportunities for disadvantaged teens, and Clear Blue Sky, which runs a clubhouse for mentally challenged residents.

The chamber also takes advantage of the gala to honor tomorrow’s leaders as well. The St. Thomas/St. John Chamber of Commerce established the Student Achievement Award in 1992 to “honor students who have made their schools a better place through their active involvement in student government, extra curricular activities, as well as excelling academically,” according to the group.

This year’s student achievement award will go to Shamari Skelton, the historian of the Future Business Leaders of America and Logistical and Supply Officer S4 for ROTC.

Don’t miss the chance to honor these exceptional residents and enjoy a night of dinner and dancing. Tickets are $130 and can be purchased by calling the chamber at 776-0100. Cocktails start at 6:30 p.m. followed by dinner, the program and dancing. A shuttle from Red Hook to St. Peter Greathouse will be provided for St. John residents attending the gala.