Dr Cole warms hearts year-round - Treat part of giving back to Ja
For more than 30 years the Dr Lloyd Cole Children's Christmas Treat, exclusively funded by the physician, has been a staple event for the residents of Standpipe, St Andrew.
Families take to the holiday get-together, but there is even more special anticipation for those yet to experience it. At almost 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, The Sunday Gleaner saw two children who live and attend school in the area but have never been to the treat run onto the premises to check on Dr Cole. The affection for him gleamed in their eyes. They wanted to know if he has a gift for all the children and if he was doing OK with the plans. Cole was happy to tell them "everything is coming along fine, get home and come back on the day."
He explains that "from as early as August children and adults alike begin to query if the treat is on for Christmas." This Boxing Day Cole will carry on the three-decade tradition of entertainment, sharing food and giving gifts to the children. He says despite the effort it takes he would feel guilty if all that the children were used to receiving such as the balloons and bounce-about, was not delivered.
"The less fortunate look forward to it, because many of the families do not have anywhere else to go," Cole said. "It started with 12 children in 1984 and by the third year over 1,000 persons came out to experience the event."
This year, the treat will target more than 10,000 residents from inner-city communities in St Andrew and other parishes.
Sweets, presents under a tree and an extra special dinner prepared by family may be ideal at Christmas but, according to the physician and surgeon, "for persons struggling financially or without any family, the holiday season can be hard."
If no other premises are lit up with holiday string lights or decorated for the Christmas in Liguanea, The Dr Lloyd Cole Medical Complex at 139 Old Hope Road is always shining brightly. Red, green and white lights can be seen from as far as the Hope Road and Barbican Road intersection, approximately 600 metres away.
In the past the treat has encountered challenges with space (as persons in attendance spread across the street) and the process of acquiring permits almost led to its postponement on numerous occasions. However, Cole assures that all the required permits from the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), National Works Agency (NWA) and police have be sorted out for Tuesday.
Kevin Cornwall, a resident of Standpipe, told The Sunday Gleaner "Dr Cole is the best thing that ever happened to the community. You can call on him anytime of the day or night and the treat is just a small act compared to all he does."
The joyous and lively seasonal music is being played by members of the community, while Nadine Campbell of The Pool Bar in the area will be handling all the food preparations for the event. Over the years, businesses like Crazy Jim have unfailingly supplied Dr. Cole with ice-cream for the treat.
In the middle of the Christmas rush, the almost 80 year-old Cole has dared the streets of Downtown, Kingston, even while he is challenged with an ailment of his right foot, to make last-minute purchases. He admitted there was a lot left to do.
The treat costs the physician $400,000.00 or more annually to purchase items and provide individuals with a small stipend to help with the set-up as well as any other necessary preparations.
According to Cole that is the least. Through The Dr Lloyd Cole Foundation, the physician has provided over 800 students with scholarships from 1990 to this year to continue their primary to secondary and tertiary level education. It is also not uncommon for persons to walk into his office requesting medical services without the money to pay for it.
"It is in my DNA to be kind and I do not want to change at all. I can tell you that 99.99 per cent of the people that attend the treat do not know me. This treat is out of my own heart; I just do it for the love," he said.
Cole recalls walking to Park Mountain Elementary School barefoot when he lived in Santa Cruz, St. Elizabeth before migrating to the United Kingdom. The determined scholar was encouraged by a colleague in London to do well for Jamaica. This led to his return in 1965. Then, 10 years after completing studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 1970 Cole began giving back, starting with assisting in the construction of a modern medical/surgical block at KPH after the fire in the 1980s, and has not stopped since.
"Dr. Nicolas Bruce Myant at the British Medical Research Council suggested that I could do more for my country, but I never realised the strong impact it had on my thoughts," he said.
Cole has been recognised for outstanding community service by the KSAC, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) and UWI, Mona among others, and is acknowledged each year by schools whose students have received scholarships from his foundation.