Vernice Lynch: I owe it to God
Vernice Lynch's years spent serving the elderly has been rewarded, as she was awarded a Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service, for dedicated service to the National Council for Senior Citizens, on National Heroes Day.
With the recognition of her work, however, comes the acknowledgement from her of the role played by God in helping her achieve the award.
"As I always say, in everything you have to give thanks," Lynch told Family and Religion on Tuesday.
"When I look back - where I am coming from to where I am today - I have to give Almighty God praise and glory. To Him be the praise and the glory and the adoration because, had it not been for Him then, I would not have been where I am today, and to be able to receive this award and so I have to give God thanks."
Lynch started serving the Lord at an early age, growing up in the United Pentecostal Church in Bamboo, St Ann, and has never strayed from the path.
"Had it not been that I started and continued to do what I'm doing, spiritually, then maybe my life would have been totally different today and so whatever there is, I owe it to God."
"The church is my first unit of socialisation and nothing stands out within me like the church because this is what moulded me from early years until today and I am grateful and thankful to God for the Church of Jesus Christ."
WHEN IT ALL BEGAN
Lynch's involvement with senior citizens began in 1995, when she started working with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security in Kingston. She was later reassigned to St Mary to serve in that parish and Portland. From there, she went to St Catherine before being transferred to St Ann in 2010, where she worked until 2015.
"It was a good experience," Lynch reminisced. "When you're serving people and not looking at it from a monetary perspective, but from just serving, especially the less fortunate, you can do it with a sense of pride, a sense of dignity knowing that you are helping persons to enrich their lives. It needs somebody with a heart to deal with senior citizens."
She would have had the heart, it could be concluded, based on the many meaningful activities she initiated during her time with the seniors.
It was Lynch who organised the first-ever Senior Citizens Sports Day, held at Clembhard's Park, St Mary, in 1977 and had participants from that parish and Portland. The sports day later grew to become a national event.
Lynch also initiated the Senior Citizens Spelling Bee and the Senior Citizens Bible Quiz, while in St Catherine, and these events also grew to become national events.
Then there was the Senior Citizens Council, which operates similarly to the parish council. Lynch also brought drama to the fold when senior citizens in St Catherine played roles in the play, Forget Me Not.
"St Catherine (senior citizens) did exceptionally well and so from that, we got in touch with an agency abroad, World Championship of the Performing Arts, and our senior citizens from St Catherine went and participated in the Traditional Folk Form (competition) with Irene Clarke emerging as the world champion for senior citizens in that particular year.
"I always tried to initiate activities that would have long life and what seniors could benefit from."
Meanwhile, Lynch is of the view that senior citizens have a lot to contribute to society.
She argued: "There are so many things you can continue to do after age 60; retirement at 60 is just a new dimension of life, you are moving on to another sphere of life. There is so much that seniors can do once they leave their professional and business field."
Lynch is also grateful for the persons who have been there for her over the years, encouraging her.
"I can't forget Mrs Beverly Hall Taylor, she was always there to champion the cause for me; Mrs Loraine McFarlane, Mr Desmond Chambers, outstanding people that were in my life, always there encouraging me to go forward. Today, I'm really and truly grateful and thankful to them, along with other persons. I am grateful and thankful to God most of all."
Lynch was one of four persons in St Ann to be honoured on National Heroes Day. The others were Joseph Issa, for outstanding contribution to business development and philanthropy; Pixley Irons for outstanding community service and Ernest Smatt for outstanding contribution to the development of tourism in Jamaica.