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Big things in store for the 'Ackee Pod'

Published:Friday | April 8, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Lili Stephens-Henry, creator of Lili's Backpack Project, poses with vice-president of the National Urban League, Michael Thompson, at the official launch of the community service project at Howard University last Friday. - Contributed

Chester Francis-Jackson, Gleaner Writer

My daahlings, in London, most of Europe and former colonial outposts of the British Empire, all the talk is about the April 29 nuptials between Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton. But here in the 'Ackee Pod', the capital of the Caribbean, the buzz is all about the impending visit of his aunt. Luvs, the rush is on, as lesser mortals are jostling to try and ensure they make the final cut.

And speaking of the continentally rich, famous and beautiful - people are still talking about the "surprise birthday party" the absolutely lovely Ragni Trotta threw in her honour a few weeks ago.

Dears, friends found the notion of throwing oneself a surprise party quite a lark and celebrated the occasion with equal gusto.

And speaking of the fabulous Ragni Trotta, her husband, real-estate developer and hotelier Robert Trotta, is all set to take his Celebration Jamaica to the next level. Word out of Montego Bay is that Trotta, considered one of the world's leading high-end real estate weathervane, recently announced that the much anticipated and ongoing bidding process for the next three developmental stages of operations, construction and financing of the island's first expected integrated resort and casino hotel are close to conclusion.

Reportedly conceptualised around the theme Island Music, Celebration Jamaica, he is anticipating the granting of an exclusive casino licence for the parish of St James and is all set to begin phase one of the development with the construction of 1,000 hotel rooms.

Designed around the concept of a 365-day entertainment attraction, Celebration Jamaica is slated to be one of the first attractions of its kind for both visitors and nationals alike, and will boast an indoor/outdoor entertainment complex, a marina, a water park, an artisan village and a full- service casino.

Dears, tourism insiders are gung-ho about the development which is expected to get under way within the next three to six months, as they say it is just what destination Jamaica needs now, and it can't happen soon enough! And with Trotta's 30 years in the business and his more than US$100 million equity investment in the Palmyra Resort and Spa, Jamaica's tourism offering is ready for its new day in the sun.

birthday wishes

Belated birthday wishes to: entertainer-songbird Gem Myers, who celebrated hers on Sunday the third.

The lovely photographer and writer, Tanya Elsevier, celebrated on Tuesday the sixth.

The charming Glynis Salmon, celebrated her birthday yesterday. Celebrating today are: socialite Deirdre Barclay; businessman and Royal Palm Estate star Adam Hyde; entrepreneur Lennie Chin; and Joe Aducci of Adduci Cigars are all making today a very special day.

Celebrating tomorrow are: fitness and health guru and Gleaner columnist Sharon McConnell-Feanny; pioneering dancer Keith Anthony.

On Sunday the 10th, the beautiful Sandra Barrett; the charming Anne Harris; Benton McTaggart; Diana Davis-Smith, now in Atlanta; Paul Clahar, now in New York; Trish Galvin, in Rock Island Illinois.

Monday the 11th: Roger Foster; the beautiful Britt Mitchell, of Margaritaville Negril; the fab Kathryn Wong-Crooks, now in Hamilton, Ontario.

On Tuesday, the 12th, pioneering businesswoman the lovely Dorothea Gordon-Smith; the oh-so gorgeous Elena Zinuhova, north coast habitué and New York resident; and the lovely Sola-Ojo Omolola, in Nigeria; all share the same birthday.

On Wednesday: the fab Nadine Blake, in Kingston; the beautiful Tanya Guthrie, in Ocho Rios; Nathan Bird, in Montego Bay; Dennis Donovan Powell, now in Washington, DC; the lovely Shaka Spagnoletti, formerly of Hedonism II, in Negril, will be breaking out the champagne in Bealeton, Virginia.

Next Thursday will see former Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, HE Jesus Silva; the fabulously talented Bridgett Anderson; and the lovely Karen S. Gayle, formerly of Linstead, St Catherine, now residing in Elliott City, Maryland.

Best wishes all around with champagne toasts and beluga treat!

Lili's BackPack Project

Congrats to the lovely Lili Henry, Howard University acting major, and daughter of style maven and former model Karen Stephens, whose backpack initiative is creative waves on the college circuit in the United States.

Now, the story is: the fab Lili thought it would be novel to establish a community service project in which students, staff and neighbourhood friends could donate new and used backpacks for less fortunate students. Each year, at the end of the college academic year, students who reside on campus throw out used and sometimes new items. And so, rather than throwing them out, Lili's BackPack Project Mission was to harness these items, during the recession in which many parents are still unemployed or underemployed, and create a community-based service project, as a way of paying-it-forward and giving back.

Now, the goal is to be able to collect and distribute 500 backpacks to students living in the inner city Washington, DC; Kingston, Jamaica, and earthquake-stricken Haiti.

Launched on April 1 at the Howard University campus, the collection drive will run through May 15 to coincide with dorm closures, and so far has proven a hit, the project slogan, 'Give Back', hitting a chord and resonating with students and the community alike!

Definitely more anon, as Lili Henry, the granddaughter of Transport and Works Minister Mike Henry, is yet another Jamaican flying the flag of kindness and compassion in the international arena, and fabulously so.