JAMAICANS AND lovers of the island turned out recently to support the Jamaica Committee's 11th staging of the Pineapple Ball at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida.
Guests feasted on Jamaican delicacies, such as stamp and go, patties, conch fritters and pineapple and gouda hors d'oeuvres, while surveying island art and other enticements before entering the dining area which was transformed by designer Alison Antrobus into a tropical paradise complete with backlit fish-tail palms, heliconias, birds of paradise and orchids.
The night, with a bright half moon, was supremely tropical, making the 2011 staging of the Pineapple Ball a magnificent Jamaican affair.
Master of ceremonies and Jamaica Committee director, Adam Shepard, spoke briefly of the committee's work over its 11-year existence; explaining that contrary to the tradition of presenting an Award of Excellence to a Jamaican who had achieved worldwide acclaim, the committee had decided - for this year - to recognise and honour six persons in the South Florida community who have made a real difference to many Jamaican lives.
He introduced George Yap who left Jamaica more than 30 years ago and established what has become the largest sprout growing and fresh-vegetable packaging establishment in the United States. Yap's impressive growth was due, in no small measure, to his ability to give people who had fallen by the wayside another chance, and offering them his trust and counsel. Many of whom are now proud homeowners, whereas others had stepped beyond their past to become trained professionals.
Philip Wong was introduced as another Jamaican immigrant quietly giving back - personally granting annual scholarships to hard-working, brilliant students whose only problem was the lack of funds to complete an education.
Shepard spoke of Dr Richard Perryman and his team who used their annual vacations to perform life-saving heart surgery, free of cost, on Jamaican children.
Shepard reported that when the programmes for the ball went to press, Food For The Poor was rated as the third-largest international charity in the United States (US).
However, that rating has changed, ranking the organisation as the largest international charity in the US.
Food For The Poor began as an effort to help the very poor in Jamaica and has grown into a giant organisation serving 17 countries in the hemisphere, saving and establishing communities and transforming lives.
Shepard congratulated Ambas-sador Sue Cobb on being presented with the Order of Jamaica (2010) and for her work with the American Friends of Jamaica, recalling that at the Pineapple Ball in 2004, Ambassador Cobb stated that although her tenure in Jamaica was at an end, she was not finished with Jamaica and that she had certainly lived up to her word.
Michele Rollins of Rose Hall was lauded as a true friend of Jamaica, particularly her dedication to the SOS Children's Village at Barrett Town, Trelawny, which she founded with her late husband, John, singer Johnny Cash and Dr Harlen Hastings in the 1960s, to which she has remained totally committed.
All six honourees received framed maps of Jamaica with customised salutations. Ambassador Cobb, who was travelling, was represented by Barron Channer. Robin Mahfood of Food For The Poor, who was in Haiti, was represented by Jennifer Florenzi.