Cabbrina Lennox, Gleaner Writer
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
JEFFREY MCKITTY, newly installed custos of St Mary has worked in the hotel industry for 35 years, with 25 years at the level of general manager.
While living in St Mary, he has been actively involved in many aspects of community upliftment and education.
He is very passionate about protecting and educating the younger generation in an attempt to improve the future of the country.
"It is going to mean going back into the schools, talking to the young people about moral standards, because it is important to start there; the strength of any country lies within the people, especially the children, and what has happened to St Mary over the years, is that all the educated persons don't stay in the parish," McKitty lamented.
He said he is on a mission to empower the people of St Mary, especially the children within the parish. McKitty is the founder of a fathering programme, which assists boys from single parent homes, he also established a youth programme at Jack's River, where he supplied books and paid the tuition of several students.
"My number one priority is to make education a priority and to put programmes together to protect our young girls from old and young men who have been preying on them. We need to protect them, because we are losing them, because they are not getting their mothers' protection as they should," said McKitty.
He has adopted the Boscobel Basic and Primary Schools, where he established a school-feeding programme and the Mason Hall Primary School where he built sanitary facilities for the students. McKitty was also instrumental in building a computer lab at Boscobel Primary School.
"We have to equip our high schools better, you know some high schools don't have any physics or chemistry labs, we need to equip our students so that when they leave, they can get something out of it. Also we need to strengthen the HEART academy, because too many of our children are leaving high school without achieving anything," he said.
As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, he has undertaken numerous projects to improve the lives of the citizens of the parish.
"We have also been looking at outstanding citizens of the parish and highlighting persons from St Mary who have done well in the parish, and all those who have done well outside of the parish and the businesses as well, because they have made a great contribution over the years and have given the citizens a sense of pride and ownership," McKitty told The Gleaner.
He continued: "Recently, I have been involved in the hurricane relief programme in St Mary, the chamber is to form a (committee), and we are contacting businesses in and out of the parish to assist those who have been hurt and provide counselling to help them recover. Many times, it is not the loss that they have, but the feeling that they've lost everything that they had, and (so we will) help them to restore that pride that they once had."
McKitty said he is currently working on a plan to turn Port Maria in a tourism hub, which will improve the parish and provide employment for approximately 60 people. The programme will include the Anglican and the Baptist churches and also the civic centre.
He has been actively involved in every aspect of community service, serving as chair of the St Mary Heritage Company Limited, the St Mary Attractions and Tours Company, the parish library, and the Oracabessa High School, where he helped to establish links to develop a new library and a fully furnished and equipped computer lab.
McKitty who has acted as custos on several occasions, was installed on Monday at King's House. He replaced 'Bobby' Pottinger who retired in December.