AFJ celebrates Kerr-Jarrett Wegman and husband, others for contributions to nation
Jamaica needed her in politics and she ran for Parliament; when the country needed to upgrade its expertise in enterprise, she brought Virgin’s Richard Branson Entrepreneurship Centre to Montego Bay in St James.
Last Friday night, the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) duly recognised Jamaica-born social entrepreneur Paula Kerr-Jarrett Wegman and her powerhouse husband, Danny Wegman, chairman of the Wegmans Food Markets, with the coveted 2023 International Humanitarian Award at the Hummingbird Gala in Manhattan, New York.
Danny, who stands on his own merit, has had a 50-year relationship with Jamaica and is renowned for showcasing the country’s farmers in his 110 superstores throughout the northeast United States. Just over a week ago, the Wegmans opened another store, this time in Manhattan, creating commercial buzz throughout the Big Apple.
The couple shared the spotlight with Sherrese Clarke Soares, founder of HarbourView Equity, who copped the AFJ inaugural Blue Mountain Award, and Janice Hart of the Yale Haven Hospital, who was awarded the Lignum Vitae trophy.
“Jamaica is a special place to go like none other in the world. And it’s because of the people,” Danny stated in his response to the recognition. “The beaches are beautiful and the hills and mountains are beautiful, but the people are really special. That’s what makes Jamaica great. So we need to help them when we can,” he stated.
Having spent millions of dollars supporting educational opportunities for inner-city communities, the Wegmans made a commitment last Friday to match US$380,000.00 made during the pledges.
“When I think about Jamaica, the last thing I want to do is change Jamaica. I just want to help all Jamaicans have no problems,” added the business mogul, whose Wegman Family Charitable Foundation sees him being credited for leading by example.
In 2022, Cedella Marley, whose work with the Reggae Girlz has catapulted her into the hearts of many Jamaicans, stood on the same stage at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, in front of a large audience of well-wishers and family members, and accepted the same award.
Before Marley, the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt and the late R. Danny Williams and Joseph M. Matalon were among the recipients of the prestigious recognition.
“Singularly together, Danny and Paula have impacted countless numbers of lives in unbelievable numbers of situations, programmes, and projects for the betterment of Jamaica,” said Michele Rollins in her tribute to the couple.
Branson spoke about Paula’s contagious energy and National Commercial Bank’s Michael Lee-Chin described the woman trained as an attorney as the consummate ambassador advocate for Jamaica, and all things Jamaica.
Ambassador Audrey Marks, who was in attendance at the sold-out event, added that Danny and his team, over many years, have worked tirelessly with local farmers in Jamaica.
“It is such a delight to see Jamaican-grown produce on your shelves. As ambassador of Jamaica to the United States, I’m very appreciative of the socio-economic impact of your continued contributions to people of Jamaica,” she stated.
The two other women, Clarke Soares, was lauded as a visionary, and Hart, referenced as a renaissance woman.
Clarke Soares, a two-time founder and CEO, has spent over 20 years in a corporate finance, capital markets, investment banking, and private equity. Prior to starting HarbourView, Clarke Soares founded Tempo Music.
Hart is posited as a phenomenal, dynamic inspirational author and performing artist, who holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology. A published author, her book, Chat Bout, which showcases Caribbean culture and poetry, was endorsed by the late Harry Belafonte.
“Sherrese is a pioneer focused on the power of content to impact the world, and Hart has been a long-time supporter of the AFJ, building community in the diaspora and committed to healthcare in Jamaica,” said Wendy Hart, AFJ president.