April 7, 2005 – Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards and Guardian Angels Arnaldo Salinas, John Ayala and John Munro met on Wednesday to announce the first fundraiser for the St. Croix Chapter of the Guardian Angels. At the same time, they announced, a ceremony will be held for the first group of St. Croix graduates. The event will take place on Sunday, April 10, beginning at 2:30 p.m. at Sand Castles on the Beach in Frederiksted. The event is open to the public
Richards said Tourism has made the first donation of $5,000 to the organization. "They did not ask for it," Richards said about the contribution. "We stepped up to the plate because it was the right thing to do." Richards said no other organization has the "branding and equity" of the Guardian Angels, and Tourism was glad to be associated with them. She urged the St. Croix community to support the local chapter. Richards said if we support this effort "we should say so substantially financially."
The guest of honor at the fundraiser will be Curtis Sliwa, founder and president of the Alliance of Guardian Angels. Twenty-six years ago, Sliwa was a night manager in a McDonald's restaurant in a crime-ridden area of the Bronx, N.Y. He formed a voluntary, weapon-free patrol of 13 people to take the subways, streets and neighborhoods back from crime. With their signature red beret, the Alliance of Guardian Angels has grown from that humble beginning to a worldwide movement. The Guardian Angels have chapters in 43 locations in the United States including Hawaii, Puerto Rico and now the Virgin Islands. Outside the U.S., they have 30 chapters in Brazil, Japan and Africa. Sliwa will arrive on St. Croix on Friday, April 8.
The St. Croix chapter presently has about 30 volunteers who participate in patrols, according to Denise Lewis, local Guardian Angels administrator. "There are more volunteers who work behind the scenes," Lewis said, naming top police officials, other government agency personnel and private individuals. "These people make things happen behind the scenes to support the Angels on the street."
Lewis said in order to graduate, the volunteers had to complete a pre-set number of hours of self-defense training, radio communications training and engage in mock incident training. "The training is on-going," Lewis said, adding that the volunteers will also receive first aid training. Lewis and Debra Johnson, local Guardian Angels acting coordinator, are the on-island contacts for the organization.
Salinas, Ayala and fellow Guardian Angel John Munro arrived on Sunday and began conducting workshops Monday on reducing violence and bullying in the classroom. (See " Guardian Angels Talk About Students Who Bully").
But it seems that someone always tries to take advantage of a good thing for his or her own personal gain. Salinas wants the public to be aware that there are two individuals posing as Guardian Angels and soliciting funds for the local group and for the tsunami in Southeast Asia. "No Guardian Angel solicits for funds," Salinas emphasized. He said if you wish to contribute to the local chapter, please attend the fundraiser on Sunday or send your donation. You can also make a donation through the Web site at "www.guardianangels.org"). or send your donation to Pam Richards, commissioner of Tourism, or Elton Lewis, commissioner of Public Safety. For more information call Sand Castle at 772-1205.
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