One of the first projects of the newly formed Democratic Vision Club – an arm of the V.I. Democratic Party established specifically for public service work – was to present the Boys and Girls Club with a $500 check and a dozen books for its library.
Four Vision Club members were on hand Wednesday at the Oswald Harris Court community center to present the gifts to Jacqueline Brown, St. Thomas/St. John Boys and Girls Club regional director.
“I get emotional,” Brown said, tears welling up above her mask, “ because this shows me we are not struggling alone.”
While the number of summer students – about 30 – is half the normal due to pandemic restrictions, Brown said, “COVID has made us stronger.”
She and her team hit the ground running when the virus sent students home from school last year. She said they made sure the 60 or so youngsters they serve in general had laptops and access to the internet so their studies would not be stalled.
Along with standard after-school tutorial offerings for high school as well as primary students and summer fun programs that include sailing, kayaking and other outdoor activities, Brown said, “We feed the children five days a week,” including dinner.
Brown has three staff members, but relies heavily on volunteers, she said.
The Boys and Girls Club, to Brown, is a second career. After decades at the Internal Revenue Bureau, Brown has been with the club and youngsters for 19 years.
She is proud of the variety of offerings the students are exposed to, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning, career fairs and public service events.
Edgar Baker Phillips, spokesperson for the Vision Club, said members had voted unanimously to make the gifts to the Boys and Girls Club.
The two books chosen were local themes and authors: “Daniel and the 150th Emancipation Celebration” by Denise Bennerson and “James and the Fireburn” by Angela Golden Bryan.
Brown was clear the $500 “will be very carefully spent” and would be used to “100 percent benefit” youth in the community.
In addition to Phillips, Clarence Payne, and Roger Minkoff, Hiram Abiff was also in attendance for the presentation from the Vision Club.