On Thursday, February 23, 2017, the second annual Helen Gjessing Community Services Award was presented and celebrated. The gathering was held at the University of the Virgin Islands Administration and Conference Center First Floor Conference Room, from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. The public was invited to attend this event. See the video of this event here.
Sponsors for this year’s event include: The University of the Virgin Islands, The St. Thomas Restaurant Group, Buddha Sushi, WUVI Student Radio Station, Sankofa Saturdays Youth Initiative, DaraMonifah.com, Ms. Cheryl Rae, and We Grow Food, Inc.
Named in honor of Ms. Helen Gjessing, this award is perhaps one of the more difficult awards to earn. It is about living life with an attitude of service to, and care of the world around us in a way that exemplifies similarities to Helen herself. Throughout her life, Helen Gjessing has been a quiet force. Never one to garner accolades, she simply “showed up” for decades in the Virgin Islands, in her quiet and unassuming way, to do what she could and what was needed, to make a positive difference. That is what this award is about.
A resident of St. Thomas since 1958, Helen is an environmental-activist powerhouse. She was given the first “Connie” award from the National Wildlife Federation in 2010; has “Emeritus” status at the University of Virgin Islands-St. Thomas Campus, where she retired in 1999 after teaching biology for thirty-four years; and served on and chaired the League of Women Voters’ Planning and Environmental Quality Committee, tirelessly reviewing countless permit applications and reports on behalf of territorial environmental protections. In short, Helen is the type service-minded individual that communities around the world can only hope to call their own. To read more about Helen’s life and activities in the USVI, click on About Helen.
The Helen Gjessing Community Service Award is given out annually, if an individual comes to the fore that year who’s observed to live their life in the spirit of the type of service to the community that Helen epitomized, and which is typically unpaid. Someone who quietly, and again and again, shows up and helps encourage and accomplish things toward a better world. There is no monetary gift with this award. It is given by citizens, to citizens, in recognition of and as an opportunity to honor those who selflessly give, and live a life of giving to the world around them. The public is however invited to make donations, if so inclined, to whatever cause(s) or projects are embraced to the recipient of that year’s award. Based on suggestions from the public on persons deserving of the award, each year’s recipient will join with Helen and anonymous founders of the event in the decision for the following year’s recipient of the award (with the number of persons participating in that process increasing by one each year). The public is invited to submit suggestions for the next recipient of the HG Community Service Award using the Submissions link on the above website.
Ms. Benita Diana Martin was selected to receive the 2016 award.