Miami-Dade County

American Friends of Jamaica party with a purpose and raise thousands for charity

The American Friends of Jamaica 2017 honorees, from left, William Mahfood, Cheryl Wynter, Dr. Kevin Coy and President Wendy Hart. The annual Jamaica Charity Gala, held Saturday at the Four Seasons Miami hotel, raised more than $52,000 for charities in Jamaica.
The American Friends of Jamaica 2017 honorees, from left, William Mahfood, Cheryl Wynter, Dr. Kevin Coy and President Wendy Hart. The annual Jamaica Charity Gala, held Saturday at the Four Seasons Miami hotel, raised more than $52,000 for charities in Jamaica. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

The American Friends of Jamaica raised more than $52,000 on behalf of education, healthcare and economic development programs in Jamaica during a star-studded charity gala, which also paid homage to two South Florida Jamaicans.

“We are proud to be honoring the achievements of William Mahfood, a dynamic leader who lives his life generously; as well as Dr. Kevin Coy and Cheryl Wynter, outstanding members of South Florida’s diaspora community,” American Friends of Jamaica President Wendy Hart said about this year’s charity gala, which took place on Saturday at the Four Seasons hotel in Miami.

“We got an amazing turnout,” said Barron Channer, the organization’s treasurer. “Jamaican people are truly philanthropic people. When you create a good party, which we love, a good occasion to give, it’s easy to have people turn out.”

One of Jamaica’s leading charity organizations, American Friends of Jamaica was founded 35 years ago. In addition to the support it receives from Jamaican philanthropists and business executives, it also has strong support from former U.S. ambassadors assigned to Jamaica who often serve as presidents.

On Monday, a grant-giving ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Kingston brought the charity’s total giving for the year to more than $470,000, it said. Grants are given every spring in the areas of healthcare, education and disaster relief, and range from $500 to $200,000.

Last year, the American Friends of Jamaica raised more than $239,000 for the benefit of Jamaican organizations including the Sickle Cell Trust, SOS Children’s Village and Cornwall Regional Hospital. During Saturday’s gala, attendees raised $52,000 through pledges.

Wynter, the public information officer at the Consulate of Jamaica in Miami, said she was moved by the recognition.

Franz Hall, Jamaica’s consul general to Miami, said Wynter is very deserving of the award.

“She’s been of great value to the Jamaican community here in South Florida, she gives of her time selflessly,” Hall said. “She’s committed to the development of the Jamaican community and she is very helpful as the diaspora liaison for the consulate.

“She has given many good years of service and continues to rise beyond and above the call of duty,” he added. “This is a fitting honor for her.”

Wynter, with the consulate since 1999, and Coy, a cardiologist, received the “2017 Lignum Vitae Vanguard Award” for outstanding achievement and service in the Jamaican diaspora.

Coy, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Aventura Hospital and Medical Center, and Mercy Hospital, was recognized for his charitable contributions that focus on the Caribbean.

“I truly feel good about the work I do every day, but this award validates that my work is important to others as well,” Coy said.

Mahfood, chairman of Jamaica-based Wisynco Group Ltd., was awarded the “2017 International Humanitarian Award” for his leadership and support of philanthropic programs, which include South Florida-based Food For the Poor, and the Shaggy Foundation. Wisynco has operations in manufacturing, distributing, and retailing of beverages and quick service restaurants.

Reggae singers Shaggy and Julian Marley performed at the event. Jamaica Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Luis Moreno and Jamaica’s ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, also attended.

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