New SVG Ambassador-at-Large supports more Vincentian charitable groups in the US

SVG Ambassador-at-Large, Vaughan Toney.
SVG Ambassador-at-Large, Vaughan Toney.
Photo by Nelson A. King

Newly-appointed St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador-at-Large Vaughan Toney is very supportive of the formation of more Vincentian charitable groups in the US Diaspora and at home.
“Today, our community and homeland are fortunate to be further enriched by the charitable work and philanthropic contributions of dozens of volunteer groups and other membership organizations throughout the New York tri-state area and beyond,” said Toney, whose new role was announced by Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, on Sept. 24, during a town hall meeting at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers in Brooklyn, where Toney serves as president and chief executive officer.
“Some of these groups are organized around our village and hometown affiliations,” added Toney in his first major public address since his appointment, on Oct. 30, during the Gala 43rd St. Vincent and the Grenadines Independence Anniversary Ball, at Russo’s on the Bay, in Howard Beach, Queens. The event was organized by the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO).
“Others draw their membership from our many and diverse cultural and alumni associations, professional and trade societies and other communities of shared or mutual interest,” he continued. “But the one thing they all have in common in a commitment to serve our Vincentian nation and people – to make a contribution to the welfare and wellbeing of our fellow Vincentians in whatever way they can, with whatever talents they are blessed, and by whatever means they can afford.”
Toney said he disagrees with the notion that there may be actually too many of these charitable organizations.
He said some nationals may caution against what they fear could become an “over-saturation of such societies in our community.
“But I disagree,” the ambassador-at-large said. “I firmly believe that the proliferation of these benevolent organizations is an expression of our collective generosity as a people, and the love we share for each other as fellow Vincentians – both at home and abroad.
“So, I would like to take this opportunity to salute all of our charitable associations, our benevolent societies and humanitarian organizations,” he added. “We thank you for the magnanimous work you have done, and continues to do each day.
“We thank you for your enduring commitment to the service of our people,” he continued. “We wish you continued success in all of your future endeavors and join you in resolving that ‘What e’er the future brings, our faith will see us through. May peace reign from shore to shore, and may God bless and keep us true’ (reciting parts of the National Anthem of St. Vincent and the Grenadines).”
Toney noted that, for almost as long as St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been politically independent, COSAGO has “exemplified that commitment to service, and provided its many member-organizations with the leadership and support needed to flourish and prosper throughout the Vincentian Diaspora.”
He also noted that, in his inaugural address to America, just over six decades ago, President John F. Kennedy challenged the American people to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
“His call has withstood the test of time to become one of the most memorable exhortations in American presidential history, and an enduring meditation on the role and responsibility of citizenship in a democracy,” Toney said.
“Today, as we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of our own political independence in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we, too, must ask ourselves that cardinal question: what can we do, what should we do, and what must we do to fulfill our role as citizens?” he asked.
“For each of us, the details may differ, but there is one overarching imperative to which we are all equally bound,” Toney added. “As citizens, we are all equally bound to serve our country in whatever way we can, with whatever talents we are blessed and by whatever means we can afford.”
He said this call to service is “both the price and the privilege of citizenship.
“It is the highest calling to which the citizen can be summoned,” the ambassador-at-large said. “And we are all obliged to answer that call – each in our own way.”
Since 2001, Toney has presided over the largest expansion of Early Childhood Education services in the history of the 45-year-old Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers.
With a current network of 20 full-service centers in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, Friends of Crown Heights has evolved under Toney’s leadership to become the largest provider of subsidized child care and early education in the City of New York.
He had previously served as a member and former chairman of the organization’s Board of Directors, in a relationship spanning some 30 years, as an advocate for safe, quality and affordable early childhood education.
Together with his decades-long commitment to high-quality child care and early education, Toney has also enjoyed a robust career in public service, including an extensive background in legislative policy at both the state and municipal levels.
On graduating from the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he was recruited to the staff of the New York State Assembly Education Committee, where he served as legislative assistant to the chairman for six years.
In 1983, Toney accepted an appointment with the New York State Senate, where he served as senior staff analyst for nine years.
In 1992, following the adoption of a new City Charter and an expanded, more representative City Council in New York, he left Albany to serve as chief-of -staff to Council Member Jamaican Una Clarke, the first Caribbean-American woman elected to the municipal legislature.
Four years later, Toney accepted the position of chief-of-staff to Belizean the Rev. Dr. Lloyd Henry, representing the 45th Council District in Central Brooklyn.
In 2001, Toney accepted the invitation to serve as president and chief executive officer of the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers, Inc.
As a community leader and activist, Toney has served as a member of the Kings County Hospital Advisory Board. He is a founding member of the Caribbean American Political Organization and a former member of the Carlos Lezama Archives and Caribbean Cultural Center.
In addition, Toney is a founding member of the SVG Disaster Relief Committee.
In recognition of his dedication to public service and his exemplary commitment to child-care advocacy, early childhood education and community empowerment, Toney has received numerous awards and commendations.

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