The Bronx-based St. Matthias Charities, Inc. on Saturday, Oct. 28 dedicated its annual fundraising Prayer Breakfast to Vaughan Toney, the late, long-standing president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers.
Vincentian-born Toney died on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2023, after battling cancer. He was 68.
“We wanted to acknowledge Toney for the work he did in the Diaspora and also for his unflinching support of St. Matthias Charities, Inc.,” Vincentian Bishop Robert McBarnett, president and founder of the philanthropic group, told Caribbean Life after the five-hour-long event.
“St. Matthias Charities, Inc. would not be where it is today without the support of folks like Vaughan Toney,” he added. During the event – which featured prayers, scripture reading, preaching and gospel singing, among other things – St. Matthias Charities, Inc. presented bouquet of flowers to Toney’s widow, Bridget Toney, and mother, Ela Toney.
Other members of the Toney Family attended the ceremony, including Vaughan Toney’s uncle, Joel Toney, a former St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations; Joel’s wife, Dr. Joyce Toney, a retired Professor in History at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY); and aunt, Lois Toney.
The family of Ela Toney’s late sister, Albertha Toney, also presented a bouquet of flowers to Ela on behalf of Albertha.
“I stand here today with my cousins Myrna and Eula on behalf of our family’s matriarch, the late Albertha Martina Toney, my grandmother, who passed away a few years ago, at 96 years old, leaving a rich legacy for us to emulate,” said Lushan Toney before making the presentation. “Granny was her mother’s only child and the first-born of our great grandfather, the late Mr. Hubert Toney.
“So, her paternal siblings were a huge part of her life’s pride and joy,” she added. “She never spoke of any of them without beaming like the bright summer sun and with an infectious laughter that filled the entire room.
“Auntie Ela, you were a part of granny’s life mosaic, and she loved you dearly,” Lushan Toney continued. “She didn’t just refer to you as Ela, but you were ‘me sista (sister) Ela’. So, as the family’s voice representing our dear departed grandmother, I want to convey our collective appreciation and heartfelt tribute to you, her beloved sister, Auntie Ela.”
In a heart-wrenching tribute to the Toney Family, family friend Zita Adams – a member of St. Matthias Charities, Inc., who conducted workshops at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Centers – sang “90 and Nine.”
Pastor Cornelius Olive, of Trinity Apostolic Church on Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn, offered the opening prayer; and Pastor Simeon King, of Brooklyn’s Mission of God Ministries, prayed for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Bishop Merton Cumberbatch, pastor of St. Anthony’s Divine Church of Healing in Flatbush, Brooklyn, preached on “How Bright is Your Light?”, using Matt. 5:13-16 as his text.
“[Vaughan Toney] had a heart to give back,” he preached. “Whatever we do, do it all to the honor and glory of God. Consider your calling and see how bright your light is shining.”
Vincentian Singing Evangelist Sis. Clem Bailey, of Abundant Life Christian Church on Church Avenue in Brooklyn, enchanted patrons with gospel hits; and Jamaican gospel artiste, a regular performer at St. Matthias Charities, Inc’s. fundraising events, brought the house down with a spiritually-uplifting medley of gospel songs.
McBarnett said proceeds aid in the distribution of medical, school and other supplies in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
He said his group’s next mission to his homeland is scheduled for November or early December.