Vincentian charity group honors outstanding 5

A major Vincentian charity group in New York has honored four outstanding nationals and a Brooklyn-based physician for their exemplary service to the community and the organization.

The Bronx-based St. Matthias Charities, Inc. on Nov. 22 honored Dr. Vijaypal Arya, an Indian-born gastroenterologist at Wycoff Medical Center; Vaughan Toney, chief executive officer and president of the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, Inc.; Ruby Wood, chief executive officer of Square Deal Shippers and Movers; public school educator Zita Adams; and this writer.

The ceremony took place during the group’s third annual fundraising Prayer Breakfast at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.

In recent years, the St. Matthias Charities, Inc. has been donating medical and other supplies to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown, the Vincentian capital, and other hospitals and clinics throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as to various communities and individuals.

“It was my greatest honor to show my sincere appreciation and gratitude to present these recipients with the St. Matthias Charities, Inc. Awards and to thank all who continue to support us, so we can continue our charity work,” Robert McBarnett, the group’s founder and president, told Caribbean Life afterwards.

“As my vision becomes clearer, with the establishment of the St. Matthias Charities, Inc., I shared my ideas with (others), besides my wife (Sharon),” he added.

These “others”, he said, were: “Ruby Wood, who immediately supported me and is a tremendous help with our shipping needs; Mr. Vaughan Toney, for allowing us the use of his facility to host events to help with our fundraisers; Ms. Zita Adams for her continuous support in bringing out the folks to support St. Matthias Charities, Inc.; Dr. Arya, for his large donation of an Endoscope machine that we denoted to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital on our second trip to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG); and, of course, to Mr. King, for reporting on the organization so that the Vincentian community is made aware of what we are doing to help the people of SVG.”

Dr. Arya, 52, director of endoscopy, Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, joined the hospital as an intern in 1986, completing his internal medicine residency five years later.

In further pursuing his interests, Dr. Arya joined the Gastroenterology fellowship program at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and became a board certified gastroenterologist in 1993.

A year later, he joined the Gastroenterology Division of Wyckoff Heights Hospital as the assistant director; and became a fellow of the American College of Physicians in 1996, American College of Gastroenterology three years later, and the American Gastroenterology Association in 2007.

Dr. Arya is an active member of various academic and honorary societies and organizations.

Renowned for his generosity and humility, Dr. Arya selflessly assists many in need, thus establishing the Vikalp Foundation.

He lives in Old Brookeville, Long Is. with his wife, Kalpana Arya-Gupta, also a physician, and their four children -Swarn, Simran, Sajel and Krishna.

Since 2001, Toney has presided over the largest expansion of Early Childhood Education services in the history of the 39-year-old Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.

With a current network of 19 full-service centers in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Staten Island, the center, under Toney’s tenure, has become one of the larger providers of child care and early education, including Universal pre-K and after-school programs, in New York City.

Over the years, many former school teachers and others in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have earned their living through employment at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.

Adams worked in private and public schools, as well as in day care centers in New York City under the auspices of Toney and former New York City Councilwoman Jamaican-born Una Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman to hold elective office in the city.

But Adams said her expertise is “exemplified” in Early Childhood Education.

In conjunction with teaching, Adams began her own giving ministry, supporting a “very worthy cause for the less fortunate” at the Louis Punnett’s Home and the Mental Hospital in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

She said she embraces the opportunity to send clothing consistently to those two institutions.

Adams, the mother of one son, is also an active member of St. Augustine’s Episcopal (Anglican) Church in Brooklyn.

She has received several awards for public service, including an award for “Mother of the Year” from St. Augustine’s Episcopal.

A former Qualified Assistant Teacher in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Adams holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Adelphi University in Long Is.; a master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, also from Adelphi University; and a master’s degree in education from Columbia University.

Wood is co-founder of the Brooklyn-based Square Deal Shippers & Movers, Inc. She founded the popular shipping company in 1979 with her late husband Egerton “Creech” Wood.

She studied at St. Joseph’s Convent Kingstown; Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn; and Adelphi University.

Over the years, Mrs. Wood has made exceptional contributions to her homeland and to the Caribbean community in the Diaspora.

She also supports numerous educational, health, sports, cultural and church organizations throughout the Caribbean, and is the recipient of many awards, including a New York City Council Proclamation.

Mrs. Wood is the mother of three adult children and grandmother of four.

Like the other honorees, Dr. Arya – who put off several procedures in order to attend the event – said he was “really humbled” to receive the award.

He lauded McBarnett and his group for their “admirable” work in helping Vincentians.

Dr. Arya concluded his acceptance speech with this plea, evoking much laughter: “If you’re giving, give happily; if you’re not giving, still give; and if you’re not happy, give unhappily.”

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