Convention 2016 - Willingboro/Mt. Holly/Delran, New Jersey
Our Commitment to Service in 2016
In coping with our theme for this year's convention, we witnessed and heard of several accounts of our association (and individual members) sacrificial commitment to service. Some of them will be highlighted here: Charles and Joko Nagbe flew in earlier during the day from Atlanta with a large box containing the souvenirs just to get an early start on selling the products and tickets. D. Gus Nyekan exhibited commitment by picking them up from the Philadelphia airport. Guest Speaker Konneh flew in early from Kentucky and convention Chair King picked her up from the airport on time. Board Chair King came to the area early and ran around all Friday like a headless chicken (along with Convention Chair Joel King) to ensure that the drinks and food were in place for the various events. These are samples of the kind of commitment to service we will continue to highlight throughout this description of the events of convention 2016.
After hosting a successful family reunion in the Sacremento area a week earlier, James King committed himself to attending this year's convention and flew in from California at higher than normal travel cost. Under the influence of a committed active member, Wayne Doe flew in from Minneapolis to attend the convention for the first time in a long long time. Kumba Pope whipped up several delicious dishes with limited resources to entertain guests at the farewell brunch at her home. Immanuel Karpeh and Trokon Gbadyu surprised everyone when they showed up for the business meeting and the rest of the activities of the weekend. Not only that, they both committed to volunteer resources and services to promote our computer lab project. All of these are fine examples of true commitment to service (a beautiful and timely theme of this year's convention).
On the welcome/meet and greet night, the mood was just right. Everyone came in the happy go lucky mood to formally set the tone for the weekend. The event was held at the Knight of Columbus facility in Willingboro. Good food and music caused everyone to have a really good time. DJ Jaack rocked the hall with the best mix from start to end. Drinks were sold at very reasonable prices.
The Dinner and Ball
The main event got off to a rocky start. A number of persons found it a bit challenging to get to the venue. Even with the scientific help of GPS (Global Positioning System), one still had difficulty spotting the place. As strong believers in verbal direction (with landmarks) from someone who lives in the area over GPS, many persons still struggled to find the elegant Touch of Class by Candlelite event hall.
Once in the facility, the atmosphere was very impressive. Cameramen were lined up to take pictures of everyone as they arrived. First time attendees left with good perceptions of what transpires at these annual events. The hall was in a league of its own with beautifully decorated tables and chairs, very nice chandelier lights, as well as friendly and hospitable staff.
At the onset, MC Berma Findley stepped to the podium dressed in a custom made exquisite reddish looking evening gown. She immediately attracted the attention of the audience. Several persons were anticipating that she would change into several outfits as the night progressed (just like she did the year before). But to our surprise, Ms. Findley stuck with the one outfit, which could have been equated to three because of its elegance. The program proceeded along the established protocol with invocation by Mother Caulcrick, remarks by convention chairman, Dr. A. Joel King and Board Chairman, Mr. Victor D. King. Hall entrance was manned by Treasurer Pearl Knowlden and the dynamic duo, Mr. & Mrs. Nagbe (handling intake from the souvenir as well as the raffle and ball tickets).
As the night progressed, President Reeves honored two deserving personalities: Ms. Kristen Zozulin (a former Peace Corps Volunteer to the Bassa High School) and Mother Joanna Caulcrick, member of the Board of Directors. He read the contents of the plagues presented and Mother Caulcrick spoke on behalf of the honorees. The venue staff served a buffet style delicious meal with everyone having enough to eat (even the latecomers).
Later on, Ms. Zozulin gave a slideshow presentation of her experience at Bassa high School and levied praises on our association for the positive impact we have on the school. She reported that it was both sad and impressive when the school is compared to other government high schools outside of the Monrovia area. Kristen noted that the school is headed in the right direction. When compared to Foya High School in Lofa County, Ms. Zozulin praised the standard and practices at the Bassa High School. She encouraged the association to help secure and support at least two full--time instructional staff members for the science lab. The lab is currently staffed by a few volunteers that have other jobs and spend very little time at the school. She praised the effort of Principal Sherriff and his staff for spending time on the campus as opposed to Foya where teachers behave like part-time employees. Kristen expressed her concern about female students' ability to stay in school and complete their studies like their male counterparts. She noticed that it is due to enormous challenges they face: Family pressures, sexual harassment, and lack of resources to provide the basic necessities of life.
Our keynote speaker for the evening was none other than a former graduate of the institution, Dr. Davidetta Lloyd Konneh. After an impressive introduction by her sister, ms. Ida Lloyd, Davidetta briefly spoke about this years's convention theme of, "Commitment to Service," where she rightly defined the phrase and gave examples of her personal commitment to service, encouraging others to do likewise as it gives one an inner joy.
Several highlights of the night included the dethroning of King Charles G. Nagbe by Mrs. Georgia B. Hansen. She handidly defeated Mr. Nagbe in one of the poorest performance contest in the history of the organization, leaving several persons calling for a re-examination of the pageant. Our signature cash raffle program brought in substantial financial resources, even after giving out three prizes ($250 - 1st prize, $150 - 2nd prize, and $100 - 3rd prize). The cash bar remained active throughout the function.
Following the Grand March led by Mr. James R. King (Class of 1976) and Mrs. Diana C. Harmon (Class of 1982), first time attendee Mr. Clarence Kamara (Class of 1975) and Cllr. Johnny T. Barnard (Class of 1976) kept the dance floor active the entire time. Of course Mr. Richmond Matthew (class of 1977) and Ms. Kay Ann Thomas exhibited their usual unique style of dance to the tunes played by DJ Jaack. It is noteworthy to mention the awesome job of DJ Jaack. He provided the right mix of music for every age and stage, leaving a lasting impression of what defines a good DJ. The pressure now moves to the Charlotte group, host of Convention 2017. They really have a large shoe to fill as New Jersey double redeemed themselves from the last convention they hosted. Dr. King and his crew rolled up their sleeves and put the whip to the horse. He and Board Chair Victor D. King were constantly running around to make sure the events went well. Spread the word early and start making plans for an awesome convention in Charlotte, NC in 2017.