Giving Back: A Family Legacy

Chairman of the Hanover Homecoming Foundation, Dawn Skeete was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1963. She left Jamaica in 1974 at the tender age of 10 to live in the United States.  In 1988, the family moved from Harlem, four months later, Brooklyn and then later onto Long Island.

While in Jamaica she attended Cane School in Cold Spring, Hanover and then Blake Preparatory School on South Camp Road in Kingston.  When she arrived in the United States, she attended Clara Barton High School, Brooklyn College, Fashion Institute of Technology and the New School for Social Research.

Skeete, once a management consultant at TIAA-CREF, left the trappings of the corporate life to become an entrepreneur and now owns, along with her husband, – Jamaica Grill, a fusion food restaurant and catering business in Brooklyn, New York.

“Growing up in the US wasn’t easy,” Skeete recalls.  “When I first arrived here I was teased, mercilessly, because I was a Jamaican.  Times have changed. Today everybody wants to be identified with Jamaica.  Growing up there offered me insight about the many missed opportunities in the lives of my people and continuing my education here has provided me with many opportunities and the desire to give something back to my homeland, Jamaica.”

She decided to establish the Hanover Homecoming Foundation after having a successful family reunion in Hanover in 1998.  “We discovered 225 family members from all over the globe,” she beams, “and decided that this was truly home.”   The thing she likes most about Hanover is that she felt very safe there.  “There is a sense of indescribable caring I get from the people of Hanover,” she says.

”I decided to establish the foundation because I was asked to extend what we – my family and I – currently do, to the community of Cold Spring.  My lineage lies in Cold Spring and every year we donate several items to the Gurney’s Mount Primary School.  We also provide financial help to the Sister Cane Basic School.

”Giving back to the community is the right thing to do. My mother, Amelda Smith was given an opportunity to leave the island and come to the USA for better opportunities and in doing this she helped her mother and siblings to follow her to the United States.  Giving back to Cold Spring for us is a rite of passage; sharing the fortune God has blessed us with, because the more you give back the more you get.”

Five years ago, Skeete organized the first annual Hanover Homecoming under the patronage of then Prime Minister, The Most Honorable P. J. Patterson. This year beginning on Sunday, August 3 – Saturday, August 9 Hanover will come alive with an all faith church service ending with “The Prodigal Returns” a gospel concert by some of Hanover’s world renowned singers.  Back-a-Yard tours featuring natural waterfalls, a Sports & Health Day – on Wednesday Jamaica’s Independence Day there will be a gala parade symbolizing the beauty of Hanover complete with an extravagant fireworks display in Lucea. Thursday’s Business Expo will begin the process of building “Brand Hanover” and the role Hanoverians play in community tourism development.  The festivities would not be complete without a Lovers’ Rock night under the stars at Fort Charlotte.

The final event takes place on Saturday – the Birds of Paradise Awards Dinner where a scholarship fund established in the name of the Governor General of Jamaica, His Excellency The Most Honorable Professor Sir Kenneth Hall will be presented.  The Lifetime Achievement Award will be given in the name of former Prime Minister The Most Honorable P. J. Patterson who will also be its first recipient.

Skeete is married with three children – two girls; ages 26 and 19 and a boy who is 15 years old.

Originally published in New York newspapers in 2008

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