Group’s goal: Keep Caribbean culture, community alive while learning to live in U.S.

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A report by Wendy Dwyer for the TCPalm.

Living in one of the fastest-growing communities in the country can sometimes seem lonely and isolated.

If you’re not only new to the community but have roots in another country, it often can seem even harder to make new friends and feel like you belong while still trying to celebrate your own culture and heritage.

That’s not an issue for individuals of Caribbean descent in St. Lucie County, thanks to the Caribbean American Cultural Group of Port St. Lucie. A nonprofit organization founded in 1984, this active and enthusiastic group of more than 170 celebrates the Caribbean culture, community, and citizenship through service and social activities.

Every Friday night, members and friends gather at the organization’s clubhouse in Fountain Plaza on U.S. 1 in Port St. Lucie.

There’s socializing, games, cards, and a chance to share with one another. But it’s not all about socializing for the members.

This Thanksgiving, the group collected enough turkeys and all the trimmings to distribute about 70 complete Thanksgiving meals to seniors and families in the community who were having a difficult time providing for themselves.

At Christmas, members will do it all again, only they’ll add children’s gifts to the mix to make sure everyone has something to eat and a gift to open on Christmas morning. It’s a tradition they’ve practiced for several years, and it’s a way of quietly serving the needs of their community.

In addition to celebrating the Caribbean culture and heritage of its members, the group also awards 10 scholarships to graduating high school seniors in the area. Two of the 10 scholarships are designed to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and are funded from the proceeds of the organization’s annual MLK Day Memorial Service.

Other scholarships are funded through activities and fundraisers held throughout the year, including an annual Tea Party, Mother’s and Father’s Day activities, a New Year’s Eve party, Valentine’s Day celebration, an annual Sports Day, and the annual Treasure Coast Jerk Festival, which is at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center.

The group also provides backpacks with school supplies for local students to help them start the academic year off right; and, whenever funds allow, they make donations to organizations like the Salvation Army and Hospice. Funds are raised through regular activities and events and through an annual formal dinner ball held each autumn to celebrate the organization, its members, and community.

The 170-plus members of the organization understand that it can be hard to become an active and participating member of a community, especially since they weren’t born in the United States.

They also understand the responsibility and importance of volunteering, charitable giving, and helping make the community a better place to live, work, and raise children.

Every member of the Caribbean American Cultural Group of Port St. Lucie also understands the importance of fellowship and working together to preserve the cultural heritage of their community while also adapting and creating new traditions to share with family, friends, and others.

To learn more about the CACG, arrange for a cultural presentation for your organization, or if you’d like to become a member, visit http://www.cacgpsl.com or call Neville Lake at 772-336-6898.

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