At the tree lighting ceremony hosted by the Lions Club of Tortola of Tortola on Sunday at Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park, officials encouraged a spirit of giving during a holiday season that comes amidst the turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: JOEY WALDINGER)

In a year that has been anything but normal, Christmas 2020 will feel a little different as well, Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said Sunday at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony hosted by the Lions Club of Tortola at the Cyril B. Romney Tortola Pier Park.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused immense hardship for the people of the Virgin Islands, which is why residents should make an extra effort to foster a spirit of togetherness and help out other community members this holiday season, said Dr. Wheatley, who is also a Lions Club member.

“In my view, the Christmas season takes on a different complexion,” he added. “Based on the difficulties we’ve had over the past few years, … I implore you make this Christmas season more about giving to the needy.”

The ceremony, which marks the start of the Christmas season in the territory, brought throngs of people to the pier park, where onlookers lined the edges of the grassy area in front of Mac’s Café to take in all of the evening’s spectacles.

After a group of elected representatives and Lions Club members flicked the switch illuminating the brightly decorated tree, eliciting applause and cheers from the crowd, people danced to the rhythm of the Shooting Stars Steel Orchestra and to live music from the Three G’s, among other musicians who performed throughout the night.

While addressing the crowd, Lions Club Vice President Nichola Dunkley seconded Dr. Wheatley’s message of community support during a tough year.

“Many of us are experiencing hardships never imagined in the Virgin Islands,” Ms. Dunkley said. “But as we did after Hurricane Irma, we shall rise at the end. However, we will only rise if we work together and continue to be our brother’s keeper.”

As Christmas approaches, the Lions have organised several initiatives aimed at helping the needy, Ms. Dunkley said.

The organisation is working with the Tree of Hands community group to collect toys through Dec. 16, before distributing them in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Lions Club members will also be leading a food drive at Bobby’s Marketplace this weekend and another at Rite Way Pasea from Dec. 12-13.

All food collected during these drives will be donated to the Family Support Network and other food pantries in the territory.

“On behalf of the Lions Club of Tortola, we wish you a happy holiday,” Ms. Dunkley said.