The following is an edited version of remarks delivered by Don Wehby, group CEO of GraceKennedy Limited, at the company’s 95th anniversary church service held at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kingston on Sunday:
Not too long ago, as a youngster in khakis, I visited this church every first Friday for worship. In those days, it was mandatory. As I look back on my life, I’m thankful that it was. Those hours of prayer shaped my early spiritual identity and prepared me for a path which I could never have imagined would have led me to standing here before you as CEO of GraceKennedy. It just shows how important it is to dream big, work hard, and give God thanks.
I have also seen – both in my personal and business life – that it is God who makes all things possible, and He can take people, institutions and countries further than they or others could ever imagine. So today, we have come to this house to reflect and give thanks, fully aware that 95 years would not have been possible solely on human strength.
I salute each founder, director, and employee of GraceKennedy from the beginning to now, for the strength, commitment, passion and faith to have laboured in love to make this company what it is today. We honour our founders Dr John Grace, Fred Kennedy and James Moss-Solomon Sr and former CEOs Carlton Alexander, Rafael Diaz and Douglas Orane. And there are many other unsung heroes. I acknowledge members of the founding families who are with us today. We thank God for using them as vessels to build a company that shows love to our people and to our country.
IN PRAISE OF TEAM MEMBERS
We talk about this all the time and it is still worth mentioning: In 1925, we offered employees the right to purchase shares in the company at par. Also, in 1951, GraceKennedy became the first Jamaican company to establish free health, and superannuation schemes, and life insurance for staff. Today, we continue to look for every opportunity to ensure that our staff are well taken care of and can provide for their families.
I would like to salute our retirees. Many of them are here today or would have wanted to be. We hold them dear because of all they have given and how they continue to hold us in their hearts. They give us strength to continue every day. And they are very special to me.
We have a great executive team, which is committed to living the core values and continuing the tradition of leadership and service. We are thankful for their passion and commitment to GK.
JUST THE BEGINNING
Ninety-five years for some businesses is more than a lifetime. But for us, in some ways, it is just the beginning. The best is yet to come. From our humble early days, we have grown from strength to strength, and today, we are fixed on the goal of being a global world-class consumer group. GraceKennedy’s journey to the world is in full flight, with offices in Jamaica, the Caribbean, North America, UK and Europe, and Africa.
As we continue to grow and give the world a taste of who we are, we are more committed than ever to serving our Jamaican market with quality products and to keep GraceKennedy’s brands as household names. We are also encouraged to contribute to the growth of Jamaica and the communities in which we do business wherever we are in the world.
I believe wholeheartedly that even from birth, we have been a company ahead of its time, constantly looking beyond and thinking ahead. We know that greater things lie ahead. History has proven that when a solid foundation is put down, you can build with peace of mind. We have set our foundation, and we are building! And as I tell my team, I know there will be challenges, but if we fall down nine times, we are to get up 10!
Honesty, integrity, trust, humility and commitment are cherished core values which are our compass as we move forward with hope and optimism for the future. These are the same values that I learnt from my parents in this church over 30 years.
May God bless each of you, and our country, Jamaica. I pray for peace and love in this great country.