Daniel Blake, better known as Charlie, has been doing business in the relatively small town of Ewarton, St. Catherine, for nearly 50 years, having started in 1972.
“I am more than a businessman,” he told The Beacon. “My business doesn’t pay mi much money, but mi glad for how mi and the people get along.”
The tiny shop isn’t strictly for business.
Mature men unwind there at sundown, and Charlie uses it as the headquarters for the charity and storage facility he runs unwittingly. In fact, people from all over Ewarton often leave various items – including keys and money – at the shop in Charlie’s temporary care.
Charlie’s goodwill and business acumen have made him a household name in Ewarton, although he was born at Richmond district in St. Mary – the native parish of his mother Cecelia Campbell-Blake.
He spent his early childhood years in St. Mary until he relocated to Ewarton – the hometown of his father Robert Blake.
Charlie attended Ewarton Primary School, and subsequently enrolled at Sligoville Primary when he went to live with an aunt at Sligoville, St. Catherine.
He returned to Ewarton when he was about 17 years old, and has remained there since.
Charlie initially worked at Alcan bauxite company (now WINDALCO).
After being laid off, he set out as a sole trader – selling pears from a handcart. The business evolved into the sale of pastry, and later into a Sky Juice stall, and eventually into a wooden shop near Ewarton bus stop.
The shop became a target for thieves, who burglarized it on 26 occasions, Charlie said. In response, he transformed the structure to its present architecture – all concrete.
Charlie, who now speaks of burglaries only in the past tense, told The Beacon that, when he retires, he wants people to remember him as an upstanding citizen who persevered.
“I want them to remember me as joyful,” he added. “A lot of people rally around me because they know I live a life where they can move along with me.”
Charlie’s presence in Ewarton town has become a symbol of resilience and pride, said the Ewarton Community Development Committee (Ewarton CDC).
The organization’s Vice President, Sashoy Thomas, noted: “Charlie prides himself as a servant of the community so much so that, even when the business is not booming, he is still encouraged to serve… He is a mini Father Ho Lung because you would wonder if he is running a charity programme at times – from feeding the insane, poor and indigent, to giving kids lunch money or bus fare…”
The Ewarton CDC, on November 5, 2020, awarded Charlie and three other stalwarts for their service to the community of Ewarton. The other persons awarded during a ceremony, which was held at the Ewarton community centre, are Dorrell Francis – better known as ‘Manton’, Donald Tinling Snr., and Justice of the Peace Millholland Barker.
Barker, who replied on behalf of the awardees, singled out Charlie for special commendation.
“Charlie, over the years, has proven to me to be one of the successes of this community,” he said. “When I came to Ewarton [in 1974], Charlie was one of the persons who were at the bus-stop and would assist you in getting your goods and your boxes to wherever you wanted to go when you come off the taxi.”
Barker added that, since Charlie started his shop, the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation attempted to remove him, but residents would have none of that.
“Charlie has served this community with diligence and pride and sacrifice over the years…” Barker further told the gathering. “Forgive me for singling Charlie out, but he is one of my favourite persons in this town, and it goes to show that – with hard work, discipline and dedication – you can still make it in this world.”
Persons who attended the awards ceremony included some of Charlie’s six children.
“I am feeling really elated at this moment; my father is deserving of the award,” said Tamar Blake, who last year received a Badge of Honour for Gallantry on National Heroes Day.
She further told The Beacon: “My father has been giving service since 1972 to the community of Ewarton, and he is very passionate about what he does. He is not so much into the monetary gains, but into serving the community. I hope that many years to come he will continue to give such service.”
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