FAMILY MEANS A LOT to Antonio Elcock, president of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). So too do charity and helping children.
After being re-elected on June 8 to serve for a second consecutive term, his aim is to fulfil this mission of building youth with the help of his team of executive committee and board members.
Today as fathers are celebrated in Barbados, Antonio has lots to be thankful for. He had good examples to follow and show his son Justin, 20, who is away at the University of South Florida in Tampa pursuing his Master’s degree in architecture.
Both father and son attended Combermere School and Antonio also did his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at University of South Florida in Tampa.
He enjoys being a dad and wants his son to live his life and make his own mistakes, knowing that dad will be there to guide, advise and help him if he falters.
“My hope for him is that he appreciates the education that he’s getting and that he’s able to make the most of it when he’s finished. There’s no urgency for him to come back to the island to work immediately. Those decisions he will make on his own but I would like him to be as open-minded as he can. Wherever he can find a job, where he can go and make his mistakes first, then come back to Barbados, he can do so,” he said about his hopes for Justin.
“Being a dad means everything to me. It is all-encompassing being a family person. My family – both maternal and paternal – are extremely close and they, too, are close to each other. In each family there has either been a matriarch or patriarch who has led the charge in making sure that closeness is maintained,” he told EASY magazine.
“My parents grew up in adjoining districts and, fortunately, both sides of the family have been long livers. My grandmother passed away a couple years ago at 102; my great uncle, my grandfather’s brother, passed away last year at 105; and my grandfather passed away in his 90s. We had four centenarians in the family at the same time.
“That instilled in us the desire and the necessity to continue the closeness. We’ve got all the family stories being passed down from seed to seed and if there was a problem you always knew where you could go to get a wiser head to give you advice. We saw the benefit of having experienced relatives around and it instilled in us the maternal and paternal instincts in raising the children and making sure the families – nieces, nephews and cousins – continue to be close,” he shared.
Working in the family’s business (Everson R. Elcock and Company Limited) has given Antonio the opportunity to find his own footing. He explained that as with other generational businesses, the vision of the founder is the guide and “you have to know where to fit into that even though you might have your own.
“In our business, we have our distinct areas which we operate in and then we come together at the board level . . . . It is really pleasing to still be able to have that experience and knowledge that you can go next door and ask a question and hear a story from 1960 or whenever that can relate to a problem that you may have and how that was solved back then.
“Some of the same practices and principles apply particularly because some of the same players are involved,” he said.
One of the lessons he learnt from his dad Everson is, “If you’re going to do something, do it properly or don’t do it at all”.
“In business, if he looks at something you’re doing he says. ‘Is there a charge for this? if you say no, he says, ‘You’ll still have to do it as if you’re charging’.
“This is something that has been transferred to Justin at university and his years at Combermere. He would always be told by my mother or father, ‘Don’t complain; just do it to the best of your ability’,” Antonio shared.
It is this attitude that the weekend hiker, motorsport enthusiast, cricket lover and “pretty accomplished” cook has taken with him into the YMCA.
While some people have sounded the death knell for the 136-year-old organisation, Antonio strongly believes that the team can work to resuscitate the once vibrant organisation which so many youth benefited from years ago.
“My focus this year will be to get the programmes offered directly to the young citizens, those between the ages of five and 11, started and to get the youngsters back into the YMCA and any mentoring I can have from positive male role models is what I will go after next.”
“I got involved in the YMCA because of the need to give back. I thought it best to give back at the level of the younger children. I am a very active Freemason and one of our tenets is charity . . . it tends to be more charity in and amongst the fraternity and in the wider community, the disadvantaged. It wasn’t touching on the young children.
“My father is a Lion and my brother Adrian, is an Optimist, and they would do community work but it still wasn’t touching the area I felt that I could or would want to make a contribution. I’ve been approached several times to join the Rotary but I’ve always taken a step back because I wanted to make a contribution at the level of the young citizens.
“In my mind, we seem to be losing some generations and I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a teacher, but as a male role model I would like to style myself to be and to try to get some of my peers to be role models for those young people we have not lost, and try to mould and bring them back to where I think we can get them to be”.
Antonio is ready for this task and once he gets programmes that include literacy, sports, and reading in conjunction with a service club and churches in place, his peers will be there to assist.
“The YMCA is very much open for business. Don’t let the façade and facilities make you think otherwise. There are some peoples working diligently and assiduously behind the scenes, as well as very impressive plans for the YMCA. It’s just that they have been taking some time to work out the fine details of getting the arrangements together due to the fact that the YMCA has slipped so far in its physical surroundings.
“We are hoping that if we can get the football and literacy programmes going . . . we can bring people back into the YMCA at that level.” (GBM)