Would you commute 1,962 miles one-way to get to work? Would you leave your home for 6 months every year to provide for your family? For many of our employees at the Chippewa and our sister hotel, the Lilac Tree, the big adventure starts every Spring. First, the car ride to the airport, then flying 1,143 long miles from the island of Jamaica to Flint, Michigan. Next riding a bus to Mackinac, boarding a Ferryboat to the island we call Mackinac, then a horse taxi clip-clopping down Main Street to St. Cloud where they are greeted by a family-reunion, Mackinac style with hugs, smiles, familiar faces, cheers of “welcome back” at their 6-month home away from home.
For many of our Jamaican family, like Dianne, Orlette and Sylvan who have been a part of the Chippewa Hotel family for 18 seasons this is all too familiar. While they leave their families in Jamaica, we see them as part of our family and love it when they return. They are all extremely hard-working people and conscientious in all that they do and for many, they are the sole providers of large family units. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “whistle while you work.” Our Jamaican family likes to sing while they work, and many of the songs are religious in nature as they are all very religious people. Many Chippewa guests, yes, me included, have complimented them on their singing and joyous demeanor and wish more people had their infectious, positive attitudes, especially while working. Whether they’re cleaning rooms, making beds or gently knocking on doors with cookies, milk and turn-down service, there’s always a warm, genuine smile, just like our own moms when we were growing up.
While they live on Mackinac, there are many sacrifices for them as they miss watching their families grow up and not being around for emergencies. In their absence, dedicated moms and Grandmothers step in and embrace their families to take care of their children. Brian Bailey, our General Manager at the Chippewa and Lilac Tree visits them at their homeland in Jamaica every year to meet their families and to give a heart-felt “thanks” for the sacrifices they all make to make your vacation stay perfect when you visit us on Mackinac Island.
Brian just came back after another great visit and he sums it up best. “The amount of sacrifice they endure to travel 2000 miles to support their families is so admirable. They’re very appreciative for the opportunity to work and make money for their families as there aren’t many opportunities in Jamaica and their wages are significantly less. They do their jobs with a great attitude, smile, and a song in their hearts.”– Brian Bailey, General Manager
In an effort to make them feel at home while they live on Mackinac, we provide Jamaican food choices in our employee dining room that’s welcomed with big smiles. They’re getting ready to pack up and return to Mackinac for our 2015 season, but they’d be the first to tell you that they don’t really enjoy the cold and snow as they prefer warmer weather like their homes in Jamaica or our beautiful Mackinac summers that will be here before you know it.
While it’s hard to say good-bye in the Fall, it’s great to welcome our family back in the Spring. It’s time to make your reservations for your next trip with us and we’ll be sure to welcome you back with a smile because you’re our extended family too.
We’re looking forward to seeing you again. Welcome back!
George Piliouras for The Chippewa Hotel