Columns

Food for the Poor's kudos at Usain's 'yard'

Jean LOWRIE-CHIN

Monday, June 23, 2014    

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We love the excitement of the World Cup, but when we arrived at Usain Bolt's Tracks & Records (UBTR) at the Marketplace, last Wednesday, it was not to watch those larger-than-life screens, but rather to honour the Jamaican media and celebrities who had given generously to Food for the Poor (FFP). It was a fitting finale to the celebration of the organisation's 30th anniversary -- one that has taken them from a feeding programme in Kingston to the largest international charity in the USA. They now have significant operations in 17 Caribbean and Latin American countries, and were among the first responders after the tragic earthquake in Haiti in 2010 because of their well-established presence there.

When the RJR Group learned of the Haiti disaster they immediately started a Haiti Crisis Fund and raised over $15 million that they handed over to FFP, which ensures that at least 96 per cent of all funds donated goes to the poor. RJR and all other local media houses were honoured on Wednesday, including CVM-TV, the Jamaica Observer, The Gleaner, Nationwide News and IRIE-FM for supporting the work of this dynamic organisation, led locally by Chair Andrew Mahfood.

Earlier this year we attended FFP's gala fund-raiser in Boca Raton, where Tessanne Chin sang her heart out to raise millions to build 65 homes in an impoverished Haitian village. When the audience asked for an encore, she said "Give Food for the Poor another house and I'll sing another song." Three houses and three songs later, she brought the audience to our feet. At previous Boca events, guests were moved similarly by Shaggy, Tarrus Riley and Dean Fraser.

Jamaican Olympian Yohan Blake has partnered with Food For the Poor through his YB Afraid Foundation. His fellow star, Usain Bolt, at whose 'yard' we were celebrating, was represented by his manager, Norman Peart, who has been mentor and guide to Usain for the past 11 years. A few months ago, Richell 'Richie Spice' Bonner, contacted FFPJ, offering to partner with them to support the Galilee Early Childhood Education Centre in Maxfield Park. He was on hand to sing his inspiring song Jah Provide.

Ambassador Audrey Marks, chair of the KLE Group, and CEO Gary Matalon were enthusiastic in their support of the event. We felt the love of UBTR managers Nick Taylor and Kemoi Burke, who pulled out all the stops to give a complimentary memorable finale; and then actually thanked us for choosing UBTR! Perennial supporters Wisynco and Wray & Nephew kept guests happy.

When Food For the Poor announced their 30th anniversary School Furniture Drive, they got a call the very next day from National Bakery Chairman Butch Hendrickson, who immediately handed over his $2.2-million cheque for 1,100 desks and chairs. This was quickly followed by the Spanish-Jamaica Foundation, chaired by Ambassador Celsa Nuno, the Solo Foundation, Tank-Weld and, once again, Wisynco. The target of 15,000 desks and chairs is well in sight.

Thalia Lyn's Island Grill, Kevin O'Brien Chang's Fontana Pharmacy, the Scotiabank Foundation, Wendy's and Domino's, Sandals Foundation, NCB Foundation, our own shop PROComm, and many others have donated time, talent and treasure to partner with FFPJ. Director of Scotiabank Foundation Joylene Griffiths-Irving related that her organisation's exercise of building a FFP house for a family -- "Was a great team-building experience."

It only goes to prove that there are many good folks who want to help the less fortunate and readily embrace organisations, like Food For the Poor, whose track record speaks for itself. Here are some major Jamaican achievements:

* Since inception, the FFP has built 36,903 housing units in Jamaica.

* More than 145 educational facilities have been built, extended or renovated.

* FFP's Rural Economic Agricultural Programme (REAP) assists more than 120,000 farmers with seeds and tools including gas-operated water pumps and tillers.

* 16 FFP fishing villages with donated boats and storerooms located throughout the island.

* Medical equipment, including walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds, EKG and dialysis machines. FFP's Our Lady of the Poor Clinic serves over 10,000 patients every year. Also supplied IV fluids to help relieve the shortage in our health system.

* FFP's Fresh Start Prison Ministry programme has assisted in freeing over 475 non-violent individuals; also training, and reintroducing approximately 4,000 people into the community as productive citizens. Less than one per cent of those assisted return to prison.

Accountability is a priority for President Robin Mahfood, so the organisation's detailed annual report is posted at www.foodforthepoor.org, as they respond to the Lord's words in Matthew 25:40: "As often as you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters you did it for me."

The remarkable Butch Hendrickson

Last Wednesday, Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson and Dr Jeffrey Meeks received the Carlton Alexander Award, the highest honour presented by the Jamaica College Old Boys Association to distinguished graduates. This week, we salute Butch Hendrickson, chair of National Bakery, innovator and philanthropist extraordinaire.

This man of action and wry humour took his father's already successful bakery to new heights, expanding the lines of goods for the local and overseas markets, converting to biodegradable material for his millions of bread bags, and affirming his hard-working team members. It was he who created The Bold Ones of Manufacturing programme, and to date has ploughed over $90 million into comprehensive marketing plans for new manufacturers since 2010, enabling them to promote their brands globally. His bread trucks sport messages totally alien to his goods: leather and beauty products, wines and sauces.

When Deika Morrison approached him to sponsor Crayons Count, she had no idea that he would have embraced it so comprehensively to the tune of over $50m per year, providing the project with driver and van to take supplies to schools islandwide, and paying a full-time educator to coach teachers.

When Emprezz Golding explained to Butch how she could help our young people to articulate their pain and their promise, he backed the 'Talk Up Yout' project. This man is moving mountains nationwide as he builds on the legacy of his distinguished parents, Karl and Nell Hendrickson. The self-deprecating achiever may probably groan when he reads this, but we hope he takes a well-deserved bow. Kudos, Butch!

Celebrating Marcia Erskine

The members of Women's Leadership Initiative and other well-wishers gathered last Friday at the Jamaica Pegasus to honour our Immediate Past Chair Marcia Erskine who has been the recipient of the prestigious Marcella Martinez Award from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO). The cordial, brilliant communications guru has rolled out successful campaigns for major players in the tourism sector, both locally and regionally, and has led our hoteliers on successful marketing missions in North America and Europe.

Deputy Director of Tourism Donnie Dawson lauded Marcia at the New York presentation event: "Marcia embodies the spirit behind this award and those who know her, know that her passion for the region is undeniable". Congratulations to this beautiful Trini-Jamaican trailblazer!

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.com

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