Grace & Staff Foundation celebrates 40 years of changing lives

Friday, November 08, 2019

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GRACEKENNEDY'S community outreach arm – the Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation (Grace & Staff') – last Thursday celebrated its 40th anniversary with a dinner at the Spanish Court, Worthington, in Kingston.

The foundation's founders, former and current directors, as well as its student beneficiaries were honoured for their outstanding contribution and performance at different periods over the 40 years.

Group CEO Don Wehby underscored the organisation's mission to contribute to nation-building by supporting community development through partnerships in education and empowerment activities. The foundation spends about $21 million each year on educational and psychosocial assistance for young people from communities in and around GraceKennedy's operations.

“Grace & Staff is a living example of the role we can play in making Jamaica better. Every Jamaican deserves the right to a good education. Education is a not a privilege, it is a right,” Wehby said.

“When GraceKennedy spends its money on education, it is not an expense, it is an investment,” he added, noting that his aim was to increase the number of children who currently receive support from Grace & Staff, to 1,000 by 2022, when the company celebrates 100 years. That number now stands at just over 600 students.

Among the Grace & Staff beneficiaries is attorney-at-law Matthew Royal, who served as the event's guest speaker. In sharing his story, Royal was glowing in his praises for the work of the foundation as he spoke on behalf of the thousands of beneficiaries over the years.

“Far more valuable than money is the charitable spirit in which you make your investment. It was your investment that helped us to achieve our dream. By exposing us to the achievement of others, we learnt that we could also achieve. You took us out of our communities, gave us the opportunity to adopt new perspectives. We began to do more and achieve more,” he said.

A release from the foundation said Royal's eloquent and impressive presentation moved the attentive audience, earning the 25-year-old a standing ovation.

General Manager of Grace & Staff Tanketa Chance-Wilson, in her remarks, said: “We approach the work that we do as a labour of love, doing what we say we will and never taking our students, parents, communities, volunteers or GraceKennedy staff for granted. There is so much gratitude owing to everyone who makes a contribution each month to our programmes. We thank the company,the team and our leaders who show that GraceKennedy truly cares by investing heavily in Grace & Staff.”

Among the evening's awardees were longest serving and current chairman, James “Jimmy” Moss-Solomon, and Michael Buckland, former chairman and director of the foundation, who received an award for having served with distinction for more than 10 years. Directors, Simon Roberts and Anthony Lawrence, were also recognised for their service to the Grace & Staff Board. Founder Sam Richards and former General Manager Frances Madden were also honoured but they were unable to attend the event.

Former beneficiaries were also awarded in recognition of their academic achievement, rising above the odds and being of service to students, community and country. They included Nationwide journalist William Mitchell; Ozayne Campbell, who currently volunteers at the GraceKennedy/Parade Gardens STEM Centre; Christopher Rose, a justice of the peace who tutors at the Learning Centre of Central Kingston (LICK); and Omar Valentine, who works tirelessly in his community of Rae Town to positively impact the lives of other young Jamaicans.

The Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation was established in 1979, in response to increasing violence in nearby communities and rising unemployment. The foundation seeks to relieve poverty and distress among the poor and unemployed, through access to education and assisting with general community development. Staff members contribute a portion of their salaries on a monthly basis, which the company then matches on a 2:1 basis.


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