Florida farmers have launched a new foundation to benefit farmworkers, announcing today an initial round of $160,000 in funding for three programs related to child care, health care, and education for the farmworker community in South Florida.
For its inaugural projects, the Farmworker Community Support Foundation has chosen to work with Collier Health Services and the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, both in Immokalee, and with Homestead-based Women United in Justice, Education, and Reform (MUJER).
“CHS Healthcare is pleased to be working with the Farmworker Community Support Foundation to enhance the health of the migrant and seasonal farm workers in Eastern Collier County,” says Mike Ellis, director of community development for the agency.
The FCSF also will grant the Redlands Christian Migrant Association a total of $100,000, with a $50,000 challenge grant dedicated to the Wimauma Academy, an RCMA charter school for farmworker children. RCMA will use the funding to add middle-school grades, which will help an additional 60 children. The new space will include seven classrooms, a music/art room, teacher area, kitchen, and cafeteria.
The other $50,000 grant will be used for an early-childhood education program for more than 20 children of farmworkers and other low-income children in Immokalee. RCMA, along with other nonprofit organizations, including Child Care of Southwest Florida, Guadalupe, and Immokalee Child Care, will manage the early-learning program.
“This generous funding will provide child care for children who are falling through the cracks in terms of qualifying for government-subsidized programs,” says Barbara Mainster, executive director of RCMA. “The children desperately need the experience of an early-learning program, and we’re pleased the Farmworker Community Support Foundation is helping to close this gap.”
The FCSF also is granting MUJER $30,000 to support its “Project Vida”, a program that provides HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention services to male farmworkers living in Miami-Dade, Collier, and Hillsborough counties. MUJER also plans to provide prevention kits and encourage testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases to recipients receiving assistance.
In addition to Hester, an Orlando attorney, other members of the foundation’s board of directors are Bob Spencer, vice president of sales and marketing for Palmetto, Fla.-based West Coast Tomato; Wes Wheeler, a Winter Haven attorney; and Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.