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Growers Establish Foundation To Help Farmworkers With Child Care, Health Care and Education
Date:3/24/2009

MAITLAND, Fla., March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- 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 & Reform (MUJER).

"The grower community has a long history of supporting farmworkers in a variety of ways. Through the Farmworker Community Support Foundation, we can direct our outreach in additional targeted ways. We're very enthusiastic about the projects that we've selected and are excited to be working with some very strong community groups," said Orlando attorney Brad Hester, chairman of the FCSF board. "We look forward to helping many more farmworker organizations and projects in the years to come." FCSF has raised more than $300,000 from Florida tomato growers so far.

The foundation is awarding $30,000 to CHS Healthcare to fund dental care for more than 500 pregnant women. Research shows a direct link between poor dental hygiene and premature births. With the much-needed funds, CHS will be able to provide a basic dental exam, teeth cleaning and problem resolution as part of its program directed at farmworker mothers and their children.

"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," said 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 non-profit 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," said 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 fact that RCMA is working collaboratively with all the child care centers in Immokalee makes it even more special."

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.

"As a third-generation migrant worker, I understand that most farmworkers live in isolated communities, away from mainstream society," said Susan Reyna, MUJER's executive director. "Access to services and information about important health concerns are not readily available, so that is why we are really excited about our partnership with Florida growers. We will use the grant to take important health information to the farm fields of Homestead, Immokalee and Ruskin. Farmworkers have been totally receptive to learning about HIV/AIDS, and many have already received testing."

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.

About FCSF

Based in Maitland, Fla., the FCSF is a non-profit organization that provides child care, health care and educational opportunities to farmworkers and their families living in Florida.

About CHS

Collier Health Services (CHS) is a private, not-for-profit "safety net" health-care provider with 12 health and dental care facilities located throughout Collier County, including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile. It offers basic primary and preventive medical and dental health care services. It provides services to approximately 45,000 patients (around 29,000 of whom are children), which comes to about 186,000 patient visits every year.

About RCMA

Based in Immokalee, the Redlands Christian Migrant Association was founded in 1965 in the Redlands farming area of southern Miami-Dade County to provide children of migrant workers with a safe place to go while their parents worked in the fields. Today, RCMA is the state's largest nonprofit childcare provider, serving more than 8,000 children of working-poor families in 21 Florida counties.

RCMA operates more than 70 childcare centers and two charter schools. RCMA is funded primarily by federal, state and local grants, as well as the generosity of businesses, individuals, the United Way, the Naples Children and Education Foundation and other organizations. For more information, see www.rcma.org.

About MUJER

MUJER is a grassroots organization founded in 1994 by third-generation migrant farmworker Susan Reyna and others to improve the lives of Latino families, mostly women and children, who suffered from family violence. Based in Homestead, Fla., MUJER has earned the trust of its community, and since its inception has helped more than 50,000 persons through its extensive outreach efforts for the purpose of promoting healthy lifestyles. An additional 6,000 persons suffering from domestic violence and/or sexual abuse have received direct services during that time. In 2003, MUJER expanded to include services for the prevention and intervention in HIV/AIDS and has since educated thousands of persons, mostly farmworkers, about high-risk behaviors and has provided direct assistance to those who are already infected.


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SOURCE Farmworker Community Support Foundation
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