Susan Callum, Gleaner Intern
In a bid to ensure that children with special needs are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to become productive members of society, Hi-Lo Food Stores recently presented the Best Care Foundation with an education grant.
Hi-Lo donated almost $200,000 to the education programme of the foundation, which caters to 50 children. The foundation has been providing shelter and training for special-needs youngsters since 1976.
"We donated $5 of whatever was purchased during the summer months to Best Care Foundation in aid of the back-to-school effort. We selected them based on the basic needs the institution has, and the fact that the institution has provided special care to these children and also some adults there for a long time," said Verna Valentine, a marketing officer at Hi-Lo.
The food-store giant will host a book drive in its eastern stores to further assist the foundation.
"I think it's very important because we cannot survive without the community. We are heavily reliant on the community and the community needs us to support them as well. Therefore, it is critical that corporate Jamaica play its part," said Marcia Evans, deputy general manager of Hi-Lo Food Stores.
Margaret Loney, child care manager of Best Care Foundation, thanked Hi-Lo for its generous contribution and espoused the view that corporate Jamaica should be a positive force in the lives of its customers.
"We are a private home so we have to do a lot of fund-raisers. So when corporate Jamaica and other persons do contribute to us they assist us in the shortfall, because whatever the Government gives us is not enough to take care of all these children. So we really appreciate this donation," Loney said.
Best Care Foundation caters to children who have various challenges that include: cerebral palsy, mental retardation, learning disabilities, speech defects, epilepsy, paraplegia, congenital blindness, autism, limb deformities, and severe behavioural disorders.
"We have to prepare them in terms of vocational [training] so we have a computer lab, we do home management, craft, and now cosmetology, so at least they will have a skill," she said.
"These children have two things going against them: being mentally challenged and not having a skill, so we have to prepare them for life outside the foundation," Loney concluded.