Just a few months ago, Lashan Gardiner was financially okay. The 27-y/o mother of three worked as a server at Sandals Resort, Emerald Bay while the father of her children was also gainfully employed. Then COVID-19 came. The couple had NIB benefits coming in. Hers ran out a few weeks ago. Luckily, her partner was called back to work full-time in July, since at six-months pregnant Ms Gardiner’s condition makes her “high risk” and unable to work. Her family was one of 400 on the receiving end of Caribbean Pavement Solutions’ recent food donation to Exuma.
“The groceries and the chicken were collected by a friend,” she explained. “I’m grateful. I can make a small meal stretch and make it work from there.” On Wednesday, June 24, the company’s pre-packed donation of 2,064 cans of Sea Best chunk light tuna, 816 cans of JBI kernel corn, 792 boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese, 432 cans of Cardinal cream and 400 five-pound bags of rice quietly arrived on the island and was distributed without any fanfare. A week later, 400 10-pound bags of frozen chicken leg quarters were delivered to the island, in a second-round of giving to residents.
“Rising unemployment and falling income pushes up poverty. Those who can, should help those who need it,” said CPS President Atario Mitchell whose company was recently awarded the contract to rehabilitate the island’s roads. On trips to the island, in preparation for road works, Mr Mitchell and his executive team continually heard about some residents’ struggle to keep food on the table. “While we wait for the economy to fire on all cylinders once again, we just wanted to do our part to help fill in the gap.” Their goal was to help those who are more likely to be at the bottom of Exuma’s socioeconomic ladder – single mothers, the elderly, and persons out of a job due to the coronavirus.
The 10-pound bag of chicken helped Alicia Joseph feed her children for a couple of days. “It is very tough to get by without financial assistance,” said the 37-year-old, mother of two who relocated to the island from Abaco on March 1. Shortly after her arrival Ms Joseph went to work at Paradise Bay resort as a waitress and bartender. Just a few short weeks later, she lost her job when COVID-19 locked down The Bahamas. “The pack of chicken is one less thing to buy,” said Ms Joseph whose surviving on her food vouchers from the Department of Social Services and the occasional delivery of groceries from Team Cooper, workers for the island’s parliamentary representative, Chester Cooper.
“It is very tough on my end. Not many places are open to apply for a job. Some places are just opening up.”Based upon turn-out, island administrator Ivan Ferguson is convinced residents were grateful and “very appreciative of the kindness” shown by Caribbean Pavement Solutions. His office was responsible for contacting local government representatives, have them identify needy persons in their townships or constituency and submit their names to the administrator’s office.
Mr Ferguson and his clerk Lynda Russell, also worked in conjunction with the Department of Social Services and Urban Renewal to compile its list of names.“This had a wide-reaching effect on the island. It was a very tremendous effort and gesture on their part to give back to the community. Sandals, which is one of our major employers, had not reopened its doors when these care packages were donated.
So, that went a long way in assisting and relieving people of some of the hardships which they were experiencing,” said Mr Ferguson, who noted CPS was the only corporate entity from outside of Exuma which has made significant contribution to the island since the onset of the pandemic in The Bahamas. Their generosity didn’t go unnoticed by pensioner Gabriel Styles whose grocery package was delivered to his home. “They didn’t have to do it,” said the 85-yearold retired gardener who lives with his wife and daughter. “People really need the help. As for my house, we thank them.”