Erica Beckford is always cognizant that many people are in need.
But she got a rude awakening in 2009 when she started working as a Community Health Aide at Morant Bay Health Services.
She was assigned to the St Thomas communities of Spring Garden, Stanton Road, Morant, Cottage Pen, Friendship Pen, and Red Hills Housing Scheme.
“Working in these communities, I came across needy people – people who really needed assistance,” Erica told The Beacon.
Her first big project was to help provide housing for a family, which was living at the back of a church. With help from Food For The Poor, the family received a house.
Erica also succeeded in getting Food for the Poor to provide a house for another family, which comprised eight members.
She said: “People in the communities started to think that I am a community hero based on the help I gave.”
Erica eventually brainstormed with her mother, Dorna Mathison, about possible ways of reaching more people outside the workplace.
That’s how she ended up forming the registered non-profit organization dubbed Giving Hearts and Friends Foundation.
The foundation, founded in 2016, has touched many individuals and communities in St Thomas especially through Christmas and back-to-school treats, as well as senior citizens’ dinner.
The main initiative is the LOVE Feed Project, which provides food for the homeless and other people in need. Erica hopes to expand it when more sponsorship becomes available.
“I love to see people happy because that makes me happy too,” said Erica, who expressed gratitude to the people who have been supporting her charity.
She told The Beacon that she owes a debt of gratitude to a number of people, especially her grandmother Herma Mathison who raised her at Red Hills Road in Morant Bay, St Thomas.
“I remember one day my grandmother took my dinner and split it in two to give a little boy in the community; I started crying tears. My grandmother pulled me aside and said to me, ‘One day you will understand the value of sharing with others‘. Those words stuck with me for years,” Erica said.
Her grandmother’s words, indeed, were prophetic.
Erica grew to experience the power of kindness – not only from her extended family.
She met kind-hearted people when she dropped out of school; she met them when she started to work at age 17; she met them when she got pregnant at age 18; and she met them when she worked as bartender and a store clerk.
Erica, in 2005, gained employment as a housekeeper in the Bahamas.
Two years later, she returned to her native St Thomas.
She recently resigned as a Community Health Aide and opened her business – Perfection Decor N More.
Erica is now engrossed in business, but she finds time to reach out to others through charity.
She, we daresay, is now a philanthropist at heart.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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