Better Together: The Benison Center is “Changing the Culture in the Classroom” through partnerships with local nonprofits agencies

Submitted photo – PC: Elisabeth Simonise, a UF IFAS Family Nutrition Program Assistant, teaching children in Salud Immokalee class.

By Christina Monroe
Special to the Immokalee Bulletin

IMMOKALEE – “Together Nothing is Impossible.” These are the first words a visitor sees when they visit the Benison Center’s website. It has only been around for two years, but already Director, Frank Rincon, and his team at The Benison Center have made a lasting impact helping communities rebuild following Hurricane Irmahurricanes and other national disasters, and ensuring that local nonprofits, schools, and first responders receive the donated items they need to further their missions. They will tell you that “we exist to serve as a bridge that links people to resources that are needed in times of devastation. Whenever companies have excess products, we make sure that the products are put to great use.” As a World Vision satellite distribution center, the Benison Center currently provides donated products and resources for over 50 organizations and schools in Immokalee. One such school where Benison is making an impact is Pathways Early Education Center.

Just this past summer, the Benison Center saved the Pathways Early Education Center over $1,153 by providing them with essential water products. The money saved went to providing transportation for Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Students to and from field trips, which supplemented their summer learning. “By providing consumable products and supplies, The Benison Center is saving Pathways a significant amount of money so that we can continue doing important things for the program,” said Pathway’s Executive Director, Beth Hatch. “We want to continue helping the Benison Center grow and keep changing lives and making a difference in our community.”

Submitted photo – Frank Rincon and Pastor Terry Mallory.

What sets Benison Center apart from other distribution centers is its focus on students, teachers, and parental involvement in the classroom through the “Gift is Kind”’ Program. The toys received at the Benison Center go directly to support Collier County Schools and Florida’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports in Schools (PBIS) Project. “Through our partnership with Collier County Schools, we are changing the culture in the classroom by having the students earn toys through positive referrals and/or perfect attendance,” says Rincon.

The “Gift is Kind” Program also focuses on recognizing the hard work of Immokalee teachers. Through their participation in workshops and training sessions, teachers and staff have the opportunity to receive products, such as household items, at these professional development sessions. “Our teachers and staff are working long hours every day,” said Pathway’s Executive Director, Beth Hatch. “And they can come and learn and get something as simple as a coffee pot but it does help. It builds self-esteem, builds morale, helps builds everyone up.” Also, the Benison Center donates furniture to their partner schools for their teacher’s lounge, classrooms, and reception areas to provide more comfortable workspaces. By investing in the teachers who give so much to the youth of our community, Benison takes part in helping retain quality educators to ensure that Immokalee schools continue to grow and prosper.

Submitted photo – A mom holding a complete set of cookware that she won in the door prize drawing at Salud Immokalee, a program that teaches families about healthy food choices.

Not only do they focus on what’s going on in the classroom, but Benison Center also recognizes the importance of parental involvement in schools. Benison Center encourages parent involvement in Immokalee by supplying schools with donated products to be offered as door prizes at parent informational meetings. Benison Center has provided RCMA (Redland’s Christian Migrant Center) with donated products, such as household items and kitchen supplies, and parents can earn these products as door prizes by attending parent meetings.

“RCMA has always promoted parent and staff involvement but thanks to our partnership with the Benison Center it’s promoted a lot more of involvement at the center level, at the staff meetings, and our state office,” said RCMA’s Area Coordinator, Gloria Padilla. By having the opportunity to offer door prizes at parent meetings RCMA has had an increase in attendance by parents from 50% percent to almost 100%. Thanks to this increase in parent attendance at meetings, it has encouraged a greater incentive for parents to become more involved in their children’s education.

Nonprofit agencies the Center partners with include RCMA (Redland Children Migrant Association) Immokalee Community School, Guadalupe Center, Pathways, Learning Spot, Immokalee Foundation, The Immokalee Fire Department, and Immokalee Technical College. In these partnerships, Benison Center supplied everything from consumable products, office supplies, furniture, and products that enhance community engagement, and the impact the Benison Center has on the local community cannot be overstated. “What the Benison Center is doing to support schools’ initiatives is incredible,” said Abel Jaimes, Director of Title I for CCPS. “We’ve never had resources the way we do now to recognize teachers, staff, and parents for the work they are doing and to say thank you; that changes the culture in the community.” Despite the good work they’ve accomplished, The Benison Center wants to continue to do more locally and nationally, and they are always looking for staff members and donated goods to allow them to expand their capacity to serve. If interested in partnering with them, see their contact information below. As they’ll tell you, we are Better Together.

If you would like to work for the Benison Center or are interested in donating to the center please contact Paster Frank Rincon at godskid73@gmail.com or Pastor TW Mallory at twmallory@yahoo.com.

To learn more about the mission of the Benison Center go to benisoncenter.org. Follow all the latest happenings of the Benison Center on Twitter.

Christina Monroe is a student at Ave Maria University and can be reached at christina.monroe@my.avemaria.edu.

Submitted photo – Frank Rincon and some of his staff at the Benison Center Warehouse.

The Immokalee Bulletin is published every Thursday.

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