If there was no Coronavirus, CIBC staff would get a $100,000.00 shindig? Matchbox Girl redux? Gadzooks!

C A V E A T

The intent was probably far from what I saw, but on reading this, it made me cringe. I couldn’t help but think of the poor li’l Match Girl from Hans Christian Andersen? Please note all sarcasm listed is my views and not FirstCaribbean, they have to develop a thick skin and take the lashes they so richly deserve, now here goes

CIBC FirstCaribbean – Salvation Army and Street Gospel Ministries (Original Title) TWO CHARITIES BENEFIT FROM CANCELLATION OF STAFF PARTY SHARE BDS $100,000 DONATION

If the Barbados employees of CIBC FirstCaribbean had heard the joy and appreciation in Stephen Skeete’s voice, they would have agreed, that rather than COVID-19 blocking them from having an enjoyable staff party, it has led to their bringing glad tidings and great joy to several of the island’s most vulnerable people.

The bank donated BDS$100 000 shared equally between the two charities. Meaning it took worldwide sickness to avoid being a Grinch or Scrooge!

Skeete’s Street Gospel Ministry was one of two organisations, which recently received monetary gifts from the bank to further their charitable work on the island. The other was the Salvation Army which was represented at the presentation by Advisory Board Chairman (Barbados), Paul Bernstein and Divisional Commander for Barbados and St. Lucia, Brenda Greenidge.

Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Gospel Street Ministry, Steve Skeete, left, receives a donation for the Ministry from Managing Director, Barbados & the OECS, Donna Wellington; Michelle Whitelaw, Director Retail Banking Channels, right, witnesses the presentation.

Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Gospel Street Ministry, Steve Skeete, left, receives a donation for the Ministry from Managing Director, Barbados & the OECS, Donna Wellington; Michelle Whitelaw, Director Retail Banking Channels, right, witnesses the presentation.

At the presentations, CIBC FirstCaribbean Managing Director, Barbados & the OECS, Donna Wellington pointed out that the bank usually provided charitable organisations with gifts, but this year, since it could not have a Christmas Staff Party, the money which would have been used to stage the party was redirected to help deserving organisations.

Bernstein thanked the bank, which over the years has generously donated to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Appeal and other causes. The bank’s donations have helped to improve the lot of a number of people who are in need.

Managing Director, Barbados & the OECS, Donna Wellington, right, presents the Salvation Army with a donation which is received by Divisional Commander for Barbados and St. Lucia, Brenda Greenidge. Advisory Board Chairman (Barbados), Paul Bernstein looks on.

Managing Director, Barbados & the OECS, Donna Wellington, right, presents the Salvation Army with a donation which is received by Divisional Commander for Barbados and St. Lucia, Brenda Greenidge. Advisory Board Chairman (Barbados), Paul Bernstein looks on.

But it was Skeete, who accepted his Ministry’s gift, who got the surprise. It was actually the second time that his now 25-year-old organisation, which has carefully avoided publicity, had been recognised by the bank and received a donation.

Back in 2010, he was nominated and selected as one of the CIBC FirstCaribbean Unsung Heroes.

“This is great, this is great,” Skeete said, “I never expected this level of support, but I know what we can do with it. It will go towards opening an account to acquire a property.”

Wellington told Skeete, who is Street Gospel Ministry’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, that it was the bank’s absolute pleasure to help worthy causes and in reply, he expressed gratitude for the bank’s generosity. He explained that Street Gospel Ministry started out spreading the gospel but recognised that people needed more than spiritual nourishment; many of them were in dire need of material help, therefore the Ministry’s strategy became fulfilling both needs.

Homelessness, he said is a big problem. He said people were leaving institutions like the prisons with nowhere to go, others had fallen onto hard times due to financial, domestic and addiction issues, for example, therefore most of the secular work done by the Ministry is now focused on homelessness and rehabilitation.

He said in 2004, his Ministry started to provide housing for these vulnerable people, having received a $12,000 donation and since then it has opened two homes, one for men and the other for women but would soon be adding a third. These homes are all rented by the Ministry but Skeete said one property owner wanted to sell and CIBC FirstCaribbean’s donation would be the origin for a fund to go toward the ownership project.

Street Gospel Ministry is run by a small board and volunteers raised about 45 per cent of its funding from doing gardening projects. This allows the Ministry to keep residents under its wing for a year generally but Skeete said that if the client was on a developmental path such as studying, they could remain until completion.

The Ministry’s clients generally come through referrals from institutions and government agencies, and officials from those bodies along with those from the Ministry help to provide mentorship and other needs including jobs. Real charity for all Barbadians involves better interest rates for saving plans, rather than making them pay to guard their own funds and ensure ATM’s provide same functions as an In Person teller!

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