Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County, Inc. (FWCC) was created for the purpose of assisting farm workers to access social and human services, who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to participate in eligible programs or services. Winn-Dixie has supported this organization through the Bloomin’ 4 Good Program.
Tell us about the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County.
The Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County, Inc.(FWCC) was founded almost 46 years ago in 1978. We started in a borrowed warehouse with a few volunteers, and today we have become one of the leading nonprofits helping farm workers and other low-income families or individuals in need access various social services and human services.
Our mission is to promote self-sufficiency and improve the quality of life of migrant and seasonal farm workers through education, advocacy and access to services. Even though we’ve been around for many years, we are a small organization with only 15 on staff.
Today we have two offices. One is on the eastern side of the county, in Lake Worth, and the other is on the western side, in Belle Glade, which has over 50% of its population in extreme poverty. For this reason, most of our clients and services are in the Belle Glade office. To qualify for our services, you must be below the 30% Area Median Family Income (AMI), extremely low-income.
Every month we serve over 850 families. The services most needed have been food and emergency rental assistance. Last year, over 3,200 unduplicated families representing over 9,400 individuals received food from our food pantries. In addition, we’ve provided emergency rental assistance to a total of 185 households, with a total of $172,318.72. Many people are struggling to meet their basic needs. Inflation in rent has made it especially difficult for farmworkers because they work seasonally and have to migrate to other states. They try to move to continue working, but when your salary is between $7,000 to $15,000 annually, who could live on that?
Many people are struggling to meet their basic needs. Inflation in rent has made it especially difficult for farmworkers.
What services do you provide to the community?
We have four critical programs that we offer:
- Family Preservation and Economic Stabilization is a program to serve farmworkers exclusively. This program provides case management to families with the goal of providing structured services that will lead to stability, self-sufficiency, and better outcomes for farm workers and their families.
- Community Health Access Team (CHAT) specifically assist families with Medicaid and food stamps applications, ensuring they get access to the necessary healthcare services. Because of language barriers and cultural barriers, many of the families are not able to go out and get the services needed. It’s one of our priorities to have a case manager work with each client to see what they need and ensure they get that.
- Education Program is designed to create a pathway for children, their parents and educators to mitigate low education achievement levels and reduce the dropout rate and the educational gap that exists between farmworker children and the rest of the student population. The program provides tutoring and homework assistance to students from Pre-K to 5th grade. It also includes Spring Break Program and Summer School. In addition, we provide ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) and Computer and Literacy workshops for adults. Most of the clients we serve don’t know how to read or write, and we need to teach them so they become self-sufficient. And a crucial part of that class is financial literacy because they don’t know anything about banking. Also, we organize our Back to School event every year, where the students and other children of the families we serve receive backpacks, gift cards and all the materials they need.
- People In Need (PIN) program’s goal is to help non-farmworker individuals and families that do not qualify for our other programs but have unmet needs. Our focus is to help people that are in need of services but, for one reason or another, fall through the cracks and have not been served by agencies in our county. Some of the services provided by this program include case management, emergency rental/utility assistance, etc.
Another service provided is the distribution of food. We provide food every Wednesday in both offices. Also, we provide case management, distribution of clothing and household items, toiletries, diapers, referrals for other services, translation and interpretation, emergency rental/utility assistance, transportation, scholarships, microloans, support groups, education, health workshops, financial literacy workshops, etc. Also, every year we provide Thanksgiving meals and toys during Christmas, etc.
The process of receiving services starts with pre-screening. When a client comes to our office, we do a pre-screening to find out if they are eligible. Then, we do an intake to review the whole family’s needs, and from there, we start creating a plan that includes goals. It’s called the family action plan. The case manager will review the top three most-needed services and work with the family toward these goals.
The overall goal for us is to make sure our clients get all the resources and the tools needed so they can improve their quality of life and become self-sufficient.
What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?
The individuals and families we serve set us apart. Not many nonprofits can provide services specifically to farmworkers or immigrants. And that’s our top priority, to serve not only farm workers but also other people in need in our community.
Please tell us a story that illustrates your organization’s good work.
There are so many! For every program, we have so many stories.
One of our family clients crossed the border many years ago, and their daughter came to our education program. She was always telling the teacher that she was living in a square box house because it was tiny. Her family was very poor. This student was highly motivated to study and improve her life through education. Our program only goes through the fifth grade, but the teacher continued to help this young girl through her education. The agency provided her with several scholarships so she could complete her education through a master’s degree. She graduated magna cum laude. She now works at the university where she graduated from and was finally able to purchase a home for her parents. This transformation is what we want to accomplish. We want to break that cycle of poverty because many of the children in these families try to keep doing what their parents do. We want to push them because this country has many opportunities, and they are all very capable of success.
We want to break that cycle of poverty because many of the children in these families try to keep doing what their parents do.
Then, there’s the PIN program, a big part of which is to provide rental assistance. We had a senior citizen living with a dog, and a tree fell on her mobile home and destroyed everything. She ended up homeless and was sleeping in a shopping center with her dog. We were able to find her a place and then provide her with the rent that she needed. Now, she’s finally in a safe place with her dog.
Another story I’d like to tell is of an individual who came to the office desperately trying to access healthcare and get health insurance coverage. He was very frustrated with the system because he had been trying for a couple of years without success. When he came to us, the case manager was able to collect information, review his case and assess everything that he needed. He could get Medicaid and all the health insurance needed. We also helped him get Social Security, another service he needed. He was so excited that our program could help him. He actually had cancer and hadn’t been able to treat it. So now, with health insurance, he could get all the necessary care.
There are so many compelling stories, and that’s what we want. We’re here to do our best to improve every life.
What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?
All the services we provide are essential. By providing social and human services, which include access to services to farmworkers and other people in need in our community, we are helping them to become self-sufficient and improve their quality of life which impacts their overall well-being. The combination of services that we provide empowers individuals and families in underserved communities to break the cycle of poverty and create better opportunities for themselves.
Our staff is very passionate, and we always go the extra mile. For us to see the families improve and become self-sufficient, that is the goal.
The combination of services that we provide empowers individuals and families in underserved communities to break the cycle of poverty and create better opportunities for themselves.
What do you want people to know about the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County?
I want people to know we are an agency that promotes self-sufficiency and improves the quality of life of migrant/seasonal farmworkers and other people in need through education, advocacy and access to services.
How will you use the funds raised from the Winn-Dixie Bloomin’ 4 Good Program?
The money raised through this program is used to help provide direct services to our clients. We allocate these funds for purchasing additional food for the pantries, emergency rental & utility assistance and other direct services.
Denise Negron is the Executive Director of the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County, Inc.
Published July 27, 2023.