Local philanthropy and operating nonprofit organizations among topics of discussion
By Anna-Marie Menhenott
FORT PIERCE -- Jerome Gayman left Liberia before the civil war demolished the buildings, leveled homes and destroyed thousands of lives. When he returned to his homeland, he was devastated.
"After the civil wars, the country was in disarray," Mr. Gayman said. "There was no working hospital or school system. The water supply was horrid. The people there were suffering."
When Mr. Gayman returned to the United States, he decided he had to do something to help his family and friends still living in deplorable conditions.
Mr. Gayman's focus was on Grandbassa County, an area hit hard during the war. With support from the Liberian Senate and tremendous effort from individuals in St. Lucie County, Grandbassa County Association in The Americas began its quest to revitalize the war-torn land.
"We are starting ground-up," Mr. Gayman said. "I mean, we are focusing on basics like roads, infrastructure, trying to rebuild schools, homes and hospitals. These people are suffering. They don't have the luxuries of giving birth in clean environments. The infant immortality rate was alarmingly high. The death rate of women who had just given birth was shocking. It was because they not only didn't have the proper care, they didn't have the sterile hospitals."
Through the assistance of Indian River State College, Mr. Gayman's nonprofit organization helped build a community college and women's clinic in his home country of Liberia.
Plans are underway to model more of Grandbassa County after St. Lucie County.
"We have the best system already in place," said Mr. Gayman. "Modeling Grandbassa County after St. Lucie County would be a win-win situation. We have the same weather, we can produce the same fruits and vegetables, we can model their roads after ours. And, we can model their schools and hospitals after ours."
Liberian Senate President G. Milton Findley will be the keynote speaker at fundraiser on Oct. 25 and 26 in Fort Pierce which will bring a delegation from Liberia to St. Lucie County.
The event will begin Friday, with a formal morning reception and plenary, followed by committee discussions and a message from the Senator. Indian River State College will host a formal luncheon at the office of Dr. Ed Massey, to be followed by a tour of the college, tour of the University of Florida Research Center and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Research Institute. Saturday is the formal banquet and fund raiser at Yellowtail restaurant in Downtown Fort Pierce.
"This event is particularly special for our area," said Mr. Gayman.
"The Liberian delegation has a keen interest in the philanthropic culture on the Treasure Coast."
Members of the St. Lucie County United Way and Habitat for Humanity will be involved, teaching the delegation how nonprofits work. St. Lucie County is known as a haven for effective nonprofit organizations, including Mr. Gayman's personal organization, Frontline for Kids, and after-school program in St. Lucie County.
"The coming of these dignitaries is a genuine true representation of our success around the world," Mr. Gayman said.
For more information about the organization, visit www.www.grandbassacountyassociation.org.