Supporting farmworkers’ children through the Lipman Golf Classic
There’s still time to be a part of the Lipman Golf Classic, a longstanding fundraising event for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which has operated early childhood education centers, charter schools and after-school programs for Florida’s rural low-income families for the past 50 years.
It’s the 16th year for the Golf Classic. In recent years, it has netted more than $80,000 per event for the benefit of some of Florida’s most vulnerable children. This year’s event will be held April 25 at The Rookery at Marco, 3433 Club Center Blvd., Naples. Shotgun start is at 8:30 a.m.
Immokalee-based Lipman Produce, the largest grower of tomatoes in North America, has been a title sponsor since the tournament’s start.
“We’ve always been a huge supporter of RCMA,” said Jaime Weisinger, Lipman’s director of community relations and board member of RCMA. “The tomato production business is very labor-intensive. So our employees, especially our farmworkers, are very important to us. RCMA has found that sweet spot where they serve our workers directly by providing daycare and charter schools in rural areas. All of those services are focused on making life easier for migrant workers and their families. Supporting that organization has been a no-brainer for us,” Weisinger said.
The company’s involvement in the fundraiser stems from the friendship of two women: Barbara Mainster, RCMA’s executive director, and Weisinger’s mother, Sheryl.
“My mother is a second-generation Lipman. Her father, my grandfather, founded the company along with his three brothers and three brothers-in-law,” Weisinger said. “She worked here for years without taking a paycheck, in a number of positions including running the community relations department. As a part of that, she went on the road and learned about the migrant workforce. Seeing how RCMA was based here in Immokalee, my mother and Barbara Mainster naturally gravitated to one another, both having been former teachers. She started our support of the organization, and I’ve been lucky enough to continue that,” he said.
Lipman’s involvement with RCMA doesn’t stop with the golf event. “We did a book drive here at the office recently. We collected more than 900 books for the kids at the Immokalee charter school,” Weisinger said. The company also supports the RCMA Christmas card project, where RCMA children draw pictures that are used as Christmas card illustrations.
Weisinger says he enjoys spending time with the RCMA children and teachers. “And they like having a board member who’s here in town and that people recognize. So I sit on the charter school committee. A lot of the kids are children of our employees. So they’re almost like an extended family. In fact, back in 1996, we donated some land on our farm in Naples so RCMA could build a daycare facility. That’s still there and the two ladies who run that facility have been with RCMA since then. They have dedicated employees,” Weisinger said.
“We try to support, in some way, every community we do business in,” – Jaime Weisinger, Lipman Produce
Lipman believes that a good giving program is one that is focused. The company is diligent in its support of organizations and causes that involve children and education. That extends beyond its involvement with RCMA.
For example, Lipman sponsors an Immokalee-wide backpack giveaway, where the company’s staff fills backpacks with school supplies in time for the first day of school. “We try to make life a little bit easier on the people sending their kids back to school, so we give them one less headache by providing school supplies. It’s important to give the kids the tools they need to get ahead in school. We have given away more than 3,500 backpacks filled with school supplies in the last three years,” Weisinger said. “And we just hosted a 5K that was a fundraiser for the backpack drive. We had a really great turnout and we’re really excited about that,” he added.
“We also have a huge scholarship program. We will dedicate about $75,000 this year for scholarships,” Weisinger said. “It’s interesting because we don’t always give scholarships to those kids with the top GPAs in the class. They tend to find support more easily than a lot of the kids who may not plan on going to a major university. They may want to attend Florida Gulf Coast University or one of the local community colleges or even a school where they can learn a trade. So we support the next level of education in a lot of different ways.”
Still another involvement with young people was Lipman’s contribution to the building of a new Boys and Girls Club. “They’re going to be building a facility right here in Immokalee. They’ve been leasing space for years and that’s been pretty cramped,” Weisinger said. “And now they’re getting their own building. We’ve made a pretty sizable financial commitment to that. We’re hoping that within a year it will be completed and they can expand what they’re doing for the kids.”
In addition to its Florida efforts, Lipman operates repacking and other facilities across the country and encourages employee participation in local causes in those locations.
“We try to support, in some way, every community we do business in,” said Weisinger. “So we encourage our employees to get out and volunteer their time for different causes. We’ll support them financially, plus we’ll help organize. For instance, we organized an event for our employees in Dallas to participate in a food packing project at a food bank. We did the same thing in Asheville, North Carolina. And in Philadelphia we coordinated a 45-mile bike ride fundraiser last year as part of the location’s multiple sclerosis fundraising.”
“At our Hendersonville, North Carolina, facility, there’s a local school that’s close to where we operate and that a lot of the kids of our employees attend. They needed a new volleyball court. So, not only did we buy the supplies, we had our employees go out and dig that volleyball court and pour in sand and everything,” he added.
“Those kinds of things bring people together. It gives them something to be proud of in the community and it gives them some camaraderie with other employees. It serves us on so many different levels,” Weisinger said.
Lipman, formerly Six L’s, became an FFVA producer member 1986. In addition to field and greenhouse tomatoes, the company grows and ships vegetables such as peppers, cucumbers, squash and potatoes; sliced and diced vegetables; watermelons and more. It provides fresh produce year-round, through a network of farming, repacking, processing and logistics operations as well as research and development programs.
Registration for the 16th Annual Lipman Golf Classic is open until April 22. Multiple levels of sponsorship are available ranging from tee and meal sponsorships to silver, gold and platinum levels. Learn more about sponsorships and download a registration brochure here.