For nearly a decade, Simone Edwards dominated the sport of women’s basketball, where she was known by many as the ‘Jamaican Hurricane’ and finished as the team’s all-time leader in rebounds. When Edwards played in the WNBA for the Seattle Storm, she captured the hearts of both fans and spectators.
But it’s a project off the court that’s dear to Edwards’ own heart that’s putting her back in the spotlight. The former pro athlete and current assistant coach of the George Mason University women’s basketball team says she’s passionate about giving back. So she established the Simone4Children Foundation, a nonprofit created to uplift underprivileged children.
"It’s important to give back; it’s something I feel very strongly about," said Edwards. "I started my foundation because I believe it’s a way to help children to become self-sustaining adults." Born in Kingston, Jamaica, her dream to build a learning center in St. Andrew quickly became a reality due to a chance meeting and help from Food For The Poor.
One day in 2006 the president of the Women’s National Basketball Association was on a flight; seated next to her was Fr. Tony Palazzolo who works as a speaker with Food For The Poor. The priest was put in contact with the player, and he helped to orchestrate Edwards’ next move toward building a school.
In 2007, the new Hermitage Learning Center officially opened its doors. It’s a place where remedial work is offered in preparation for important school examinations. In the evenings, the facility is used for adult literacy education. In addition to the new facility, which has the capacity to comfortably house 50 students and their teachers, Food For The Poor has donated office and classroom furniture, plus a furnished kitchen. More than 100 students have benefited from Hermitage’s homework, masonry and skills training programs.
“I have always known about Food For The Poor, being from Jamaica, but I didn’t realize the charity did so much. I am extremely grateful for all they have done to help me build this school, and to help the children of Jamaica,” said Edwards.
Since the early 1990s, Edwards’ talents on the hardwood in college, the WNBA, and now as a college basketball coach, have earned her countless awards. But on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, the Immaculate Conception High School Alumnae Association, New York Chapter will present her with the Ad Astra Award for using her sport to uplift others and for being a shining example for Jamaicans and Caribbean Diasporas.
“We can celebrate with Ms. Edwards and the residents who live in the community of Hermitage because they now have a sturdy structure in which to learn,” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor. “They no longer have to sit under tents during classes, or worry about classes being cancelled when it rains. When her organization requested our assistance in constructing a safe, sturdy building for the Hermitage school, Food For The Poor was eager to answer this call for help.”
Food For The Poor, the third-largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor.
For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.