A philanthropic gift from FirstBank will help the Virgin Islands University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VIUCEDD) in its mission to enhance the quality of life for persons with disabilities in the territory. At a reception held today at the University of the Virgin Island’s (UVI) 13D Research & Strategy Innovation Center, UVI officials publicly thanked FirstBank for its gift which allowed VIUCEDD to purchase medical equipment for the disabled community in both the St. Thomas/St. John and St. Croix districts.

With some of the newly purchased wheelchairs and walking canes on display, UVI President, Dr. David Hall commented, “It is partnerships such as this one that help to bridge the gap in our community and remind us that together we can make a real difference. I would like to applaud FirstBank for their generous gift to VIUCEDD that will have far reaching impacts for people with disabilities in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Representing FirstBank, Dina Perry-Malone, vice president and USVI market manager said, “Our commitment to the well-being of our communities has been part of our mission since FirstBank was established 75 years ago. It is important for us to support non-profits such as UVI VIUCEDD in their efforts to address critical needs in our community.”

“Having access to a wheelchair or a walking aid can make a significant difference in the life of a person. It can be the difference between being confined to the house or having the freedom to move around in the community,” said VIUCEDD Executive Director, Shamika Thomas. “Fortunately, FirstBank Virgin Islands' Community Reinvestment Program has sponsored this initiative that will increase accessibility to durable medical equipment (DME) for the disabled community.”

VIUCEDD's Virgin Islands Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (VITRAID) program, which provides assistive technology-related information and services to the Virgin Islands community, is also housed within VIUCEDD. Assistive technology (AT) refers to any item, equipment,

software program, or product system used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. The Re-Use Program is a component of VIUCEDD's AT program, and FirstBank's donation provided direct funding for the Assistive Technology Loan Program.

The Re-Use program offers a "loan closet" of assistive mobility devices that can be borrowed for short or long-term periods, including wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. The service is especially helpful for individuals who are recovering from a temporary disability and need assistance during their recovery period. Moreover, those with permanent disabilities can borrow devices to determine what equipment works best for them. The long-term loan option is also beneficial for people who do not have access to funding, as it allows them to access their environment more fully.

Sharon Williams, VIUCEDD’s associate director of Assistive Technology, Program Development, and Evaluation, who spearheaded the project, articulated her gratitude to FirstBank for their responsiveness and generosity. “I am so thrilled that through our outreach efforts, FirstBank offered to help us. Now, we can provide access to the community at no cost. We encourage others to continue to donate so that we can grow our programs and provide help to those most in need.”

VIUCEDD is an interdisciplinary center that was established in 1994 with the aim of improving policies and practices for individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, caregivers, and professionals. It is a federally funded, semi-autonomous agency under UVI and is a member of a national network of 68 UCEDDs located throughout the United States and Territories.

The Re-use Closet welcomes donations in the form of both monetary contributions and gently used durable medical equipment. To become a sponsor, contact VIUCEDD at 340.693.1322.

For more information, contact