Discover a children’s store that offers more than the naked eye can see: Give Wink.
By Jen Karetnick
For most people, getting involved with a charity is a passive experience, something that just happens when you finally earn enough money to dish some out in turn. You learn about various causes through business opportunities, social events and even television commercials or telemarketing phone calls, and you eventually settle on a pet project—perhaps Operation Smile, Habitat for Humanity or Doctors Without Borders—where you can donate during random events, like natural disasters, or annual events, such as birthdays or the holidays. Then, you not only have the satisfaction of giving, you have the added benefit of a shelter for your money during tax season.
Fortunately for needy children in Colombia, North Miami Beach businesswoman Francine Delarosa isn’t like most people. When it came time for her to identify a cause to which she wanted to devote her time and money, she took an entirely different approach: She built one from the ground up. Indeed, having started both her full-service children’s store and her family from scratch, it never occurred to her there might have been an easier way.
“After I had my kids—three boys—I realized how fortunate I really am,” Delarosa says. ¨I wanted to build a full-service retail store that provided a wide selection of furniture and bedding, room decor, baby gear and accessories, educational toys and games, and personalized gifts. But I also wanted to help. That is how Give Wink was born. We tend to overlook the fact that we are so lucky and have so much in our favor. Our customers can spend money on beautiful furniture because the necessities are a given. I realized I wanted to give back to children who aren’t born into affluence, surrounded by luxury.”
Thus the birth of Give a Wink, a charity devoted to bringing eye care to underprivileged children in Colombia, where Delarosa’s family originated. “I thought long and hard about how I wanted to help. Eye care is such a basic need but nobody thinks about it until you’re sitting in front of a child who can’t read because he can’t see,” she notes. Delarosa’s desire to bring optical health to poverty-stricken children may not have been entirely whimsical or even based on the name of her store, which was coincidental. She says, “When we did our first event, I found out that my great-grandfather had started an eye care clinic in the town in Colombia where we came from. He wanted to cure blindness, which his father was suffering from.”
Whether it’s coincidence or in her blood doesn’t really matter. Delarosa believes that “eyes are the windows to the world,” and her passion for polishing those metaphorical panes of glass is year round. To that end, she sets aside money from her Give Wink business in North Miami Beach, where she personally tests every product, to the charity; for every sale of $100, Give Wink donates a full eye exam and prescription glasses to a child in need. She organized her first drive, which brought doctors and equiment to Barranquilla, in 2009, and expects to have another this summer, where she hopes to take some of her customers (perhaps via raffle) with her to see the results of their generosity. “When we did our first event,” she says, “we saw how our efforts changed lives. I’d like some of our best customers to experience that.”
Still, you don’t have to go all the way to Colombia to make a difference. “Why not buy a crib and help a kid at the same time?” Delarosa asks. “You don’t have to donate any additional money. Just make a purchase.” After all, if you’re building a family, you’re going to need nursery furniture anyway. Helping a child see, and therefore learn to read, at the same time, is a gift you may have never thought of giving. But if it were your child, it would be something you’d want to receive.