Food For The Poor's Operation Starfish Program

(COCONUT CREEK, Fla. June 2, 2009) - Eleven years ago at Church of the Nativity in Burke, Va., Father Richard Martin asked his parishioners to help build houses for Haiti’s destitute by saving 50 cents a day per family during Lent. The initial 2,500 families responded enthusiastically to Fr. Martin’s idea and surpassed their fundraising goal to build 27 houses. Their efforts launched Food For The Poor’s Operation Starfish® program.

“Operation Starfish presents each one of us with the opportunity to help save one child at a time,” Fr. Martin said. “In doing so, it allows us to feel even closer to Christ during the Lenten season, and to inspire others to donate - changing one life, one family at a time.”

This month Fr. Martin traveled to Food For The Poor’s facility in Coconut Creek to hand-deliver Church of the Nativity’s Lent 2009 Operation Starfish donation to Robin Mahfood, Food For The Poor’s President/CEO.

“On behalf of the 4,800 families who attend Church of the Nativity, it is our privilege to continue to support Food For The Poor’s mission,” Fr. Martin said. “We are excited and honored to have been called to help the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Nativity has built several Nativity Villages in Haiti that include housing, self-sustainable fishing villages, tilapia farms, sewing co-ops, schools, and clinics.”

The fifth Nativity Village will be established in Caracol-Madras, Haiti and will take several years to fund. The Operation Starfish donation will begin the construction of 40 double-unit concrete homes, sanitation blocks, a community center, a sewing co-op and an agricultural project consisting of 10 acres of fruit trees and vegetables. The gifts of housing and healthy fruits and vegetables will complement the villagers’ current diet of fresh fish provided by Nativity’s Caracol Fishing Village.

“Your generous gift of self-sustaining projects and sturdy, safe housing are tremendous
blessings to those who receive them, as well as to those who have given them,” Mahfood said. “Church of the Nativity parishioners truly have a heart for Haiti. On behalf of those without a voice, please accept my deepest and most humble gratitude for your continued support.”

While Church of the Nativity’s Lent Operation Starfish campaign yields a substantial gift for Food For The Poor, several other gifts made by parishioners during the year contribute to the well-being of Haitians. These gifts include Food For The Poor’s 2008 Haiti hurricane relief effort, donations to purchase rice and chickens, Food For The Poor’s Nativity Green Tree Project in Cap-Haitien, St. Anthony Clinic endowment, sponsorship of Haitian children, and care for patients at Cardinal Leger Leper Hospital. Additional goods-in-kind donations included containers of new underwear, shoes and medical supplies.

To support the funding of Nativity Village at Caracol, checks should be made out to Food For The Poor and include the special source code "SC #66483" so the money can be tracked. Checks can be mailed to Food For The Poor, 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073.

Nationwide, Church of the Nativity’s example has inspired 300 other organizations, churches and schools to participate in Food For The Poor’s Operation Starfish campaign. To learn more about Operation Starfish, visit

Food For The Poor is the largest international relief and development organization in the nation. More than 97 percent of all donations received in 2008 went directly to programs that help those in need. Food For The Poor provides nourishing food, safe shelter, necessary medical care, educational materials, support for orphans and the aged and much more to the poorest of the poor in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. For more information, visit

Jennifer Leigh Oates
Public Relations Coordinator
(954) 427-2222 x 6054