Life taken at an early age inspires legacy of hope in Haiti

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (June 22, 2009) - When Julie Sokulski Hesser’s parents lost her at 32, they were inspired to help others by Julie’s strength, faith and courage during her final days. Remembering how Julie could not even swallow water at the end of her life, they decided to share the gift of water with children in Haiti. They began raising money in 2006, and now Andy and Florette Sokulski’s work with Food For The Poor has created a living legacy to their daughter through Julie’s Holy Family Village in Thomazeau, Haiti.

“The residents of Julie’s Holy Family Village used to live in horrifyingly desperate conditions,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “They have experienced things we cannot even imagine. Within a year, we have seen a remarkable difference in the faces of the children, and the overall health of the village. Every child should be given a chance at life, and that is what Julie’s Holy Family Village provides.”

Andy and Florette Sokulski traveled to the Haitian village built in honor of their daughter for the first time June 1. Florette Sokulski, overcome with emotion, embraced Mahfood and Father Medard Laz, founder of Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Ill. Andy Sokulski’s firm handshake and nod confirmed his approval of the village. Julie’s Holy Family Village includes housing, latrines, a fishing village, a community center and projects for agriculture, animal husbandry and water.

“This is what I have been waiting for,” said Florette Sokulski, as she began pumping clean, safe drinking water from one of the four water pumps in the village.

“Thousands of children die every day because they lack access to drinking water,” Mahfood said. “In Haiti, one in eight children dies before their fifth birthday. The people of Julie’s Holy Family used to become very sick after drinking the water from the nearby canals. But today, the village’s water pumps extend life, and make it possible for the children to attend school and complete their chores.”

“I would like to say thank you to all who support Julie’s Holy Family on behalf of Food For The Poor and Julie’s immediate family,” said Delane Bailey-Herd, Food For The Poor’s Project Manager for Haiti. “Your gifts continue to give life, transform life, rescue life and extend life. Thank you for the extraordinary change you have brought to the people of Thomazeau.”

Several hundred pounds of beans and rice, an important source of protein and carbohydrates for hungry families, were distributed to the villagers.

“As the food was distributed, it was a very humbling and sad experience… to see the hope in their eyes,” said Florette Sokulski.

“With all your work and efforts dreams can come true - absolutely,” said Douglas Sokulski, Julie’s brother. “You can see Jesus in the children’s faces.”

Six donkeys were brought to the village to help haul products to market, to carry water from place to place and to transport people to the doctor. Every family in Thomazeau has a goat to provide milk and cheese, as well as a source of income. The goats are inexpensive to maintain and have already begun to reproduce in the village.

Julie’s parents will host their Fourth Annual Benefit Dinner, Wednesday, Sept. 16 with proceeds to benefit Food For The Poor. For additional event and ticket information, please contact Fr. Laz by phone at (954) 561-9726, or by e-mail at

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