The Power of a Parish Helping one person, one family at a time


COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (June 2, 2010) – Father Richard Martin, Pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke, Va., presented a generous check last week from his parish’s Lenten season collection to Food For The Poor’s Operation Starfish® program. As Food For The Poor’s largest Catholic parish donor, Nativity Parish has built five villages with more than 800 housing-units during the past 12 years, and established fishing villages, tilapia farms, sewing-co-ops, schools and clinics.

“You and my parishioners have become family,” said Father Martin to Food For The Poor’s staff. “Together, we are the hands and feet of Christ, reaching out to our brothers and sisters in need. God willing, this beautiful expression of the Gospel call to service will continue to grow and bear fruit – fruit that feeds all of us.”

“Your parish is blessed to have you as their pastor,” said Robin Mahfood, Food For The Poor’s President/CEO. “During the past 12 years, it has been a tremendous blessing for us to work with you to bring justice to the people of Haiti. By providing them with the necessary tools, many have been moved from dangerous, garbage-filled, marsh-tide zones to self-sustainable villages where they are able to provide for themselves.”

Immediately after Haiti was rocked by the catastrophic Jan. 12 earthquake, a visiting priest said he noticed a change in Nativity Parish’s mood and atmosphere. He told the congregation that it was natural for them to grieve for the people of Haiti – their friends.

“The language of God is not Creole,” said Father Martin. “The language of God is not English. The language of God is love.”

Two weeks later, Nativity Parish sent Food For The Poor a generous check to assist the charity’s quick response in sending emergency relief supplies. This month, the parish will ship a second sea container to Haiti for distribution by Food For The Poor.

“In 12 years of working with Nativity Parish and many other churches, I have found that a congregation that becomes engaged with the poor becomes more generous overall,” said Jim McDaniel, a Nativity parishioner and Food For The Poor staff member.

Nativity Parish’s 2010 Lenten Operation Starfish collection will be used to build a sixth village near Cap-Haitien, Haiti. The village will provide a new start in life for the destitute who currently reside under a bridge near a contaminated river. Those who have been displaced by the earthquake and migrated to the city will also be eligible to receive a Food For The Poor home.

In June, 13 parishioners from Nativity Parish will travel to Cap-Haitien with Food For The Poor to inaugurate a recently completed sewing co-op and community center project. During their last mission trip to Haiti in November, parishioners fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, sheltered the homeless, and visited the sick and imprisoned.
The trip was based on the scripture, “When was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?,” (Matthew 25:31-46).

When Delane Bailey-Herd, Food For The Poor’s Haiti project manager, returned from Haiti last week, she reported that she encountered a kind of sadness that she had never seen in the normally resilient people of Haiti. Bailey-Herd said she was deeply troubled and unable to sleep for several nights as she thought about the harsh living conditions she saw while traveling throughout the country. She saw families with young children living in makeshift tents on the median of a busy highway.

The need for housing in Haiti continues to be critical. With the start of hurricane season looming and more than 1 million people without shelter, the need for sturdy housing has been magnified.

A donation of $5,200 can provide a double-unit house to a destitute family. For $1,000, a latrine and shower stall will provide housing recipients with access to proper sanitation and privacy. Proper sanitation is essential to the health and welfare of a thriving family and helps prevent life-threatening illnesses.

To learn more about Operation Starfish, please visit

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the 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

Jennifer Leigh Oates
Public Relations
954.427.2222, ext. 6054