Food For The Poor's Building Hope Gala Builds Homes For Destitute Families in Ganthier, Haiti

Tessanne Chin
NBC’s The Voice winner Tessanne Chin performs before a full house of more than 400 attendees at the Building Hope Gala.

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COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Feb. 10, 2014) – Food For The Poor welcomed a full house of more than 400 guests to its annual Building Hope Gala on Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Polo Club of Boca Raton. NBC’s The Voice winner Tessanne Chin roused the crowd with a stirring selection of songs including her newest single “Tumbling Down.” The event raised funds to construct sturdy homes for families in Ganthier, Haiti, who are in desperate need of adequate shelter.

“The community of Boca Raton has been extremely generous in supporting the Building Hope gala over the past 19 years and has tremendously changed the lives of so many poor, destitute families in Haiti and Jamaica,” said Robin Mahfood, CEO of Food For The Poor. “With the hundreds of thousands in Haiti still without homes, this year’s gala is probably our most important.”

In Ganthier, large families share tiny makeshift shacks with tattered roofs that allow rain to pour inside—quickly turning dirt floors into mud. Without access to clean water, electricity, sanitation and a sewage system, the need in the rural community is dire. But with the contributions of Food For The Poor donors, the charity will begin constructing 50 new homes in as little as three weeks. The homes will be completed and ready for move-in as early as June.

Gala Committee members Allison Venditti and Kara Seelye, along with Seelye’s son Andrew and niece Angela, recently visited Ganthier to meet families that will soon move into the new homes. Andrew, a 14-year-old high school student at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, took to the podium and shared his trip experience with gala attendees. He recalled being touched by the resilient spirit of the people of Ganthier, yet troubled by the abject poverty he and the others witnessed firsthand.

“Behind that kid with the dirty face and the sad eyes is a person who loves music and likes to play soccer,” said Andrew, dressed in khakis and a polo shirt. “Originally, I was going to wear a suit tonight, but that just didn’t sit right with me. So, I gave it some thought. And what I came up with is, ‘Why spend money on a suit or a tuxedo when I can spend that money making sure a child has a safe place to lay his or her head?’ ”

Local philanthropist Jay DiPietro, President/COO/General Manager of Boca West Country Club, was honored as the 2014 Ambassador For The Poor. DiPietro was recognized for more than 20 years of charity work throughout Palm Beach County. His fundraising efforts, along with fellow members of the Club Managers Association of America, helped build the first Food For The Poor school in Haiti following the massive 2010 earthquake.

“I’m accepting this beautiful, beautiful token on behalf of the club managers that I work with, and all the vendors and sponsors that have helped us over the last 25 years,” said DiPietro, holding a statue of Christ. “I’m very, very fortunate to have brought together great people and great sponsors right here in Palm Beach County. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for recognizing something that means so much to me — helping the children that don’t have a chance. To be able to help them to achieve their dreams is a wonderful thing."

This year’s Caribbean carnival-themed gala featured cocktails, a silent auction, fine dining, and dancing. Auction items included exotic vacations, designer jewelry, artwork, and golf packages. In addition, gala attendees had the opportunity to enter a drawing to win a pair of 18-karat white gold earrings courtesy of Gregory Fried of Gregory’s Fine Jewelry in Delray Beach.

Jason Martinez, co-anchor for WPLG-TV ABC Local 10, returned as the gala’s emcee for a second consecutive year.

Committee members include Carlos Bodden, Matthew Bryant, Becky Carlsson, Ronda Ellis Ged, Susan Krassan, Rene Mahfood, Dan Overbey, Tashia Rahl, Kara Seelye, Deborah Shapiro, Renee Stetler and Allison Venditti.

Gala sponsors include AKA Printing and Mailing, Akoya at Boca West, American Nicaraguan Foundation, Boca West Country Club, Dennis Charley and Associates, Dusco Doors, Ellis, Ged and Bodden, PA, Gregory’s Fine Jewelry, Miller Construction Company, Quadriga Art, Seaboard Marine, ShowTurf, The Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation, TD Bank, United Healthcare, Vitas Innovative Hospice Care, The Wallace Family, Workaway International and the Boca Raton Observer, exclusive magazine sponsor.

Food For The Poor, named by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as 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 ministry 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 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit

Pascious Prince

Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6054