Colorado Couple’s Vision of a Village Becomes Reality in Rural Jamaica

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 4, 2015) – Once a land of parched vegetation that was used as a sugarcane field decades ago, the heart of McCooks Pen, Jamaica, has been transformed into a lovely community of peach-colored houses lining a spacious paved road.

Thanks to the loving kindness of Food For The Poor supporters Marv and Ellie Walworth, of Grand Junction, Colo., more than 200 people who once lived along a row of dilapidated structures now have a new home of their own – complete with sanitation, a water cistern and solar-powered lighting.

“I almost couldn’t remember that this big field was a blank slate, I couldn’t wrap my mind around it at the time. But now, it’s like someone pulled out a magic wand and made it work,” said Ellie Walworth. “It’s beautiful, it’s a beautiful neighborhood.”  

The Walworths, who took their first mission trip to the Caribbean country with Food For The Poor in July 2013, got to see for themselves the needs of the truly destitute in McCooks Pen. During that trip, they met an enthusiastic 22-year-old, Vanessa Brown, who spoke candidly about her living conditions. Brown had no idea the Walworths were planning to build 39 new homes in the area, and that she and her family would be receiving one of them.   

Twenty-one months later, the Walworths returned to Jamaica for the inauguration of the 33 homes within the Walworth Family Village. The six additional homes were built along the perimeter of the village, and Brown lives in one of those homes with her family. Last week, the Walworths visited Brown, and through tears of joy, Marv Walworth recounted his conversation with the young woman.

“Her enthusiasm is still there and she really wants to help her family. Having this new house allows her to help others. She told me, ‘We have a bathroom now and I used to be afraid to go out at night, but not anymore.’”

The seed of desire to build the Walworth Family Village was planted in their hearts nearly a decade ago, when a Food For The Poor Speaker, Fr. Dave Delich, O.P., visited their Grand Junction parish. He shared a story about a donor who built a village for a community of people in Central America.

“The Walworths are a perfect example of a couple who saw a need and decided to do something about it. It’s a tremendous gift for these families and I know the community in McCooks Pen is grateful for this blessing,” said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. “The Walworths’ legacy will live on for many generations in Jamaica, and we thank them for their compassion and generosity.”

With a view of a mountain ridge in the distance, the Walworth Family Village offers more than a pretty community for its residents. The couple also funded the construction of a community center where residents can learn entrepreneurial and technical skills to become self-sustaining. The center has been equipped with sewing machines and a professional seamstress will teach free sewing classes. The residents also have created the McCooks Pen Citizens Association to keep their community attractive and safe.

“This is a hand up, this is what we’re providing, a hand up for these families,” said Ellie Walworth. “They’re our treasure. Where your heart is, there is your treasure.”

The Walworths soon will be celebrating 53 years of marriage. They have four adult children and seven grandchildren; Marv is a retired engineer and Ellie is a retired elementary school teacher.

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

Wanda Wright

Food For The Poor
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079