Nativity Parish Fulfills a Legacy of Love For The Poor

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 28, 2015) – Today, Father Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Burke, Virginia, hand-delivered a check to Food For The Poor CEO/President Robin Mahfood for the proceeds from the parish’s 2015 Operation Starfish® campaign.

Food For The Poor’s staff gave a standing ovation to thank Nativity parishioners for the sacrifices they made to change the lives of destitute families in Haiti.

“Pope Francis tells us, ‘To live charitably means not looking out for our own interests, but carrying the burdens of the weakest and poorest among us’,” said Fr. Cilinski. “Today, the parishioners of Church of the Nativity join with the staff of Food For The Poor to recommit ourselves to the weakest and poorest among us.”

“For 17 years, Church of the Nativity’s parishioners have looked beyond themselves to create lifesaving miracles for the poor,” said Mahfood, who was humbled by the generous outpouring of support from Nativity’s parishioners. Mahfood met in early May with His Holiness Pope Francis at Vatican City.

“Nativity has been a blessing to the poor,” said Mahfood. “A house, with access to water and a flush toilet, is one of the greatest gifts we can give a family. This gift will help to bring the people closer to God. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

The donation will be used to continue the development of Good Shepherd Village near Grand Boulage, Haiti. This village is the 10th built by Nativity, and it is named Good Shepherd Village in memory of Fr. Richard Martin, who worked with the charity for 16 years through Operation Starfish®. Additional gifts will continue to support existing projects like the St. Anthony Health Center and the Nativity Village scholarship program.

Fr. Martin died unexpectedly last May at the age of 74.

“This year, we began a new tradition; each year on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of Fr. Martin’s passing, we will have a second collection at all our masses for Operation Starfish®,” said Fr. Cilinski. “Thus Fr. Martin and his legacy of love for the poor will be remembered in our parish at a special time each year, with prayer and a tangible expression of mercy toward the weakest and poorest among us.

“As the wicker baskets were being passed Fr. Martin spoke to us,” said Fr. Cilinski. “Remember Haiti.”

Fr. Martin’s legacy already has given new life to the first 40 families who have received keys to their new Food For The Poor homes in Good Shepherd Village. The village will be built out over the course of three years, and will combine the latest technology, construction techniques, and community development programs. The village ultimately will contain 120 houses, solar lighting, a community center, a health clinic, agriculture projects, and a kindergarten. The residents will receive life-skills training to ensure they can take advantage of all the programs offered.

Also in attendance was Father Keith O’Hare, pastor of the Bánica Mission in the Dominican Republic, from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va.

Earlier this year, Church of the Nativity also used Operation Starfish® proceeds to support Food For The Poor’s Payen Fish Farming project and Honduras Fishing Boat project.

Food For The Poor’s Operation Starfish® program has five arms of aid to transform the living conditions of destitute families. These programs include food, water, housing, education, and micro-enterprise opportunities.

Those interested in starting an Operation Starfish® program at their parish, school, or organization can visit or call 877-654-2960 ext. 6219. Parishes nationwide also participate in Operation Starfish programs during Lent, Vacation Bible Study sessions, Christmas in July celebrations, Back to School fundraisers, and in preparation for Advent. 

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

Jennifer Leigh Oates

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