Honoree Mary Wong and Grammy Award-Winning Reggae Star Shine Light on Haiti’s Housing Needs

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2015) – Mary Wong, President of the Office Depot Foundation, was named Food For The Poor’s 2015 Ambassador For The Poor at the charity’s 20th annual Building Hope Gala, Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, at Boca West Country Club in Boca Raton, Florida.

Known for her philanthropic endeavors throughout the community, Wong, together with Grammy Award-winning reggae artist Shaggy and The Hot Shot Band, have helped raise awareness about the desperate need for permanent housing in Haiti.

During the gala’s live house rally, homes for 40 destitute families were pledged to be built in the area surrounding Pon Batay, Haiti. A generous Food For The Poor donor matched the number of homes raised at the gala. 

“Everyone in this room is a voice for the voiceless,” said Robin Mahfood, Food For The Poor President/CEO, as he spoke to the crowd of more than 450 about the importance of building safe, sturdy homes for destitute families.

“The poor live in very dangerous situations,” said Mahfood. “All they need is a proper roof over their heads, a place to gather, clean water and sanitation.”

Food For The Poor Executive Director Angel Aloma presented Wong with the award, listing many of her good qualities.

“Above all, it is the tears of compassion that I have seen you shed each time you watch a Food For The Poor video or look at our photos, or even when you listen to a story from the field about our children that makes recognizing you a sincere privilege,” said Aloma, as he introduced a teary Mary Wong and presented her with a statue of Christ as a beggar.

“That type of love for children whom you may never see and from whose lips you may never hear the words thank you, is the purest type of love in this world,” said Aloma.

"I am deeply grateful to Food For The Poor for selecting me as the honoree of its 20th annual Building Hope Gala and applaud this outstanding organization's dedication to providing homes and hope for the residents near Pon Batay, Haiti,” said Wong. “The Office Depot Foundation has partnered with Food For The Poor in our National Backpack Program for several years and is proud to know that, together, we have given thousands of children essential tools to succeed in school."

Thanks to the Office Depot Foundation, more than 14,000 sackpacks have been donated to Food For The Poor’s Angels Of Hope program. Over the past 15 years, the Office Depot Foundation has distributed more than 3.3 million backpacks and sackpacks to deserving children. This achievement will be recognized when the foundation is inducted into the PR News CSR Hall of Fame on March 12 in Washington, D.C.

Gala guests included Jay DiPietro, President/COO/General Manager of Boca West Country Club; The Honorable Franz Hall, Jamaica's Consul General to Miami; Dale Jones, Jamaica’s Deputy Consul General to Miami; and Miss Jamaica Diaspora (Florida) Kimar Muir.

DiPietro received the 2014 Ambassador For The Poor award for his contribution to Food For The Poor’s rebuilding effort in Haiti with the Club Managers Association of America (CMAA).

At the end of the evening, Shaggy treated the crowd to a memorable performance that included Boombastic, Angel, It Wasn’t Me, and songs from his Grammy-nominated reggae album, Out of Many, One Music.

In time for Valentine’s Day, sponsor J.R. Dunn Jewelers offered gala attendees an exclusive way to contribute to build critically needed houses for destitute families in Haiti. For a $100 donation at the event, one guest won a $5,000 shopping spree at J.R. Dunn Jewelers.

For additional information regarding the Building Hope Gala, or to support the home building-initiative, please call 888-404-4248 or visit www.FoodForThePoor.org/boca.

The Building Hope Gala Chairwoman is Rene Turner-Mahfood, and additional committee members include Wedler Alexandre, Carlos Bodden, Matthew Bryant, Becky Carlsson, Ronda Ellis Ged, LaMae Klos, Susan Krassen, Julie Mahfood, Tashia Rahl, Kara Seelye, Deborah Shapiro and Renee Stetler.

Gala sponsors include Club Managers Association of America, Dennis Charley & Associates, Blackbaud, DKB Trade Concepts Inc., Harcourt M. & Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation, Innovvaire, J.R. Dunn Jewelers, Leslie L. Alexander Foundation, McFFe Group, MOR Printing, Oceans 234, Office Depot Foundation, Premier Aircraft Sales, Seaboard Marine, TD Bank, Teemlink Ltd., The Calmark Group, The Levitetz Family Foundation, Trinity Direct, United Healthcare, Vitas Innovative Hospice Care, and The Boca Raton Observer.

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 www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Jennifer Leigh Oates

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