Orlando Supporters Create Lasting Legacies with Annual Gala for Haiti

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Oct. 13, 2017)  Nearly 200 guests attended Food For The Poor's 18th Annual Celebration of Hope Gala on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Orlando World Center Marriott. Thanks to their loving support, 47 families in Chantal, Haiti, who were left homeless by Hurricane Matthew last October, will receive new concrete-block homes with water and sanitation.

Orlando Gala Committee Chair Dr. Lynne Nasrallah and Orlando-area philanthropists met their fundraising goal of 25 houses at this year's event, which Nasrallah said is a true blessing for the families in Chantal.

Nasrallah asked gala guests to envision what it must have been like for the people of Haiti who endured Hurricane Matthew's145 mph winds.

"Floridians know what it's like to experience a hurricane, having just weathered Hurricane Irma," Nasrallah said. "Imagine what it must feel like while you're living in a flimsy shack built of mud. They don't have any shelters to go to, no resources, no bread, no water, no food, no FEMA. There is no one to help, but Food For The Poor and you and me."

Along with the new homes, Food For The Poor will provide food, clean water and training on how to farm the land. The families also are given cows, sheep, goats and chickens, which provide income opportunities and a source of food.

Fr. John McCormick, a beloved rector of St. James Cathedral in Orlando, who died Sept. 19, 2016, was a dedicated supporter of Food For The Poor. His deep affection for the poor was recognized at the gala.

Fr. John bequeathed a donation to Food For The Poor and it will be used to build additional homes in Chantal, Haiti, in the community he visited during his last mission trip to the Caribbean country with Dr. Lynne and Orlando-area donors last August.

"Fr. John McCormick was a priest for 41 years, and he was a true example of a Man of God, living in obedience to the Father," said President/CEO of Food For The Poor Robin Mahfood. "He obeyed with all of his heart God's mandate in Matthew 25:40 '…Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.'"

"Father John supported Food For The Poor for 18 years. He traveled to the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and Haiti. The smile on his face, his playful demeanor and the many hugs he gave throughout these pilgrimages were evidence of his genuine love for the poor."

Mahfood also presented the organization's Ambassador of the Poor Award to Dr. Tim Prince and Robin Neel, who have been dedicated supporters of the charity for 15 years. The couple of 33 years, traveled to Haiti for the first time in August with nine family members, including three of their children. Neel, a Celebration of Hope committee member, said she was humbled by the honor.

"You may never know the results that come from your actions. But if you do nothing, assuredly there will be no result," Neel said. "But I have seen the fruits of my actions. I have seen the results of my financial giving. I have seen the sturdy homes built for the poor in Haiti. I have seen their faces when you give them the key to their house – it is amazing. Step out of your comfort zone, take a chance and learn the stories of those around you. Get to know the poor."

Click www.FoodForThePoor.org/orlando2017 to watch a video of the mission trip to Haiti.

The 18th Annual Celebration of Hope Gala featured cocktails, a silent auction, dinner and dancing. One of the highlights of the event was the live house rally. The event's emcee, Jorge Estevez, News Anchor for WFTV (ABC) Channel 9 became so enthusiastic he jumped onto a chair in the ballroom to cheer on guests as they raised their hands to donate.

"Your generosity will change so many lives," said Estevez, who also served as master of ceremonies at the gala in 2013. "The show of support from Central Florida in this room tonight has been amazing."

Celebration of Hope Gala Committee members include: Event Chair Dr. Lynne Nasrallah, Linda Bonnewitz, Paula and Bruny Compas, Kim and George del Campo, Viviana and Jacob del Campo, Katie and Josh del Campo, Nicole Harding and Ben del Campo, Freda and Trevor Dieffenthaller, Tammie Ferguson, Cynthia Hawkins, Kathy Kinchla, Bernadette McComb, Nicole Nasrallah, Nancy Padilla, Robin Neel and Dr. Tim Prince, Amira Rodriguez, Lisa and Dwight Saathoff, Liliane Santana and Family, Jean and Tom Wilkes, Donna and Jean Wilson, and Holly Wilson.

Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily 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. Over the last 10 years, fundraising and other administrative costs averaged less than 5 percent of our expenses; more than 95 percent of all donations went directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Wanda Wright

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079