Gifts of Change are Enriching Lives in Haiti: Operation Starfish® Celebrates 20 Years with Food For The Poor

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 24, 2018) Great things can come out of small sacrifices and pocket change. Today, Fr. Robert C. Cilinski, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Burke, Va., presented Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood with a donation from their 2018 Operation Starfish® campaign that will complete their 11th village in Haiti.

After the Voices For The Poor Choir sang a joyful rendition of "Walk in Jerusalem," Fr. Cilinski spoke passionately about the power of love and how we can help the poor by working together as a team toward the same loving goal.

"Through two decades of working together, Nativity parishioners, Food For The Poor and the Haitian people have accomplished a miraculous amount of good," said Fr. Cilinski. "This project was designed to be funded and built over a three-year period. Today, I am pleased to present to you a gift that will complete development of Nativity Village at Despuzeau in two years. What a beautiful way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Operation Starfish® by looking back at the good we've started 20 years ago."

Created in 1998 by the late Fr. Richard Martin, who died four years ago, Operation Starfish® is an appeal to each parishioner's ability to make a difference, no matter how small the gift during the Lenten season. Fr. Cilinski has continued the work of Operation Starfish® and led a parish mission trip to Haiti in October 2015 to dedicate Good Shepherd Village in memory of Fr. Martin.

In 2017, Fr. Cilinski returned to Haiti to dedicate the Nativity Village at Despuzeau. He also broke ground for a new school, Ecole Union en Christ de Despuzeau, which has since been built. This year's gift will complete the second and final phase of the 11th village through Food For The Poor. When complete, 80 families will have a home with sanitation and solar-powered lighting. A community water system and a community center for vocational training and events will be built, and an animal husbandry business co-op will be established.

"The Church of the Nativity has worked side by side with Food For The Poor to help transform the lives of hundreds of families who once lived in deplorable conditions in Haiti," said Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood. "Nativity's parishioners have provided homes to more than 1,400 families, schools, clinics, fish farms, sewing co-ops and disaster relief. We are deeply grateful for their loving sacrifice. We were taught as children to love, and Nativity's parish understands Jesus' teaching about love. May God continue to bless their sincere desire to enhance the lives of the poor. We are so grateful, thank you."

Since 1999, more than 260 of Nativity's parishioners have taken mission trips to the Caribbean nation to see for themselves the fruits of their generosity.

Those interested in starting an Operation Starfish® program at their parish, school or organization can visit or call 877-654-2960, ext. 6148. Parishes nationwide also participate in Operation Starfish® programs during Lent, vacation Bible schools, Christmas in July celebrations, back-to-school fundraisers, and in preparation for Advent.

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, medicine, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit

Wanda Wright

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079