Food For The Poor and Operation Starfish®: Celebrating God’s Gift of Love and Finding Christ in Caring for the Suffering

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (May 23, 2019) Transforming the lives of the poor by working together is how a church and a charity have made an impact in Haiti for more than two decades.

This year marks the 21st anniversary of the Church of the Nativity's Operation Starfish® campaign. The sacrifices made by parishioners in Burke, Va., during the Lenten season, have transformed the lives of tens of thousands of people through Food For The Poor.

Today, Nativity Pastor Fr. Robert C. Cilinski presented Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood with the donation from this year's campaign. After expressions of deep gratitude for the partnership, he spoke about the beauty of seeing the face of Christ in the poor.

"We at Nativity want to thank you for allowing us to join you in the beautiful work that you're doing to seek out the sick and the poor," Fr. Cilinski said. "This check is our gift to you, so that you can continue the work that you're doing on behalf of the poor."

Mahfood accepted the donation, and also honored Fr. Cilinski's 40 years in the priesthood with a dedication of musical instruments to the Despuzeau School.

"Words cannot express how we truly feel about you, but in reality it's not about us, it's about the work that we're doing for the people we serve," said Mahfood. "Nativity's gift is such a blessing for us. We need the dedication and the support of people around us to walk the walk."

Since 1998, the Church of the Nativity has built 1,407 homes and has established 11 thriving villages in various regions of the Caribbean nation. The Nativity villages include community centers that serve a variety of needs, including vocational training.

The church is set to begin the development of its 12th community, Nativity Village at Balan, which will include 70 homes, a community center and a number of self-sustaining programs.

"We can be proud of what we have accomplished together, always realizing that what we do is guided by God and is for His glory," Fr. Cilinski said.

Operation Starfish Coordinator Jim McDaniel delivered the closing remarks with a heartfelt prayer written by his dear friend Fr. Richard Martin in 2014, days before his death. Fr. Martin founded Operation Starfish® and his prayer was about the beauty of planting a spiritual garden.

"Plant five rows of squash - squash gossip, criticism, indifferences, resentments, and bigotry and prejudice... no garden is complete without turnips, so turn up with a smile even when things are difficult, and turn up with determination to do your best in God's service," McDaniel prayed. "Let's pray for sunshine... go out into the light and plant a beautiful garden."

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 orphaned or abandoned children, care for the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance. For more information, please visit

Wanda Wright

Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079