Virginia Parish Builds 10th Haiti Village in Honor of Beloved Priest
COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (June 11, 2014) –Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood accepted a donation today from Church of the Nativity in Burke, Virginia, that will build an entire village near Grand Boulage, Haiti. The village will be the 10th built by Nativity and it will be named Good Shepherd Village in memory of Fr. Richard Martin, who worked with the charity for 16 years through Operation Starfish.
The check was presented at a celebration of life service for Fr. Martin, who died in May at the age of 74. He had traveled to Haiti many times with Food For The Poor, helping thousands of Haitian citizens have a better life. Staff members remembered him through songs, scripture readings and stories.
“When I first met Dick in 2000, he said, ‘You know, we will have a long road to work together.’ He told me he would pray for me, and I said I would pray for him,” Mahfood said. “He had a real love for people, and we saw it everywhere we went with him. He understood the poor. In our lobby, we have a wall with four Servants of the Poor. The fifth is going to be Fr. Richard Martin.”
Fr. Bill Korpi, a friend of Fr. Martin’s for almost 30 years and a fellow priest at Nativity Parish, hand-delivered the donation and reminisced about his good friend, drawing laughter from those gathered to honor their friend.
“A few days after Father went home to God, I had an experience. A young woman walked into the office, almost paralyzed and trembling. Tears were pouring out of her eyes. I knew what Dick would do, so I moved out of my comfort zone, I approached her and held out my arms,” Korpi said. “He was your best friend, wasn’t he? You loved him, didn’t you? He told you he loved you, didn’t he? I told her that he had told thousands of people that – and he meant it every time!
“When thousands of people passed through to pay their respects to him at our church, I reminded the young seminarians that the crowds came not because they loved him, but because he first loved them,” Korpi said. “I reminded them they must do the same, even the ones they don’t like – especially the ones they don’t like.”
The celebration included Fr. Martin’s nephew Eric, his wife, Nicole, and their baby, Grayson. The family had decided that instead of flowers, donations should go to Operation Starfish to help the poor in Haiti. Those donations made up almost a quarter of the gift that will make possible houses for those who have had no shelter, food for those who have known only hunger, opportunities for jobs, and income for those who have had no hope.
“We were both very honored to be able to represent the Martin family today,” Eric Martin said. “It was amazing to see the number of lives that Uncle Dick touched through his work with Food For The Poor. It will be a memory that is shared for a lifetime. We will never forget the feeling of being welcomed and loved by Uncle Dick’s Food For The Poor family. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory…that lasts a lifetime.”
The village in Grand Boulage will be built out over the course of three years, and will combine the latest technology, construction development programs, and community development programs. The “showcase” 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 that they can take best advantage of all the programs offered.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.