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Food For The Poor’s Building Hope Gala

Building Hope Gala Answers Call to Help Poor Families in Haiti

Shaggy and Rebecca Packer Burrell Honored as Ambassadors For The Poor

Boca Raton, FL  – Destitute families in Ti Maché, Haiti, are closer to realizing their dream of having safe, sturdy homes, thanks to the compassion of those attending Food For The Poor’s 24th annual Building Hope Gala Saturday at the historic Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Donors raised enough funds to meet the gala’s goal of building 50 homes.

Food For The Poor President/CEO Robin Mahfood thanked guests and the Boca Raton community for supporting the Building Hope Gala and changing the lives of so many poor families in Haiti.

“We are here tonight, heeding the call, to help the plight of our poor brothers and sisters in Haiti,” Mahfood said. “We cannot do this alone.”

Grammy Award-winning reggae artist Shaggy and his wife, Rebecca Packer Burrell, were named Ambassadors For The Poor at the event. They were honored for helping the poor of Jamaica through the Shaggy Make A Difference Foundation, which supports the Bustamante Hospital for Children.

“We are honored that this amazing couple supports Food For The Poor and the plight of the destitute that we serve,” Mahfood said. “Thank you, Rebecca and Shaggy, for being friends of Food For The Poor and for your contribution to the health of children in Jamaica.”

The couple praised Food For The Poor for its work over the years and expressed sincere appreciation for the partnership between the charity and Shaggy’s foundation. Shaggy’s philanthropic giving is based on the premise that “to whom much is given, much is required.”

“When you’re in the position with the amount of good fortune like I’ve had, people ask me why. I say because I can,” Shaggy said.

Gala committee co-chairs Dr. Geneen Graber Maxwell and Charles Maxwell called attention to the critical need for permanent housing in Haiti, which is key to lifting families out of extreme poverty.

“It takes a very special person to take some time from their busy lives to try to help others,” Dr. Geneen Graber Maxwell said to the crowd of more than 350 guests. “It’s an honor for us to be able to share such a special event with such a wonderful group of people.”

Charles Maxwell said he was grateful for the opportunities given to him in life and was happy to align with Food For The Poor to do the same for destitute families.

“We believe they don’t just give handouts. They give people opportunities,” Charles Maxwell said.

In Ti Maché, most families live in flimsy hovels of sticks and mud with rusted roofs. When it rains, the shacks are easily washed away and families have to rebuild their homes. There is no electricity, clean water or sanitation.

Guests were shown a video that documented a trip to Haiti in November by past and present committee members and their supporters. Among those on the trip were committee member Rene Turner Mahfood and her son Ashton, and Laurie Braden and her daughter Piper.

Ashton Mahfood, a student at Pine Crest School, explained to guests that the trip allowed him to witness firsthand what poor Haitian families endure daily.

“They need your help to survive and have a chance to succeed,” he said. “I’m asking you to give whatever you can to help.”

Both Mahfood and Braden enjoyed interacting with children who were grateful to receive the simple gift of soccer balls.

“They immediately went to go play with them,” said Braden, a student at Pine Crest School. “The smiles, joy and thanks we received during our visit were unforgettable. I look forward to the day when I can visit Ti Maché and witness the smiles and happiness of families in their new homes.”

Gala guests included Oliver Mair, Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami, Hungarian pianist and composer Havasi Balázs, and world-renowned speed artist Michael Israel and his wife, Nadine.

Israel entertained guests by creating two one-of-a-kind paintings that were auctioned to support the cause.

Other committee members included: Siobhan Carty, Katherine Cathcart, Patricia de Siqueira Castro, Elena Del Alamo, Karen Foreman, Karolina Kanner, Marlene Ross Khouri, Julie Mahfood, Ivana Montague, Dr. Marnee Schneider, Renee Stetler and Patricia Wallace.

Sponsors included Aetna, American Nicaraguan Foundation, ARC Manufacturing Limited, Butters Construction, Dennis Charley and Associates, Crowley, Diligent Services, Dixie Clamp & Scaffold, Dr. G’s Pharmacy, Downtown Photo, Heleng International, InfoGroup Nonprofit Solutions, McFFE Group, Merrill Lynch, One & All (Russ Reid), PSAV, Salem Media, Schmidt Family Foundation, Tank Weld, TD Bank, Teemlink, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and WISYNCO for WATA.

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

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