Priest feeds the poor through nonprofit

Father Bob Deshaies spent 13 years as a Catholic priest and then 23 year as an Episcopal priest, but the gospel he has preached has remained unchanged since he began giving sermons more than three decades ago. That’s when he became a committed evangelist for Food for the Poor, visiting churches nationwide as development director for the highly rated charity.

Deshaies said his calling began with a mission trip to Haiti, where he saw housing built by Food for the Poor, and avocado groves and cook stoves provided by the organization, and lives changed.

“I see these little communities, 30 to 40 concrete, two-room houses with solar-powered ovens,” he said. “[Food for the Poor] built 100,000 homes in the Caribbean. No other agency comes close to that. We move families into houses with running water, wells, generators to run refrigerators, and we teach men how to fish and set up fish farms.”

That is one reason the nonprofit merited three out of four stars by the respected rating service Charity Navigator. Despite controversy in recent years surrounding President Robin Mahfood, and the salaries paid to his family members, the charity has kept expenses to a minimum, and far below those of comparable organizations.

Charity Navigator holds that charities should spend no more than 33 cents of every donated dollar on fundraising and administrative expense. Food for the Poor devotes 95 cents of every donated dollar to its mission — feeding the world’s poor — and that’s one of the points Deshaies makes in his sermons, asking congregants to support the mission of the Coconut Creek relief agency.

“Wherever I go, there are three points I make: First, we are a ministry; second, we are efficient; more than 95 cents of every dollar goes to the services we support; and third, we have a terrific way of distribution through churches, and clergies and NGOs really doing good things for poor.

“We have locked warehouses in every country,” he added. “And we own the trucks, so we pick up food at warehouses, or we truck it to them.”

In August, Deshaies was at St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in his home town of Plantation.

Deshaies is one of 90 committed evangelists in the nonprofit’s speakers bureau. Twice a month he calls on a distant parish, preaches on behalf of Food for the Poor, and passes the hat.

When he preached at St. Benedict’s in August, his sermon drew more than $2,000 in contributions.

Already this year he’s visited San Diego, Nebraska, Michigan and, later this month, Aspen, Colo. It’s not as exciting as it seems, however.

“I just get to see the inside of the plane, the restaurant, the hotel, the church and the plane,” he said. “The only time I get to see where we are is when we are going from the airport to the hotel — and I come back exhausted on Monday.”


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