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Donors off to Haitian village that group built

February 09, 2008, Palm Beach Post, Donors off to Haitian village that group built, by Susan R. Miller.

A group of 20 people who donated at least $5,000 each were scheduled to board a plane even before the sun rose this morning to travel to the far reaches of Haiti.

They will spend about 20 hours there before returning home - one backpack filled with Beanie Babies lighter, but possibly with heavier hearts.

The group is heading to Los Cacaos, a remote village near the border of the Dominican Republic, where The Caring House Project Foundation completed its most recent undertaking - a new village with 35 double homes, a school, community center, health clinic and three fish ponds. In addition, the 700 residents are being supplied with goats, chickens, a greenhouse and farm equipment to help them become self-sufficient.

"We have been working on this village for a year now. It's as far away from anything we have ever undertaken," said Frank McKinney, whose Delray Beach-based Caring House Project Foundation built the village.

When he's not building villages in remote corners of the world. McKinney is building mansions in the United States. The villages cost about $10 a square foot, the mansions cost 10 times that. Each $5,000 donation builds one concrete home.

McKinney refers to himself as a modern-day Robin Hood. "I sell to the rich and give to the poor," he said.

This weekend's trip marks the foundation's 10th anniversary, though the nonprofit has had its tax-exempt status only since 2002. Revenues in 2005, the most recent available, were $791,890, of which $333,242 went toward program services. The agency has built two villages in two years. All in all, it has built nine - five in Haiti and four others in Indonesia, Honduras, Nicaragua and Africa.

The Rev. Pam Cahoon, executive director of Christians Reaching Out to Society and a member of the foundation's board, said they get things accomplished because there's not much bureaucracy. "It's one of the most phenomenal groups I have worked with," she said.

Locals do the building, and some materials are purchased on the island.

"We don't take jobs away from anyone," McKinney said.

The foundation works with other organizations, including Food for the Poor in Coconut Creek and Operation Rescue the Children in Pompano Beach.

Kendra Todd, winner of The Apprentice 3, is among those making this trip. All will bring nothing more than a backpack filled with stuffed animals for the children, many of whom are orphaned.

The foundation is working on another project in Testasse on the southeastern tip of the island, which is set to be completed later this year. Because it's near the ocean, it will focus on creating a fishing cooperative where residents will be provided with boats and facilities to clean, prep and store their catch. Sixty-one two-bedroom homes will replace the shacks they live in currently.

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