Local man helps build school in Haiti

Local man helps build school in Haiti
Anthony “Tony” Pestritto traveled to Grand Boulage, Haiti, with Food For The Poor representatives to dedicate a school he built for more than 540 students. Above, he speaks at the dedication ceremony. Below, he helps cut the ribbon.

Anthony “Tony” Pestritto traveled to Grand Boulage, Haiti, with Food For The Poor representatives to dedicate a school he built for more than 540 students. Above, he speaks at the dedication ceremony. Below, he helps cut the ribbon.

Food For the Poor

Dividing his time between South Jersey and Florida, Anthony “Tony” Pestritto was naturally interested when a priest from his New Jersey parish, showed up one Sunday morning at his church in Margate, Fla.

That was some 25 years ago, and Pestritto, 88, doesn’t even remember who the priest was. But he had come to talk about poverty in Haiti and Food for the Poor.

Since then, Pestritto, who earned his living baking Sicilian bread in South Jersey at the family’s bakery, has donated to the international charity.

Recently he traveled to Grand Boulage, Haiti, with Food For The Poor representatives to dedicate a school he built to give more than 540 students the best possible education. Before his generous donation, classes were conducted in a dilapidated building that lacked furniture and only had one latrine.

“Your treasure is this building,” said Pestritto to the hundreds of students wearing blue and white uniforms in the open-air auditorium. “You must use the treasure inside of you, the magical keys of will, effort and determination in learning. Then what you want to be in life will be unlocked. It is here, given to you by people who care and love you.”

Pestritto attends St. Joseph Church, Sea Isle City, when he is in the area, and he talks freely about the influence of his Catholic school education and his gratitude for being able to live in America.

Pestritto’s relatives emigrated from Italy and started a bakery that grew to 15 locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

His brothers were drafted to fight in the Second World War, and Pestritto served in the Navy for a year before he was discharged.

“During World War II, because we were feeding the world with 16 million troops overseas, cities allowed victory gardens,” said Pestritto. “We always had fresh produce. I want to see that in Haiti.”

In September 2014, Pestritto invested in an agricultural project in the community of La Rochiquite, in Hinche, Haiti, to improve the productivity of small-scale farmers. The farmers have been provided oxen, plows, and agricultural irrigation pumps to help produce fields of corn, tomato, green pepper, and eggplant. The community’s proximity to the Guayamouc River helps with the irrigation of the gardens.

Pestritto and his late second wife, Agnes, also chose to invest in the training of 130 bee farmers with Food For The Poor in Central Plateau, Haiti. The farmers received training and supplies to start their operation.

“I am elated about this project,” said Pestritto. “I want milk and honey to flow all over the island. I want to see it happen one day. I want to see it grow.”

“Tony Pestritto is a man of action,” said Angel Aloma, Food For The Poor’s executive director. “By investing in the education and training of people in Haiti, he has equipped them with the knowledge necessary to escape a life of poverty. There are future doctors, lawyers, teachers and architects at Grand Boulage School, that without Mr. Pestritto’s vision and generosity would never realize their full potential.”

“Our heart’s desire is to take Haiti’s meager education system beyond its standing prior to the earthquake, to a system that grants every child a life-changing opportunity to receive a quality education,” said Delane Bailey-Herd, Haiti Project Manager for Food For The Poor. During the school dedication ceremony, Pestritto emphasized that the keys to achieving your dreams are the desire, strength, courage and determination to realize your goals.

When Pestritto first heard that New Jersey priest talk about Food For the Poor, he was married to his first wife, Rose.

Intent on honoring her memory, Pestritto built Rosie’s Kitchen in 1999 with Food For The Poor to provide low-cost meals to factory workers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Food For The Poor is an interdenominational Christian ministry that provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance.

For more information, visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

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