September 12/19, 2016: Volume 31, Number 7
By Steven Feldman
Lou Morano over the last 30 years has built Capitol Carpet and Tile into one of the premier flooring retailers in Florida. After working for a carpet retailer in New Jersey, Lou migrated to Florida in the mid-1980s and along with his father opened the first of what now numbers five locations in Palm Beach County plus a very successful commercial division. The business does about $18 million, and Lou still spends about 50 hours a week in the office.
In 2009, Morano’s son, Gabriel, went on a mission trip to Mexico. He would have no idea how that would impact his life. A year later Morano accompanied his wife on another mission to Mexico. Moved by that trip, the following year he had the opportunity to go to Haiti. The mission centered around putting a roof on a church. When he arrived, Morano was shocked at what he saw in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
“The thing about the northern part of Haiti is these people live in 1st century conditions,” he said. “Most people have no power or running water. There is garbage all over the place. Women are washing clothes in the river where there are dead animals 20 feet away. There is no industry in this area of Haiti, so there is no opportunity for work locally. When we build churches and other projects, we get local men coming by hoping to work for $10 a day. Kids are running around with no shoes and some have no clothes. Truly heartbreaking, and when you see this much poverty around you, I knew we had to help make a change.”
Morano found a mission in Haiti that was started 25 years ago, which built four schools that today educate over 1,000 children from kindergarten through 9th grade. “I found out through this mission, for $30 a month, people could sponsor a child. For this sponsorship, the child gets an education, a uniform and medical attention when needed. They also eat once a day in school, and $12 of the $30 goes to their family so they have money for food as well. In many instances the one meal in school is all the child will eat for the day. In addition, the children write letters that are translated and sent to sponsors twice a year.”
The catalyst for Morano was one day on the construction site during his first trip to Haiti. “I remember so vividly there was this girl around 9 years old—she reminded me of my daughter—she stood up and looked into me. And I don’t mean she looked at me, she looked into me, like into my eyes, into my soul, into my being…like she was saying ‘help.’ It was like one of those movies where there are lots of people and things going on around you but you don’t hear or see anything. It was just she and I. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought what if she were my daughter and I could not afford to give her food every day. What if she were my daughter and I could not give her medical help when she needed it. What if she were my daughter and she was roaming the neighborhood with no shoes or education because I could not afford it. From that point on I decided my goal would be to get every child in all four schools sponsored. When I started, 150 of the 600 children were sponsored. Now there are over 1,000 children of which 550 are sponsored.”
As part of the sponsorship, the children receive a gift box once a year. Each box contains whatever the sponsor decides to put in it. That can range from underwear to toys to necessities like a toothbrush and toothpaste. Morano and the mission team personally hand out every box to every child each year. “When you deliver these gift boxes with what we would call bare necessities, the children light up. When they open up the box, it is the best thing they will have received all year long. They are thankful and appreciative.”
Morano and the team actually make two trips to Haiti each year ranging from four to seven days. “We visit all four schools and see all the children. In September the mission tore down one of the schools and are rebuilding it. We are going with a team of 22 in a couple of months to put a roof on that school. When you do something like this or build them a church, it is empowering and gives them hope.
“When you go on one of these mission trips, you see how people live,” he continued. “I remember that first Mexico trip. I saw a family of four living in an 8 x 10 foot pressboard box. Then you build them a house. So you are literally changing people’s lives.”
To this point, this Haiti mission has been extremely local, but Morano would like to create awareness to get more people involved, either through sponsorships or donations. “This started in my church and I’ve kind of taken the lead with a few other people from his congregation. We are in the process of developing a website so different organizations can have their own branded web page with sponsored children. This website would be 100% funded by my church, Journey Church. The organizations can have their employees sponsor the children or they can sponsor the kids themselves.”
Morano said the unique thing about all this is the church pays all the credit card fees for the monthly $30 sponsorships. “So all of the money goes 100% toward the child’s needs—nothing toward administration or anything else. This is so unique in that no other non-profit organization can state this fact. Now we are trying to bring this to other organizations.”
For those interested in becoming involved in the effort, Morano stressed three key points:
1.Haiti is unlike other places where there may be an opportunity to overcome the poverty they live in. In the northern part of Haiti there is no opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.
2.People can sponsor a child for $30 a month or just donate money to the schools, children and their families.
3.This isn’t a matter of sending money abroad and not knowing where that money goes. “We go every year to every school and see all our children. There are no middle people, there is no chance things won’t wind up where they’re supposed to.”
To learn more or become involved in the effort, call Morano at 561.228.5657 or you may email Lou directly: firstname.lastname@example.org