Our essential guiding light and hardworking, skilled, and wise pro bono lawyer and co-founder, Howard Smotkin, died on August 9th after a 9-month illness. We at Meds & Food for Kids will greatly miss his calm, generous and thoughtful advice.
A month ago we presented a thank you gift and the following letter, detailing some of his many crucial contributions to the success of MFK for nearly 20 years.
MFK could not have had a better counselor.
Goodbye, Howard, our friend. Our condolences to Howard's loving family and his many friends.
His funeral service will be held Friday, August 12th at 11am at Congregation Temple Israel in St. Louis. Visit bergermemorialchapel.com for live stream information.
Patricia B. Wolff, MD
Founder & Senior Advisor
July 15th, 2022
Today Meds & Food for Kids would like to formally thank you for the countless hours and often-unheralded work you have done pro bono on behalf of the Haiti’s poorest people and the mission of MFK to save lives, employ and mentor these vulnerable people. Since the idea of MFK surfaced in my mind in2001, you have been my tireless partner in establishing the 501©(3) status, creating a Board, bylaws, etc. –basically the skeleton and flesh of MFK. I have been remiss in not calling you my co-founder because that is exactly the role you played. You have kept MFK within the laws of the US and Haiti and provided common sense advice innumerable crises over the years. You have enabled the accomplishments of more than half a million lives saved, the employment and mentorship of hundreds of Haitians over the years and set MFK onto a path of sustainability into the future.
Your role in the organization has been essential and beyond generous.
From the start, you have been all-in, doing the work of MFK on an ongoing basis for over 20 years.
Your skills as both a CPA and a lawyer have been valuable but most valuable of all has been your good judgment and commitment to the success of the MFK mission. You have always answered the literal call about accidental death, car accidents, death threats, government shenanigans, and choosing among the lawyers available to us.
Your work for MFK has been anything but simple. At the outset you set up a domestic 501©(3) and also a Haitian NGO, preparing and making suggestions for by-laws of both entities. Later you helped us set up NutriYo, a for profit subsidiary of MFK, which was extra legally quashed by the government of Haiti, but had high legal drama in the US associated with its closure. You and Celeste Vossmeyer worked closely together to keep MFK intact and out of court.
You worked long hours with our first volunteer accountant to set up an accounting system, and then another accountant and then another accountant to set up systems that would serve both Haiti and the US and pass muster with auditors. You have been ex officio on the board and its finance committee offering sage advice since MFK’s inception.
You have been diligent in keeping tabs on the books, audits, and have always ensured that MFK has sturdy protocols to protect against fraud and financial malfeasance. Your work has been critical in MFK’s maintaining its highest possible rating on Charity Navigator, the entity that advises donors of organizations’ efficiency, transparency, and financial accountability. Your anticipatory guidance extended to important registrations in U.S. states where MFK does significant fundraising.
The organization started with a modest grant of $11,700 from Rotary International and, with prodigious charitable fundraising and sales of its products to entities like UNICEF, MFK has grown into a factory in Cap-Haitien, Haiti, that employs 88 Haitian workers, along with MFK agronomists and others who work with Haitian peanut farmers to produce better yields and higher quality Haitian peanuts, and clinic nurses who treat severely malnourished children across the country. To build this current factory MFK needed a loan in 2011 from Lichtenstein Venture Philanthropy which required a very complex contract, not unlike MFK’s very complex franchisee contract with Nutriset. Never daunted by complexity, you read these proposed contracts, made common sense and doable suggestions, and spoke to the principals and lawyers on MFK’s behalf in order to protect MFK into the future.
You have overseen and guided MFK’s construction contracts. You also have overseen contracts with digital fundraising services, and with other not-for-profit entities that share revenues with MFK, and guided MFK in getting and keeping its trademarks.
Beyond these big issues, you have been the organization’s day-to-day lawyer on matters that have included staying within the law in hiring and firing in the U.S. and Haiti; dealing with traffic accidents and accidental deaths in Haiti; advising on problems of alcoholism and drug abuse in MFK fellows in Haiti, employee deception, theft, and false credentials; demanding restitution from suppliers when MFK received tainted supplies, and dealing with Haitian lawyers and with the Haitian government.
Howard, you have made MFK a model of ethical economic development and gold-standard nutritional care in the Developing World.
The continued existence of MFK some days seems like a miracle. In large part its continuation and sustainable future is, in large part, owed to your guidance and generous offer of time at critical junctures over the years. You truly are the organization’s unpaid and essential “wise man.” I have known you for more than 35 years; I have never known you to seek recognition for this extraordinary activity or any of his other professional achievements. You just do what you think is the generous and the right thing to do.
You have been for Meds & Food for Kids – and for many of your regular clients – a true hero, a great model for the kind of servant-leaders and generous professionals that we hope lawyers and board members will be.
Mèsi anpil from several generations of Haitians and almost 20 years of MFK staff.
Pat and the MFK Family