Why This Building Matters: Part Two

From Meds & Food for Kids' Founder & Senior Advisor, Dr. Pat Wolff
October 25, 2022
Read Part 1

Part 2 of 2

Capital Campaign

MFK needed capital for a new factory and skilled people. Thankfully, the eminent botanist, Dr. Peter Raven, and Thad Simons agreed to chair a capital campaign to raise $3.2 million for the new factory. MFK staff member, Steve Taviner, orchestrated the complex campaign.

Campaign donations poured in from individuals and corporate donors including Nestles Corp, which contributed almost $300K, thanks to help from Betsy Cohen at Nestles-Ralston.  Steve Tillery of Korein Tillery, advocated for a $400K cy pres award to be directed to MFK and the judge agreed.  

Most importantly, many people gave time, money and skills for free, or deeply discounted, and many people volunteered extraordinary work in Haiti. For example, MFK finally was able to purchase a peanut roaster thanks to funding from Michael and Nancy Worthing. That roaster was installed by Jamie Rhoads and “validated” with help from Steve Calhoun at the American Peanut Council. It is still used in the factory today.

The Construction

In January 2011, Joe Grealy appeared at our house/factory and told us he would make an excellent project manager for the new factory. He had been building houses on the Haitian-DR border and he was looking for the next project.  Joe had heard we were planning to build a factory.

Within a month Joe, with the help of Haitian Notary, Paul Duvot,had located a piece of affordable land just outside Cap-Haitien, in Quartier Morin.

We immediately needed a new plan for a new factory. Both Jamie(“Fifi”) VanArtsdalen and Eyleen Chu were very helpful engineering fellows with MFK at the time. Eyleen had interned in Madison, Wisconsin with the ACS engineering firm. At her request, ACS agreed to do bridge documents for water treatment and HVAC.

Without a license to build in Haiti, these bridge documents needed to be handed over to another construction firm. Mike Reed, an MFK board member, introduced us to Rick Moeckel at Clayco Inc. Rick not only consulted and coordinated our building efforts but also secured building materials at deep discounts and skilled people who were essential to building the factory.

Rick introduced MFK to Burns & McDonnell, an engineering firm in St. Louis. Breck Washam and Ron Jones generously offered architect Jennifer Rehg to design the factory.

Jennifer collaborated with MFK’s agronomist, Jamie Rhoads, for the design of the peanut deshelling and sorting sections of the factory. On numerous occasions Jennifer produced drawing changes within one day when urgently requested by Dave Harmann, MFK’s US factory project manager.

With the advice of Giovanni Riccardi (Leger Associates), MFK contracted for a prebuilt metal building from Dean Steel Buildings. Dean suggested a team from Port au Prince, RJ Construction, for the installation work.

After several years of back and forth financial planning, and a visit to Haiti, the Principality of Liechtenstein’s Venture Philanthropy Group (LGTVP) collaborated with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to loan MFK $732,000 to begin construction of the factory. Kudos to Tom Stehl and Fabio Segura of LGTVP for patiently and competently redoing the financials countless times in two years to present to a worried LGTVP Board.

In the next few months.  Joe and his very skilled Haitian team, led by Ti Fre, built the perimeter wall, and generator building. Juan Gabriel’s Dominican firm built the interior office walls with St. Louis supplied P&A Drywall Supply and applied the excellent spray-on insulation to the production area. Living Water dug the MFK water well and installed the Ultrafiltration system that was recommended by Lyle Ziemann.  Later Perry Bruggeman requested a donation of an agricultural irrigation system for peanuts and other rotation crops from his US employer, The Brickman Group. Perry then helped the MFK team install the system.

We were introduced to Mike and Dennis Bieg of Bieg Plumbing and Heating. They volunteered plumbing design ideas, donated much of the equipment, and later installed all the plumbing in the factory themselves during two trips to Haiti. To this day, Mike Bieg and his colleague, Annalise Regan, offer engineering advice and donations of needed equipment. Tim Nehrt, Mike Bieg’s colleague, continues to provide expert advice and donate needed HVAC equipment.

Clayco Inc. introduced Daren Turner, owner of Amteck in Lexington, Kentucky.to MFK. Daren discounted the electrical design and installation and shipped all the necessary tools to Haiti for the installation. Wayne Boyd, an Amteck electrical engineer, developed MFK’s electrical distribution concept and arranged for the purchase of two 150kw generators from Northwest Haiti Christian Mission.

Amteck’s Terry Hutchins and Ian Cogman did the electrical installation over many weeks and Todd Richmond, also of Lexington, Kentucky, installed the HVAC. Detailed designof our HVAC system was behind schedule and Todd was willing to “work-on-the-fly” and prepare a bill-of-materials without finished construction drawings. Todd, his brother “Sport”, and their crew spent multiple weeks at the factory installing HVAC equipment. Later, Lyle Ziemann and Michael Worthing also donated their HVAC skills, along with Burns & McDonnell’s Craig Buescher, to refine the air conditioning plan to make it more efficient.

Joe Grealy and Dave Harmann performed a miracle working together, one in Haiti and one in the US, between February 2011 and October 2012.   The factory, the wall around it, and a road to the factory, financed by Alison and John Ferring, was built in Haiti with Haitian labor and inputs for the metal prefab building.  The inside walls, all floors and insulation were installed by Dominican Juan Gabriel’s team. Electricity, plumbing, and HVAC were designed and installed by US teams.

In January 2013, Dr. Cecil Thomas, Head of Biomedical Engineering at St Louis University, came to Haiti to help us sort out water leaking from the HVAC system. Later, he would research noise abatement options to respond to our neighbors’ complaints about generator noise and MFK’s alternatives to discarding high aflatoxin peanuts.

In February 2013,Clayco Inc. sent a senior construction supervisor, Arnez Stevenson, for two weeks of hands on work with MFK maintenance supervisor, Orelien Legrand, putting final touches on many little construction issues.

I know that my memory is not perfect and I must have left out other significant workers and their contributions. Just know that all of you have a special place in my heart and in the history and success of MFK.


The seeds planted 10 years ago have produced a bounty of lives saved and provide hope for generations.

We proudly report that MFK’s factory now employs 88 Haitians; these employees support over500 family members; that all of their children attend school; that all of the families have stable, decent housing and that many have been able to purchase their own vehicles. The 10-year legacy of the factory includes the economic and educational wellbeing of many Haitian families along with providing life-saving therapy for almost 600,000 malnourished children who are alive and healthier today due to your generosity. On their behalf, thank you again/mesi anpil anko.

At this time, UNICEF estimates nearly 100,000 children under the age of five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Haiti and urgently need our help. Thank you for your prior help and know that we are very grateful for any future support you can offer.