MIAMI – Affordable housing developer Mark Gilbert and his wife, Theresa Fortner, a registered nurse, were determined to not give up on a poor farming community they have been visiting in Haiti.
Their nonprofit, The Northern Friends of Haiti, focused on helping residents of the Petite Riviere des Bayonnais, where heavy rains and strong winds destroyed homes and flooded crops.
Authorities in Haiti said Thursday Hurricane Matthew was to blame for at least 108 deaths, according to The Miami Herald.
"In a short 24 hours, Hurricane Matthew devastated most of the advancements of these three years by washing out water sources, roads and erosion measures with 15 inches of rainfall," Gilbert said. "We need help to rebuild."
In about one day, 21 donors gave Gilbert's nonprofit about $14,535 after he set up an account with GoFundMe, a popular crowd-funding service that will charge the nonprofit a fee on the amount raised. Nikolai Barlow, of Superior Painting Company in Pittsburgh, donated $10,000.
GoFundMe has a team working "to ensure those impacted [by the hurricane] will get the help raised on their behalf," according to GoFundMe spokesman Robert Withorne. He listed Gilbert's account as a legitimate effort.
Gilbert wants to raise $250,000 to "develop solutions" and inject "cash directly into the local economies by hiring the residents to implement the work."
Public filings, available on GuideStar, show the nonprofit reported that their investments include $10,000 spent on the Elaine Harrington Community Clinic, $15,000 spent on clean water access, and $150,000 spent on soil conservation and erosion control, construction and sanitation programs.
"The nearly $500,000 we've invested" were "mostly obliterated, as is this year's crops," Gilbert said on a Facebook update, adding that he will be traveling from Vermont to Haiti in two weeks.