They have the picture perfect life: high powered jobs as investment advisors at the fifth largest firm in the country, a beautiful home, a comfortable lifestyle, and a close-knit church community. And yet Chuck and Eileen Stoner still felt something was missing from their lives.
It wasn’t until a church service about 17 years ago that the Stoners found their calling. During the service a priest described his life-changing recent mission trip, sponsored by Florida-based Food for the Poor, to a Caribbean country. “He told us about all the good work they were doing with building homes and providing food and resources in third world countries and we wanted to help,” says Chuck.
The couple soon became involved with Food for the Poor, which provides food and housing for impoverished people in Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Initially, the couple started by funding water purification projects, but as they learned more about the organization’s positive impact in third world countries, the Stoners decided they needed to do more. “My wife and I wanted to make a difference,” says Chuck. “We’ve been blessed in our careers and with our business and we just felt we wanted to do something.”
In 2011, via a donation exceeding hudreds of thousands of dollars, the Stoners helped fund their first village, Hosanna, which means “to save” in Hebrew, in a remote part of Guyana. “These villages are way out in the jungle,” says Chuck of the village he and Eileen helped fund and which gave shelter to more than 50 families. “There was no electricity or anything. These people were living in total poverty before we built the villages.” What followed was the construction of four more villages, which included one in El Salvador, where the Stoners funded the construction of about 50 homes, an animal husbandry component as well as a greenhouse, a community center and a church. Part of the program is to provide the basics of living today,” says Eileen, 54. “But part of it is to encourage sustainable living so they can support themselves.”
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“I find [the Stoners] to be one of the most inspiring and inspired couples I've had the pleasure of knowing,” says Natalie Carlisle, vice president of major giving for Food for the Poor. “They are passionate about serving the poorest of God’s poor ... and they remain so humble through it all.”
The Stoners say they feel blessed to be able to help disadvantaged communities in other countries. “It’s not our money, it’s God’s money. That’s the way we look at it,” says Chuck. Adds Eileen: “I think we’re all programmed innately to feel good when we give. As soon as that idea breaks open in your life, you’ll find that the person who gives receives way more than the person who’s the recipient. It may sound crazy but gosh, we’ve found it to really be true.”