Growing up in destitute Haiti, all 10-year-old Marie Louise ever knew was poverty and hunger pangs. The things most Americans take for granted—sitting at a table to eat a full meal, not to mention the use of utensils—were completely foreign to her and the other children in her village. Instead, she was all too used to scooping a handful of dirt or even cement into her mouth simply to have something in her stomach to keep her from starving to death.
But then God’s love, in the form of a Florida-based nonprofit ministry called Feeding Children Everywhere, found its way to Marie Louise’s village. Through founder Don Campbell’s connections with Open Door Haiti and its founder, local pastor Wiljean Compere, the young girl now eats three healthy meals each day and has been spared the life of disease and hunger for which she was formerly destined.
That’s not all. Her story is being replicated by millions around the world as Feeding Children Everywhere (FCE) rapidly expands to make its mark nearly, well, everywhere.
FCE’s journey has taken Campbell and his wife, Kristen, from feeding their neighborhood to embarking on seasons in which the couple mobilized churches throughout Central Florida, ran a local branch of a Minnesota-based nonprofit and, in 2010, launched into Haiti. Today the organization provides 15 million meals annually to hungry children in the U.S. and around the world, all in the name of Jesus—and with the financial support and volunteer manpower of mega-corporations such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, K Force, Johnson & Johnson and many others (including entire sports associations).
Major secular organizations helping to support a ministry? How did that happen?
Small Beginnings From his youth, Campbell always believed his working career would somehow involve food. Forced to become the man of the house at age 10 after his father took his own life, Don became the family chef and learned to cook for his mother and sisters. As he grew up, food and soccer became his passion.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a pro soccer player, and I still play with a group of men,” he says. “But I’ve always had this food thing at the core of me too. I love good food, and I love to entertain. That’s where my heart is. To tell you the truth, I always thought that I would open up a restaurant. But obviously God took me in a different direction—a wonderfully different direction.”
The first steps of that “wonderfully different direction” began when Don served at the Central Florida Dream Center in 2002 and then became a staff pastor at Family Worship Center in Sanford, Fla. But he and his wife, Kristen, weren’t satisfied with simply working with youth on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. They longed to make a bigger impact.
“Jesus was extremely relational in everything He did,” Campbell says, “and we are super relational people as well. We started learning to connect with people and honoring relationships over promotion, if you will. By doing that, we have been promoted.”
The FCE dream started small—just by meeting a community need of feeding neighborhood children from their dining room table. As word began to spread, the Campbells’ work expanded in their community and eventually with a Minnesota-based nonprofit. After years of volunteering and feeding children from their home, the couple took their entire life savings of $9,000 and rallied friends, family and volunteers—and FCE was officially born.
But it wasn’t until an event no one could have foreseen that the ministry really took hold. In January 2010, following the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti and the numerous aftershocks that left more than 200,000 dead and hundreds of thousands in need of aid and food, the ministry pushed into deploy mode.
Campbell approached Doug Holliday—a friend who also happens to be the U.S. president of the humanitarian aid organization Open Door Haiti—to explore a partnership for helping destitute children affected by the earthquake. Open Door Haiti became FCE’s first international feeding partner, and FCE organized packing events with local churches to raise money to fund the project and ship 250,000 meals to hungry children in the nation.
Explosive Impact According to Campbell’s estimates, FCE has grown 200 percent every six months since its inception and is one of the fastest-moving nonprofit organizations in the world. He describes FCE’s vertical growth during the past three years as “nothing short of miraculous,” and the evidence certainly supports this.
In the last two years, FCE has expanded beyond its corporate headquarters in Longwood, Fla., to include facilities in Hartford, Conn., and Los Angeles—with plans to launch offices in other regions as well. Despite the increasing space and staggering amounts of food passing through these facilities, the ministry staff is kept intentionally lean—FCE currently has 15 full-time employees and 60 interns working at its Florida location—as it continues to prioritize volunteer training.