Diaspora

Clothing drive is latest Be Like Brit effort – The Landmark

Nearly 13 years after Britney Gengel perished along with 300,000 people in the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, her family and loved ones continue to keep her giving back legacy alive through the foundation created in her name.
“Words cannot describe how grateful we are to people that have helped us and continue to help us, it is extremely humbling,” said her mother Cherylann Gengel, co-founder and executive director of the Be Like Brit Foundation. “It is truly overwhelming the kindness that people continue to show us.”
Born in Worcester and raised in Rutland, one of Britney’s last wishes was to start an orphanage in Haiti. She traveled there on a mission trip in January 2010 over winter break during her sophomore year of college in Florida to give back to the less fortunate. The Wachusett Regional High School graduate told people she wanted to move there to dedicate her life to helping the children.
That desire inspired her parents to launch Be Like Brit, and eight months after Britney’s death, land was purchased in Grand Goave to build her orphanage.
Construction began that December and the orphanage, Brit’s Home, was completed Dec. 31, 2012. Six months prior to that, a group from Becker College went on a Britsionary Mission Trip to Haiti, following in Brit’s footsteps, and in the years since then the foundation has continued to raise funds for and support the children of Haiti.
All of the proceeds from her parents’ book, “Heartache and Hope in Haiti: The Britney Gengel Story,” go toward reading initiatives at Brit’s Home and Brit’s Academy, the school constructed in Haiti by the foundation, which is headquartered on Pullman Street in Worcester.
The foundation is currently holding a clothing drive to benefit the children in Haiti, partnering with Savers in Worcester, at 490 Lincoln St. People can donate clothing, and Savers will, in turn, donate money to Be Like Brit per pound of clothing collected by Sept. 9.
“This is our first time having this type of drive,” Cherylann said. “Those funds that we receive will help us to purchase basic necessities for our children like medicines, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, etc., and of course cake mixes.”
Cake mixes are necessities? They are when there are more than 60 children involved. The cake mixes are used to celebrate the birthdays of those children who live at the orphanage and school built in Brit’s memory, helping her generous spirit live on.
When asked what their hopes and goals are for the future of the foundation, Cherylann did not hesitate to say: “We will be bringing in more children to live at Brit’s Home, which is very exciting.”
“Be Like Brit began to honor our daughter Britney and her last wish to help the poorest of the poor,” Cherylann said. “Over these past 12-plus years, it has become our life’s mission to not only honor Brit, but to help the children and people of Haiti. We see what Britney saw. We hope she is proud of us.”
Upcoming foundation events include a Delray Beach Glow Tennis Event on Oct. 27 in Delray Beach, Florida, where the foundation has purchased land to build a home where some of their Haitian children will come for a three-month internship or possibly go to college. The annual foundation gala will be held Nov. 5 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, back to in-person this year, and the second annual Holden Turkey Trot is set for Thanksgiving morning.
Last year they had over 1,100 runners, walkers, and stroller participate in the Turkey Trot, and Cherylann said they “are anticipating even more this year.” Information about these events and more can be found at www.BeLikeBrit.org.
When it comes to the continued support from people near and far, Cherylann said they are grateful to be able to carry on their daughter’s name while doing good — just like Brit did.
“We know that life has been more challenging for everyone these past few years, so we feel even more blessed that people continue to help us,” Cherylann said. “Covid, the assassination of Haiti’s president, another earthquake, the political unrest, and gang violence make it harder for those that live in Haiti. That’s why it is so important that we continue our work of raising the next generation of leaders in Haiti.”

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