Caramel apples made by Brad and Kim Hamilton from Pleasant Grove. Proceeds from selling the apples were donated to the Dominican Starfish Foundation.
When Louise ZoBell was just 12 years old, she began studying Albert Sweitzer, Joan of Arc, and other famous humanitarians. As part of a Church youth program to earn honor badges, she penned an article about doing service. Consequently, she set a goal to do service work in Africa once she grew up.
This goal was put on hold for a long time as she embarked on a new goal — raising eight children and 35 grandchildren. She taught each one the value of service and helping others along the way.
When she earned a trip to the Dominican Republic in 2006, little did she know that this would become her “Africa.”
“Despite me not knowing at first where the Dominican Republic was, I fell in love with it, and it has become my passion,” Louise said.
For several years, she returned to Puerto Plata to enjoy the beaches, water and gorgeous sunsets with her family and friends. After a while, she began seeing the needs of the people living and working there. With the help of family and friends, Louise started taking clothing, shoes, hygiene and school supplies to assist those in need.
Louise ZoBell, left, and Pearl Giles pose for a photo. ZoBell is founder of the Dominican Starfish Foundation and Giles is the founder of PAL Humanitarian Services.
Soon, she realized that this was not enough. Louise needed to do more.
Subsequently, she enlisted the help of her close family and friends and created the Dominican Starfish Foundation. The starfish’s five arms in its logo, Louise explained, “represent our five humanitarian areas: shelter/housing, health/well-being, employment, education, and food/clothing.”
The Dominican Starfish Foundation has a sister foundation in Utah County. Pearl Giles is the President and Founder of PAL Humanitarian Services, Inc., and works closely with Louise and the Dominican Starfish Foundation as the group’s fundraising arm. Throughout the years, many others have joined Louise and Pearl in their visits to Puerto Plata.
Take Brad and Kim Hamilton and their family from Pleasant Grove, for example. Kim makes caramel apples with granny smiths from Allred Orchards in Provo. In fact, some of Kim’s earlier projects helped fund a variety of local health-related projects to help young people with various diseases.
As she contemplated future projects, Kim asked her best friends, Wade and Kim Payne, “Who should I do my apple project for?”
Before and after pictures of a home renovated in the Dominican Republic by the Dominican Starfish Foundation.
They suggested the Dominican Starfish Foundation. The Paynes had contributed to the Foundation in the past and felt it was a worthy cause.
“I initially raised $3,000 to use toward a Christmas house for someone,” Kim said. “But this year I decided to raise enough money to build an entire home. I am a realtor and wanted to help someone move into a home.”
It was definitely a challenge, but people from all over Utah and beyond bought caramel apples — and some just donated money from the goodness of their hearts. Soon they could afford to build the house.
Another family, Stan and Valora Palmer from Maryland, decided to fund the education of a child at a Haitian school the Dominican Starfish Foundation helps sponsor.
Their 11-year-old, Sophia, started earning money by weeding neighbors’ gardens, cleaning bathrooms for people around the neighborhood and doing other odd jobs.
“I told Sophia that I would match what she earned,” Valora said. “Well, Sophia earned $1,100.” Then, they went to the DR on a service trip.
While the Palmers were in the DR, they attended church. Valora was impressed by the humility and work of the congregation so she decided to help the man who dedicated his life to serving.
“I talked to Louise from the foundation about my thought of raising the money to build a house for the bishop. Louise agreed, and we began raising the money,” Valora said.
She raised the money, and the house was built. They are now raising money to build another home in 2023.
“We are not wealthy, but we are not poor. We live a charmed life, and it is not a huge burden to help people build a house,” Valora said.
The Hamiltons and Palmers are not just building homes for those in need, their donations help the foundation’s home building club employ several people in the DR.
Since April 2013, the Dominican Starfish Foundation has helped build, renovate, and save 205 homes. “We employ 20 full-time workers with additional part-time workers who build and renovate houses on daily basis. These workers have families that they support and are very appreciative of having a job that helps them make a difference in the lives of their families,” Louise said.
In June 2021, Louise felt an urgent need to expand their reach and create greater sustainability. The Dominican Starfish Foundation in Canada and its two sister foundations, PAL Humanitarian in the United States and Estrella de Mar Es Amor in the Dominican Republic now work together to plan a united way forward through strategic planning.
“The committees have already produced future leaders,” Louise said. “People have just stood up and taken charge, doing things that they might have never done. Of course, working together as one big team has created camaraderie, new innovative ideas and a progressive group with like-minded goals and vision.”
Over the next five years, Louise said, the foundation expects to grow the home-building program while increasing education and employment goals to “creatively help train, create jobs and partner with other organizations to provide much-needed education programming in career and technical education.”
Louise is one of those inspirational leaders who constantly exudes humility and gratitude for everyone who has helped the foundation.
“I am thankful to be the hands of the Lord in this project,” she stated. “I am thankful my health has allowed me to spend more than full time the past 10 years working in this Foundation and with our colleagues in Utah. So far, our donors have been mostly friends and family with no large endowments. I am so grateful for all of these people who have shared our dream and mission.”
Louise’s partner in Utah, Pearl Giles, also celebrated those who come to the DR to help. “Once people are there and see what is happening, they discover we are all just brothers and sisters trying to make a difference,” she said.
For those who wish to help people who are in great need, please go to the Dominican Starfish Foundation’s webpage at http://dominicanstarfish.com/ or email Louise at email@example.com.
Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.
When Louise ZoBell was just 12 years old, she began studying Albert Sweitzer, Joan of Arc, and other famous …
Copyright © Daily Herald | www.heraldextra.com | 1200 Towne Centre Blvd. STE 1058, Provo, UT 84601