By Victoria Cepeda & Efrain Nieves
A few weeks back, faced with bags and bags of our baby’s outgrown clothing, unused gifts, a car seat, a stroller, and baby formula, we needed to find a local charity or food pantries to donate these items to. Therefore, we asked my mother to recommend a few. Mami, who selflessly gives her time and more to anyone in need, gave me a card that read “Goodwill Depot” managed by John Kutaich. When I called the number, a friendly female voice answered. She explained to me that her husband would gladly come by our house to pick up our donations. Within a couple of hours John met Efrain outside our place. What followed was a heartfelt conversation between two men that understand adversity but decided to turn it around and give back. After Efrain came back upstairs and told me how John started his foundation, I decided that John’s journey was one that needed to be shared with all of you.
John Kutaich was born in Venezuela to a Syrian father and a Venezuelan mother. He recalls that growing up had its shares of adversity. Poverty was not something he read about in the news or saw on TV, but rather a way of life. But, despite their limited income, his parents worked hard to give their family everything they could and more. He also remembers the first time he volunteered as a teenager. It was at an orphanage in Venezuela where religious sisters took good care of the children but could not make up for the many basic necessities the children lacked. The main one being the need for the orphans to have loving families.
Years later, after having immigrated to the United States, John met his wife Rania Nasrala who was born in Libya and grew up in similar circumstances in Syria. Rania also knew that making it this far, to the U.S.A., meant that she had beat the odds. As fate would have it, shortly after John and Rania were blessed with their son Thomas, their long awaited wish to help others in need would become a reality.
As Thomas battled a stomach bug that led his pediatrician to prescribe different kinds of formula, the Kutaich’s home quickly became a “pantry”. During that same period an ad about a hungry orphan child helped connect the dots. John and Rania, propelled by a sense of responsibility to prevent child hunger, decided to give away the once neatly stocked boxes of extra formula to needy families. ”We felt lucky of having so much to give away what many families are finding hard to have. We simply had to help those that do not have the same privilege”, John said.
Motivated by the instant rush of fulfillment and accomplishment as well as the positive feedback from the people they helped, John and Rania created the Kutaich Foundation, a non-for-profit goodwill organization located in Union City, NJ that benefits the needy in the Hudson County area. With the help of their Pro-Bono accountant, Orlando Silva from Ideal Associates, John and Rania received their non-for-profit accreditation.
Next stop in their agenda are initiatives to partner with local Union City agencies to organize a toy drive and prepare a couple of containers filled to the brim with essential items to hand out in person in a third world nation. In addition, their foundation contributes 40% of their earnings to other charities and goodwill causes nationwide. The latest recipients being Hearts International and Save the Children.
“Our customers at the goodwill store are mainly newly arrived people from various countries, the poor and anyone with low income. “I realize that our customers keep coming back and tell us that we’re doing a great job” says Rania as John finishes her sentence by saying “it’s a cycle of helping out because as we’re providing our customers with the opportunity to buy quality low priced items, they in turn send that piece of clothing or toy back to their countries as gifts”. ”As such, we are propelling others to pay it forward also. We are the lucky ones”.
Perhaps John’s story is not unique but it’s one that sheds light on the ongoing need in our communities for local selfless heroes. Pa’lante Latino would like to publicly thank John and Rania for leading by example as they help change people’s lives.
If you would like to donate to the Kutaich Foundation, please contact John at GoodWillDepot@gmail.com.
Pa’lante Latino showcases current events in the arts, entertainment, politics, and culture as it affects our community. Above all, we are ferocious advocates of the contributions that Hispanics/Latinos have made to the United States and feature articles based on historical facts to reaffirm our relevance.Please feel free to email us at email@example.com.