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The Beauty of Helping From Afar: Local Couple Falls in Love With Other Culture

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When many hear the Dominican Republic, they think about the beautiful beaches, sun and even the Merengue.

And of course, in the "D.R." baseball rules. Area businessman Bill Levine, a huge fan, felt right at home when he visited and found baseball to be a common language.

Bill Levine, area businessman says, "And so I started going to the games and I became one of the few, if only, American season ticket holders. So I would go to these games with regularity. And you can't help but not get the infectious fanaticism of a baseball game where every pitch is cheered. There are musical bands playing the entire game where people are standing and cheering. So it's not just a game, it's an event. My nickname became 'Toro,' I'm 'Toro' in the Dominican Republic."

He took the name as a compliment.

Both Bill and his wife Birdie were quickly becoming immersed in the life.
Visits became more frequent and they decided to make the "D.R." their home.

Birdie Levine, area businesswoman says, "We used to fly into Santo Domingo, you know that was the capital. And it would take us an hour and a half by taxi or car to get to the resort. And, now it is much less time, everything has become modernized."

Bill Levine says, "There was no grocery store, so we'd go to a live market, for what we were going to eat every day. And, we would buy a chicken that was live. And, there was essentially nothing that was like a store. Everything was old school."

It didn't take long for the Levines, who own a local jewelry business, to see through the surface beauty of the Caribbean nation.

Bill Levine says, "It's a place of wonder and splendor, both naturally and with the culture and the people. And, unfortunately, when you go to a place like the Dominican Republic, not only do you see the good of life but you see how bad people sometimes have to live."

These jewelers who saw the beauty in gems and diamonds looked close and found something far more valuable in this poverty stricken world.

Bill Levine says, "The Dominican people welcome somebody who's willing to help. The way that I was raised, my grandfather came to this country with nothing. Somebody helped him. Somebody provided a charitable act which allowed him to have a business. To be successful, to develop a reputation where he had a family that learned those same lessons. And, the lesson of charity and small acts of kindness was something that I was raised with. So when you're put in a position where the people around you have real extreme need, then your response is that you have to help."

In the coming days, Fox 40 will tell you what the Levines did to help those in need in the Dominican Republic.