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The Beauty of Helping From Afar: Local Couple Develops School For Impoverished Children

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Bill Levine, area businessman says, "Not only are we married but we work together."

At work – they are surrounded by gems and pricey jewelry. Career jewelers who know that so often, true beauty requires a closer inspection. They would uncover something far more valuable each week when they helped feed and teach residents in poverty-stricken area Villa Hermosa. Bill and Birdie could see their new friends’ greatest needs were food and education. Few words needed to be exchanged.

This couple, married for 35 years knew they wanted to build a school.

Bill Levine says, "There are people who have made strides. But part of the culture that needs to change is everybody needs to be educated. We take that for granted in America."

Birdie Levine says, "Oh when you see the children. I mean that's really the whole idea of it."

Bill Levine says, "And there was never any time that we said 'should we or should we not?' because we know we always should."

Bill and Birdie had the vision. But they knew they needed help. Someone who spoke Spanish and could navigate the Dominican Republic’s system.

They knew just the person. Jacky Hoplanel-Cortes.

Bill Levine says, "Our partner in the Dominican Republic is the angel of this whole process and she just guided us."

Jacky explains one reason she wanted to educate the children.

Jackelin Hoplanel Cortes, partner with Levines, says, "When they will be teenagers, when they will be adults, they gonna help. They gonna work for the community. And, they gonna work for the schools."

Jacky, who met the Levine’s on another project, did not hesitate.
She was part of the team. In this rickety shack on a dirt road, Bill and Birdie saw their own diamond in the rough.

Bill Levine says, "We rented a two room shack. With a corrugated tin roof, cinder block. No electricity, no running water, and that was where our dream of Rosa Duarte school started. Escuela Rosa Duarte."

Birdie Levine says, "It was way up in these hills in this little town called Villa Hermosa. And, when we got up there and she showed us this building, I mean it was really dilapidated."

With Jacky’s help, the Levine’s could quickly locate essential items to turn the cinder block shack into a two classroom schoolhouse with two volunteer teachers. They did it in just four weeks. Twenty children were enrolled free of charge. On October 25, 2012, the small school was ready to open when another force barreled through.

In a clip from 2012, Mick Dwyer our weatherman says, "Sandy at its worst! Widespread wind and damage and flooding."