Cigar Family Charitable Foundation

Cigar Family Charitable Foundation was started by the Fuente and Newman families in 2001, who are longtime business partners in the cigar industry. They came together with the vision of improving children's lives in the Bonao region of the Dominican Republic. What began as a simple dream of adding a wing onto the local elementary school has evolved into Cigar Family Charitable Foundation's 23-acre complex that includes: primary and high schools; health center; sports and recreation facilities; and an organic farming area. Today, Cigar Family Community Complex serves well over 5,000 families and has achieved tremendous results.

In 2002, Cigar Family Charitable Foundation purchased 23 acres of land near Chateau de la Fuente to develop Cigar Family Community Complex. 

In 2004, Cigar Family Charitable Foundation started constructing Cigar Family Community Complex.  Currently, Cigar Family Community Complex includes:

Elementary and High Schools, Health Clinic, Baseball and Basketball Stadiums, Solar Energy Station and Organic Farm
Cigar Family Charitable Foundation will greatly appreciate your kind donation so that it can continue the construction of Cigar Family Community Complex and pay for the annual operating expenses of the Complex.


What sets Cigar Family Charitable Foundation apart from the other not-for-profit organizations is that all contributed funds go directly to charitable purposes.  All administrative, legal, accounting and fund-raising costs are underwritten by the Fuente and Newman families.
Cigar Family Charitable Foundation
P.O. Box 2030, Tampa, FL 33601, U.S.A.
Phone: 814-248-2124 Fax: 813-241-8275
Video: Construction of Cigar Family Community Complex
Shot in April 2004, Narrated by Carlito Fuente
Video: Cigar Family Charitable Foundation
Updated Sept. 2009, Narrated by Carlito Fuente and Eric Newman

April 2004

March 2006



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The Cigar Family School: Breaking the Cycle of Poverty Through Education
This article is from Perspectives in Philanthropy by Morgan Stanley. READ THE FULL PUBLICATION.
Nestled in the wilds of the Dominican Republic, there is a microclimate that is truly unique. Surrounded by the Central Cordillera mountain range, rich fertile soil and mountain streams, the Bonao region is an oasis in the heart of the Caribbean.

Visitors to this remote location might make their way to the town of Caribe, and happen upon an equally remarkable place.

Amidst the lush landscape and rolling hills of tobacco farms, the communities surrounding Bonao are some of the poorest areas in the region. Many homes have no indoor plumbing and no electricity. In sharp contrast to this abject poverty is a brightly painted, immaculate primary school and a new high school tucked behind it. Nearby is a modern health center, a playground, an amphitheater, a commercial kitchen, a multi-use center, a basketball/volleyball court and a baseball field. Just across the road is a fish pond, a small animal center and bee hives. But as nice as these facilities are, it is the enthusiasm and the smiles of the kids that let visitors know how special this place really is.

Welcome to the Cigar Family Community Complex, a project of the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation and the vision of Carlos “Carlito” Fuente, Jr. of the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company and Eric Newman, of the J.C. Newman Cigar Company and David Luther, executive director of the Dominican Institute for Integral Development (IDDI).

What began as a dream a dozen years ago to add a wing onto the one-room local school adjacent to Chateau de la Fuente has become a 23-acre complex serving 5,000 children and their families from the communities surrounding Bonao. Approximately 470 children attend the school which also serves nutritious breakfasts and lunches at no cost. The children have access to clean, safe drinking water for themselves and their families. They play sports, participate in music and drama classes, learn English and French and how to use computers. When they complete the eigth grade, they enter the high school which is the only one in the community. A staggering 92% of its graduates have gone on to college. The school dropout rate is zero and absenteeism is virtually nonexistent.


Carlos Fuente, co-founder of The Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, describes how Chateau de la Fuente evolved. “It all began back in the 80’s when we were looking to find a location to grow a special type of very flavorful Dominican wrapper. We were very fortunate to find this tobacco farm situated between the mountains and the river creating the perfect soil for growing tobacco. At the time there were no roads in or out, no electricity and not even running water. My father and I were convinced that this was our destiny.”

Eventually Carlos and his father built Chateau de la Fuente into a tobacco farm like no other company had done before. Today, that region fields unique tobaccos used in the most sought after cigar in the world—the Fuente OpusX. Having both been in business for over 100 years, the Fuente and Newman families own the two oldest cigar manufacturers in the country, still privately owned and operated by the founding families. “Our families had previously partnered in Ybor City (Tampa, FL) and we are very proud to continue that tradition for the next generation and beyond,” says Eric.

The tobacco farms brought work to many of the families in the community. Sadly, in the five communities surrounding Chateau de la Fuente, only a couple of primitive one-room school houses existed, and, as a result, very few children received an education. Many of the workers even asked if their children could work alongside them in the fields as they weren’t in school and wanted to make money to help support their families. During a visit to the farm, Eric recalls seeing these young children and wondering why they were not in school. The reason was that there simply weren’t enough classrooms in the existing schools.


The idea of building a school has proven to be a long and rewarding journey. At the outset, simply constructing a school would have been pointless. The local communities did not see the value of receiving an education and this proved to be a huge obstacle.

It was then that Carlos and Eric reached out to David Luther to assist with the logistics of how to engage the community and get the new school built. David stressed the importance of looking at the bigger picture. As he pointed out, it’s nearly impossible for children to learn if they are hungry, thirsty or sick. More-over, it’s difficult for children to succeed if their parents don’t see the value of education. David urged them to create an infrastructure around education that would transform the community.

In response, Carlos and Eric formed the Cigar Family charitable Foundation. From the outset it was important to them that the name “Newman” or “Fuente” not appear on the project—“Cigar Family members include anyone who shares their vision of “giving back” whether they enjoy cigars or not” says Carlos. Moreover, the Fuente and Newman families underwrite all administrative costs to run the charity so that every dollar donated goes directly to help the children and families of the Cigar Family Complex.

In record time, the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation and IDDI brought in electric power, built roads and bridges, and purchased school buses. They made a point of hiring local people to do the work which empower community members who then became stakeholders and played a major role in making positive change.

The community’s attitude towards education slowly began to shift. Finally, after many conversations and meetings with parents and community leaders, in 2004, the Cigar Family Primary School for students pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, was open for business. Eric recalls seeing the pride and joy in the children’s faces. “In the United States, at the end of the day children run from the school to get on the buses. At the Cigar Family School, when they arrive in the morning, our children are so excited to go to school that they actually run from the buses into the classrooms.”


As Carlos explains, “Eric and I are businessmen who are used to implementing business-like ways to address problems. We confront challenges face-on, one at a time in a building-block approach.” For example, when Carlos and Eric first arrived, the local communities lacked basic health care. In their eyes, this was unacceptable; so, the Cigar Family went out and built a Health Center. Students and their families now have access to an array of services in the areas of pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology, laboratory testing, pharmacy and emergency services served by an ambulance. Another problem that became apparent was the unavailability of potable drinking water. Prior to the help of the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, children had to walk miles to the nearest river to collect unsanitary water for their families to drink. Through the efforts of Rotary International and other civic groups these children now have access to clean, sanitary drinking water.

Soon after opening school doors, there was yet another obstacle. Once completing the primary school, the students had no place to go to continue their education. So, to meet this deficiency, the Cigar Family High School opened in 2005. The High School offers students a well-rounded education, and not unlike many American high schools not only offers programs in computers, music, dance, sports and organic farming, but vocational training as well.

The Cigar Family School offers much more than just learning to read and do math. Children gain self-confidence, learn discipline and discover untapped talents through sports, music and drama programs which can lead to successful careers. As Carlos remarks, “Maybe one of these children will one day turn out to be a great violin player. We’ll never know unless we give our students the opportunity.”


Carlos and Eric are like proud fathers when they share the inspiring and remarkable achievements of their students. Eric notes, “One girl, Enerolisa, who was one of our first students, came back after graduating from college and is now a math teacher at the school. Nelson, another student, who once only dreamed of working in the tobacco fields, is now studying at a local university to become a doctor.” The academic success of the Cigar Family School is well recognized. For instance, the students have won first place in the Ministry of Education’s National English Language competition so many times that they are no longer allowed to compete. The School’s test scores rank among the highest in the region. One student, aspiring to be a doctor, was chosen from among 2,000 students to be President of the National UN Model General Assembly. The United Nations has recongized the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation as a model for other developing countries and communities. Children who once only aspired to be farm workers are now setting their sights on becoming architects, scientists and diplomats. Education has given the whole community a sense of hope and new meaning to life.