charity & cigars photo coverstory cigar research rocky patel foundation child at school

Charity & Cigars – The Generous Passion

Cigar lovers and makers provide jobs, relief and charity on a massive scale. This group has a tremendous impact on the living standards of poor regions and is sending more poor kids from the regions to college than have ever gone before.


Cigar Journal estimates that the premium cigar industry donates more than US$3,000,000 every year to charitable organizations. These donations come from consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and organizations, which are set up and run by these people.

More impressively, the cigar industry employs more than 230,000 people on the farms and in the factories, that produce premium cigars. These facilities are spread across some of the regions of Latin America that have few other viable industries and thus give valuable employment to those who can use it most. When an industry this size runs factories and farms, other businesses spring up. The number of restaurants, bus lines, hotels, clothing stores, agricultural tool supply companies and so on is vast and is hard to estimate. But the positive impact of this industry is felt powerfully in the middle-class jobs that are created across the region.

It is easiest to understand the impact of these organizations by looking at some of their specific efforts. Let’s explore this side of the premium cigar industry.

In the Campo

With more than 230,000 direct employees in the premium cigar industry from Brazil to Florida, the industry has created a middle class where it hardly existed before. Employees in factories generally earn more money than teachers and police officers in their cities.

pre-school plasencia factory children of employees

Photo: Cigar Research LLC

This income supports families, and allows children to attend school full-time; to eat well, and to maintain a living standard that includes vacations and motorized vehicles. Estelí, Nicaragua, is a region noted by the United Nations as a food-insecure place in which too many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from. The impact of the premium cigar industry is hugely felt here.

Not only are jobs held, but benefits are given by cigar companies to make family life easier. My Father Cigars grows beans on its tobacco fields in the off season. These beans are then offered to employees at prices lower than the market price. General Cigar offers a similar program that includes livestock, fruits and other crops.

In 2012, Plasencia Cigars founded a day-care and pre-school across the street from its factory. Parents working at the factory can now bring their young children to the pre-school, where the kids are taught by highly trained teachers while the parents themselves work across the street. During lunch, parents visit the children and take turns preparing and serving lunches. The model is very popular, and other factories are looking to replicate its success.

General Cigar

The makers of Macanudo, Punch, Partagás, CAO and other brands have invested millions of dollars in education, improving their employees’ health and well-being, and preserving the environment near their facilities in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.

In 2004, General Cigar (GC) founded the Literacy Initiative, which provides instructors and holds classes in its factories for employees. The coursework is specified by the local governments, and the program has taught more than 600 Dominicans and Hondurans certificate-level reading and writing skills to date.

The company also provides professional development courses for its employees, more than 6,000 of which have passed through the program. Each year, some 30 employees are granted the funds to attend college or pursue advanced technical training. To date, more than 64 college degrees have been awarded and 16 people have earned master’s degrees.

Social responsibility with General Cigar also extends to the home and natural environment. GC has a re-forestation program and provides resources for employees who need funds to repair their homes.

Cigar Festivals

Four countries – Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras – host festivals that allow cigar enthusiasts to visit the origins of premium cigars and to learn about the cultures.

hospice st vincent de paul procigar charitable fundraising

Photo: Cigar Research LLC

During these festivals charity components are included. The longest established cigar festival is held in Havana each February. During the festival an auction is held, which raises funds to support the Cuban Healthcare System. With an annual take averaging about one million dollars, the festival auction has raised more than $10,000,000 since its start. Francisco Bonó, a famous 19th Century Dominican politician and intellectual said, “Tobacco is the true founding father of our country.”

And now ProCigar, the Dominican Cigar Festival, harnesses lovers of the Dominican leaf to provide charitable donations for a local hospice and other organizations in the country. An auction is now held every year for the benefit of this hospice, featuring special humidors made by the cigar-making members of ProCigar. Nicaragua and Honduras have recently begun holding cigar festivals, both of which include a charitable component. Nicaragua has held an auction; Honduras holds a competition for the best new cigar. The winning cigar then goes on sale, with proceeds going toward a Honduran charity.

Cigar Family Charitable Foundation

The year 2012 marks the 10th year of operation for the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation. The organization was founded by the Fuente and Newman families and at its heart is a facility in the Dominican Republic.

cigar family charitable foundation founder carlito fuente

Photo: Cigar Research LLC

The sprawling complex includes a school, athletic fields, medical facilities; a stage and performance space as well as play areas for small children.

In an editorial, Carlito Fuente and Eric Newman say: “We are happy to report that those same children have grown into fine young ladies and gentlemen who are attending college or trade schools … new generations now have hope. They are learning about organic farming and growing their own vegetables for healthy, balanced meals every day. They have been given their first toothbrush, tooth paste and are receiving regular dental care at the Cigar Family Health Clinic. But most importantly, they are being taught the skills to break the chain of poverty through education, which will allow these children and future generations an opportunity for a future.”

This facility has a huge impact and has changed the lives of thousands in the community. Over 400 students are taking classes, from elementary through high school.

And nearly 100,000 people in 12 communities have access to a regional health center, community kitchen, water filters, vocational programs, parks, vaccinations, and more.

Montecristo Relief Organization

After Hurricane Katrina, one cigar-related charity jumped into action. The Montecristo Relief Organization, associated with Altadis USA, raised funds of over $1,000,000, which were donated to the American Red Cross to benefit victims of the storm.

But the organization was founded in 1999, when several hurricanes swept through the Caribbean, killing thousands and injuring more, and it was set up to provide immediate aid and to continuously support the communities. They have rebuilt homes, medical facilities and sent urgent aid money as needed.

Rocky Patel Foundation

“The Rocky Patel foundation exists to provide hope to the homeless children of Danlí, Honduras. We provide the miracles of education, safe haven, and shelter, offering an escape from the cycle of poverty and the opportunity for a better life,” the foundation’s website says.

The Rocky foundation is new, but it has ambitious plans to build a school in Honduras to alleviate some of the problems caused by the social situation in the area. The organization is planning a series of events, auctions, and fundraising efforts, which will take place in 2013 in order to build the school as quickly as possible. Rocky explains: “I am shifting my focus so that this foundation will take off in 2013 and become a powerful force for good in Honduras very soon.”

Retail and Smoker

Cigar lovers and their retailers form a tight bond. Not only do they spend valuable time together, but they come together to support many causes.

charity & cigars rocky patel foundation soapbox derby children

Photo: Rocky Patel Foundation

The causes range from supporting military troops on difficult and dangerous assignments to helping disadvantaged children in communities close to home and far away.

In this article we have listed a number of retail efforts taking place during the year, that raise money and directly support charitable activities. The list is just a small sample of the many events and efforts.

While speaking with Jeff Haugen of Tobacco Grove in Minnesota, the owner explained, “Charitable donation is part of our regular operations. We understand that it is an important aspect of membership in our local and global community.”

Charity golf tournaments, concerts, sending cigars to troops, raising money for hurricane relief, charitable raffles, donating time to build houses and teach languages – these are some of the many activities that smokers and retailers have been engaged in this year alone. For a sample of some more activities, have a look at our short list.


230,000 direct jobs, $3,000,000 raised annually, volunteerism, and awareness are some of the vast contributions made by those involved in and around premium cigars every year. We strongly encourage all cigar makers to keep providing employment and inspiring those you work with and around to make a meaningful impact on our communities. We are all part of the family of cigars and let’s keep it one that we are proud of.

In 2010, Cigar Journal added a category to the annual Cigar Trophies for Charitable Work. Since then, three outstanding recipients have been awarded the trophy. The Cigar Family Charitable Foundation, Altadis USA (Montecristo Relief), and the Rocky Patel Foundation have all earned this trophy for their efforts and successes as outstanding citizens in our community. As you have read above, their efforts have been far-reaching and there are many other companies also doing great work.

In the end, it is the cigar smoker, who directly or indirectly makes all these efforts possible. Cigar Journal takes pride in being part of this proud and important community, and we thank everyone who has contributed to these causes.

Charity Information

Tobacco Grove of Maple Grove, Minnesota, sponsors 30 or more charitable events per year. Jeff Haugen notes, “It’s important for us to support the organizations in our community that are making a positive impact. It’s also important for us to show that the cigar community is a positive force.” The company annually donates 1-2% of sales to good works and is active with the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation through the God of Fire event.

Drew Estate is a participant in the organization called Un Techo Para Mi País (A Roof for My Country), which raises awareness and funding to build homes for those most in need in Estelí, Nicaragua. By the end of this year, Drew Estate will have built homes for over 25 families. More information is available at

Bobby Newman of JC Newman Family Cigars started Paws for Patriots in 2005. The mission is to supply – at no charge – the entire United States Military with guide dogs, veteran service dogs (for soldiers that have PTSD), and therapy dogs for military hospitals. Mr. Newman and the group Southeastern Guide Dogs have teamed up to provide therapy dogs at Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital and other military locations. For more information:

Pete Johnson, Tatuaje Cigars, started a special club called Saints & Sinners. Members have access to exclusive, once-off products and other member benefits. Proceeds from the project go to support the children who live around the farm, La Estrella. This was Pepin Garcia’s first farm and some of the S&S tobacco comes from there. It is located at the edge of Estelí, Nicaragua, and the children living around the farm are some of the poorest in the region. Through S&S, Pete is helping to supply these kids with a growing number of necessities, beginning with proper clothing.

Every year, Daniel Marshall Humidors donates humidors to a number of charity auctions and sales. They have raised money for Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation and CaP CURE, among others. The bulk of their efforts, however, is aimed at Best Buddies, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s charity, which helps inner-city kids to stay out of trouble and off the streets. Custom-made humidors are sold along with movie props and other items from Arnold’s personal collection to benefit this charity. The time and items donated amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Smok’n Bikes Calendar Run is held to benefit the SmithFest Foundations Mission. This event is organized by Two Guys Smoke Shop in Nashua, New Hampshire. The event includes a BBQ, bike show, cigars, live music, and a recording of the Cigar Authority Radio Show.

Cigars for Troops: Starting in March 2008, Cigars International launched a long-term program matching customer purchases of a particular sampler with cigars to be donated to active duty troops. Over 18,000 cigars were sent to US troops via the USO. Previously, over $10,000 was donated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and over 25,000 cigars to troops through various promotions. This effort represents the largest donation of cigars to troops ever made.

Gregory Aizenman of Senor Solomon donates proceeds from his cigar business to support a Miami special needs school that he and his wife, Dr. Dolly Aizenman, created and operate. The Achim Academy Center for Education provides students with a high quality education combined with individual, group and family therapy, as needed. The academy offers a day school, the Gifted Cohort program, out-of-school programs, and summer camp programs. More information is available at

Veritas Cigars donates 10% of its proceeds to the Semper Fi Fund, which provides immediate financial support to injured and critically ill members of the US Armed Forces and their families. For more information on the Semper Fi Fund:

Cigars for Warriors is a charitable foundation sponsored by cigar retailers and manufacturers of accessories and cigars. The organization collects then disperses premium cigars and accessories to troops serving in combat zones. They also work to fill requests from US military personnel on ships, at foreign duty stations, and in non-combat zones. For more information:

Monte Pascoal Cigars recently built a chapel for employees in its new Brazilian facilities. The chapel provides a safe harbor for employees and is in tune with the Brazilian religious ethic. For more information:

Kendall Culbertson of The Outlaw Cigar Company routinely sends humidors filled with premium cigars to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and also provides support for local law enforcement charities. To find out more about Outlaw Cigar charities:

Smoke Inn in Florida holds the annual Great Smoke Event, which raises as much as $20,000 for the local charity Children‘s Place at Home Safe. Home Safe is a nationally accredited, non-profit organization that has been serving abused and neglected children in Florida from newborns to age 18 since 1979. To find out more about The Great Smoke and its charity:

Last year, the Enfuego Tobacco Shop in Rockwall, Texas, raised almost $30,000 dollars for a local non-profit autistic charity. For more information visit:

Metro Cigars in Germantown, Wisconsin, holds an annual Charity Golf Outing, which last year raised almost $6000 for Variety, a children‘s charity in Wisconsin. To learn more:

Monte’s Cigars & Tobacco in Albuquerque, New Mexico, holds events benefiting the Police Athletic League and PB&J Family Services each year. For more information:

Brian Berman, CRA Director of Membership, along with his wife Nebraska, started Project Mañana International in 2010. Their mission is to better the lives of impoverished children, their families and communities in the Dominican Republic. Project Mañana is completing construction on a commercial kitchen to complement their school facilities. The kitchen will be capable of feeding as many as 400 children each day. The school they provide is also able to support 400 students, and enrollment has been growing steadily since its opening in 2010. More information is available at


This article was published in the Cigar Journal Winter Edition 2012. Read more

Colin Ganley worked for Cigar Journal from 2007 to 2015 and now makes his home in Nicaragua where he heads up Cigar Tourism and Twin Engine Coffee. He ist he author of Le Snob: Cigars (2011). He also writes for cigar publications around the world, including Cigar Snob magazine, and runs the website, which is devoted to his research and writing on cigars. He developed a system for rating and reviewing cigars called the Independent Cigar Rating System (ICRS), which has been adopted by several independent reviewers and websites.


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