By Bryan Ott
When it comes to producing premium handmade cigars, no one does it quite like the Arturo Fuente Cigar Company. Starting from humble beginnings over one-hundred years ago in 1912, the Fuente family has risen to a global benchmark in the industry. This past November, I was lucky enough to take a tour of their entire operation inside and out. Needless to say, it was incredible just like the cigars they produce. Fuente utilizes a level of knowledge, care, and passion that is unrivaled, but I expected that well before I walked through the doors of their famed Factory No. 4. What I did not expect… getting a first-hand look at the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation they formed together with the J.C. Newman Cigar Company of Tampa.
In 2001, the Fuente and Newman families came together with one goal in mind: to improve the lives of the impoverished children in the Bonao region of the Dominican Republic near the Fuente tobacco farms. The task was simple, to repair the local elementary school so local children would have a place to get an education. What happened over the next 13 years no one could have imagined in their wildest dreams. As I stepped out of the Fuente bus on the grounds of 23-acre Cigar Family Community Complex there was an elementary school, high school, health clinic, baseball and basketball stadium, organic farm and more. The facility was impressive by any standards, much less the dilapidated school we passed by on the way.
What happened over the next few hours left a lasting impression on my life. Along with Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., we were greeted by 12 of the over 450 students that attend the school. The children gave us a history of the school in three languages: English, Spanish, and French. From there, we took a tour of the entire facility and ended our stay with a talent show of sorts from the students. Music, karate, dance, and more, all the children were highly talented and were elated to show off their skills. It got me thinking back to my days in school, staring at the clock waiting for the bell to ring so I could run home. These children, who came from nothing had a perspective most young children in our country may never achieve, they wanted to be there and didn’t want to go home. This school was their big opportunity, their ticket out, and they knew it.
In the midst of the cigar-filled trip to the Dominican Republic, my experience at the Cigar Family Community Complex made it much clearer how fortunate we all are to live in this great country and be able to afford a cigar every now and then. More importantly, it displayed the power of giving back and the chain reaction that can occur from just one good deed. The main source of funding to keep the schools going is through Toast Across America packs released annually. Each pack includes two special edition cigars from Fuente and JC Newman. Their respective companies underwrite 100% of the administration costs of the organization which ensures every single dollar spent on the pack goes directly to the children and families served. This year’s rendition includes a Diamond Crown Julius Caeser and Fuente OpusX rolled into the rare and famed 5.6”x54 “Shark” size. Be a part an initiative that’s truly changing lives, and pick up two unbelievable cigars in the process.