Frank Flentye is a believer of dreams, or at least in those who have them.
That's the reason the businessman has promised to contribute about $2,800 to John Pierce so the San Juan Capistrano resident can transport materials to a tiny Mexican village where Pierce hopes to build a school and several homes.
"I think it's fantastic to have a dream like he has. I'm just fortunate to be able to help him," Flentye said Tuesday.
Flentye, 72, read about Pierce's economic plight in a story Monday in The Times. Minutes later he was on the phone offering Pierce the help he needed.
"I tried to express my feelings to Frank. I told him, 'I don't think there is a word in the English vocabulary to express my feelings to you,' " Pierce said of his benefactor.
With that guarantee from Flentye, who owns a small oven-hood manufacturing firm in Santa Ana, Imperial Cal Products Inc., Pierce will now be able to transport the material to San Miguel del Rio in the state of Michoacan near the Pacific Ocean.
Pierce and his wife, Elda, recently spent seven months meticulously dismantling several old Quonset huts that the Capistrano Unified School District sold to him at a nominal price. He then received permission, and support, from the Mexican government to transport the material to the village, where his wife was born, and build a school and other units.
But Pierce's dream was jeopardized when the state Department of Motor Vehicles told him that he would have to pay about $400 for permits for each of seven trucks that will haul the materials to Mexico. He did not have the $2,800, and the DMV declined to waive the permit requirements.
Pierce, 51, said Tuesday that he could be on the road in a week after working out the final details and getting the permits for the rigs. He said he hoped no other unforeseen obstacles appear.
"We can't afford any more hitches," he said. "It's been driving us nuts."
Pierce's worries had increased with the approach of June, which marks the beginning of the rainy season in San Miguel del Rio, a six-family farming community next to the Cuahuayana River. He had hoped to move there two months ago.
As it is, he will barely have enough time to transport the materials the 1,800 miles there. And he possibly will have to build a couple of buildings to store the rest of the material while he waits out the rainy season.
Flentye said he was heartened by Pierce's ambition and angered by his problems with the DMV.
"When I read that, I couldn't believe it. It's ridiculous," he said. "I mean, how many people can ever finish a dream. I had one once, but it didn't work out."
Flentye's dream was to finish college. That's the primary reason that mostly college students fill the 35 work slots at his small factory. He allows his workers a flexible schedule but does not permit them to drop out of school.
He said he hopes to visit Pierce's project when he completes it in four or five years. Pierce will first build the school and then a park with housing units behind it to attract people to farm in that remote area of Mexico.
"I think it's wonderful that he will spend the rest of his life doing something good for other people," Flentye said of Pierce.
Pierce said other smaller donations have been extended to help him begin the ambitious project once he finally relocates in Mexico. He said he will long remember what Flentye told him when he called to offer his help.
"Frank said, 'If there were more people like you doing what you're doing, there would be more people like me helping,' " Pierce said.