A $100,000 donation to Jacksonville’s Clara White Mission will immediately help feed an estimated 1,200 homeless people at its annual pre-Thanksgiving meal this Saturday.
And the Monday afternoon donation by the law firm of Pajcic and Pajcic will also help feed the 300 men, women and children they help every day, an emotional mission CEO Ju’Coby Pittman said.
Pittman said they are not the only nonprofit group struggling right now. In fact, some of those who used to volunteer to help give a hot meal and packaged food to the clients have become homeless themselves due to loss of job and income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is definitely a game-changer for Clara White Mission,” Pittman said. “I didn’t expect this check, but I can tell you that we need it more now than ever. … These dollars will go to have more packaged food for families who come to the mission.”
The 117-year-old agency was started by humanitarian Eartha White in memory of her mother to develop social service programs for the homeless. Along with a “soup kitchen” service from 8:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. weekdays as well as breakfast, it also offers job training in culinary arts, janitorial environmental services with employment placement, case management, life skills and other assistance as it helps veterans and ex-offenders achieve self-sufficiency.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the agency to make a “major adjustment” to its indoor meals service to ensure the safety of clients under CDC safety measures, moving a “meals to go” program outside under a red-roofed patio, Pittman said. They also had to redesign part of its residential facility to maintain social distance for the veterans who stay there.
But the pandemic has seen donations and volunteers decrease as it has had to cancel fundraisers. That’s why the 46-year-old law firm chose to help, as it has in the past, attorney Seth Pajcic said.
“We are trying to continue on that tradition of giving back to the community, especially important charities like Clara White and what they do,” he said. “… Especially with what’s going on now with COVID and the unemployment it has caused and hunger, at this point, this is our time to step up and do a little extra”
Part of the donation will immediately go toward the mission’s 26th annual “Feed the City” pre-Thanksgiving meal program, set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday outside the West Ashley Street mission. All clients as well as volunteers should wear a mask, Pittman said. But along with helping the daily meal program, the donation will help in efforts to seek new volunteers.
“We are feeding hot meals to go out here, so most of our volunteers were seniors and when COVID hit, we lost everything,” Pittman said. ” … Thank you for stepping up. We want to make sure we use this gift as a challenge. We would like for you to help in any way that can continue because we don’t know when COVID will end.”
To volunteer for the “Feed the City” event or help there other times, go to cwm-daily-feeding-volunteer.eventbrite.com. To contribute to the Clara White Mission, call (904) 354-4162 or visit clarawhitemission.org.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549