STORIES BY JANAY BROWN

Final Project: Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center

Published: December 13, 2020

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The Empty Bowls Project

Published: Nov. 9, 2020

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In November 1990, art teacher John Hartom and his students decided to participate in a local food drive. Instead of just donating food or money, John came up with a unique idea to create ceramic bowls. The plan was to invite faculty to a soup lunch and ask for donations.

Photo of founder John Hartom. Photo courtesy of Empty Bowls.

During the luncheon, John and his wife Lisa Blackburn took the time to educate the staff on food insecurity in our country, and how important it is to give back. 

After the luncheon, John and his wife realized how much of an impact this little event could have on an even larger group of people. They made it their responsibility to make the event happen again. 

The following year they created information packets and used the first event as a model for other people to follow. They eventually presented this idea to pottery shops and art teachers during their summer vacation. 

Because they received an overwhelming amount of participation and positive feedback, John and Lisa decided to create Empty Bowls, a nonprofit organization. And from there, the Empty

Bowls Project was born.

At the Empty Bowls event at UNF. Photo taken by Janay Brown.

Over the next few years, the Empty Bowls idea spread. It eventually got bigger and spread worldwide. 

During the events, the bowls are usually sold between $25-$45. The bowl serves as a reminder that people in the community are going hungry, and the purchase also includes a hot meal. The money earned is given to a local food bank in that area.

At the Empty Bowls event at UNF. Photo taken by Janay Brown.

Events in larger cities sometimes include silent auctions or even art sales and can bring in donations up to $100,000. The Empty Bowls Project raises over $1 million a year to help end hunger. 

At the Empty Bowls event at UNF. Photo taken by Janay Brown.

Regardless of the money brought in from each event, or how much the bowl is sold for, the project is a reminder that people are going hungry every day all across the world, and you are doing something to help put an end to hunger.

The City Rescue Mission

Published: Oct. 8, 2020

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There are over 400 homeless people in the downtown Jacksonville area alone. The City Rescue Mission doesn’t just provide temporary food and shelter, but also an opportunity for a second chance at life.

Downtown City Rescue Mission located at 234 W State Street. Photo by Janay Brown.

This nonprofit organization that started out as giving “soup, soap and salvation” to alcoholics has fully evolved into a privately funded organization whose job is to change and rebuild lives. 

Many of the homeless or needy have some form of addiction. Thus, the City Rescue Mission developed the Life Builders Addiction Recovery Program, which helps anyone who has suffered from abuse, addiction or any other toxic habit and transforms them into “productive, self-sufficient members of society.” 

In this program, students take part in bible studies, counseling and life skill development. They are also able to participate in higher education programs and can even earn their GED at the end of the 18-month program. 

The program has a 73% success rate, meaning 73% of students continue to be clean and sober once they leave the program. Comparitively, the national average is 27%. 

City Rescue Mission Executive Director Penny Kievet says the success rate is so high because they look at the issue mentally, physically and spiritually. They look at the root cause of the problem and eliminate the need to mask it.

City Rescue Mission truck located at the City Rescue Mission on McDuff Avenue in Jacksonville. Photo by Janay Brown.

The City Rescue Mission also gives opportunities for workforce development. 

“The only way out of poverty is a job,” said Kievet. 

The City Rescue Mission provides computer training and also enhances job opportunities by identifying unique skills, abilities and talents of the students. So, when they’re ready to pursue a job they are more than qualified.

After graduation, they make transitioning to independent living a priority. 

According to the City Rescue Mission, “the riskiest time to relapse is moving from a recovery program to independent living.”  

Because of this, the City Rescue Mission developed Homes of Hope. These fully furnished homes provide a “safe, drug-free, supportive community” that helps the transition to the real world go a lot smoother for a cheaper price.

Homes of Hope. Courtesy: City Rescue Mission.

The City Rescue Mission doesn’t just provide a quick fix to cope with the troubling things individuals are dealing with, but also an opportunity for a new life.