Local food volunteer hopes his efforts inspire others
By Raleigh Harbin and Jariss George
Jacksonville resident Tracy Gebeaux is a one-man food volunteer. Every weekend, he delivers dozens of McDonald’s sausage biscuits to the homeless— providing water and encouragement along the way.
A call to the Atlantic Beach McDonald’s starts Gebeaux’s day. The clothes and water he already has, so once he collects his biscuits, he drives to Third Street. Here, he passes out food. Where does he get the money to pay for the food and supplies he gives? It comes from his own wallet, and the generous donations of others.
But what drove Gebeaux to such a voluntary commitment?
“I ended up losing everything that I owned and sleeping in a parking lot right here at the pier,” Gebeaux said. “You figure out very quickly that you should’ve been a little more appreciative.”
Gebeaux was a builder when the housing market crashed, and he was one of the millions affected.. Once he got back on his feet, he felt driven to help others who couldn’t bounce back as quickly.
“During the winter we support all the churches that do the cold night shelters, making sure they have warm clothes, underwear, hand warmers and five-dollar gift cards to McDonalds,” Gebeaux said.
Gebeaux spends time getting to know each person he helps. He doesn’t drop the food off and move on as quickly as he can. He listens to them and provides them words of encouragement, which he hopes can help them get back on their feet.
“When I come up to a homeless person, I don’t ask if they’re homeless,” Gebeaux said. “I simply ask if they’ve had breakfast yet. And sometimes it takes them a second to process it. And if they said no, then I say you have now.”
In providing all of this help and encouragement for those in need, Gebeaux hopes he can inspire others to follow his route in other areas of town.
“I want a Brother’s Keeper in every part of Jacksonville. What I mean by that is you come out with me one or two times, I show you how I do it,” Gebeaux said. “I show you [how] with 50 dollars and just a little bit of time, compassion and love, you can change people’s’ lives. You come out with me, then you go back to your community, and you do it your way.”