Clara White luncheon benefits jobs programs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Thousands of people turn out every year for Clara White Mission's Miracle on Ashley Street, which is dedicated to helping people get back on their feet.

Familiar faces in the community feed the hungry. Friday's 20th annual luncheon was about more than just eating. It was about helping those in need.

Proceeds benefit the mission's daily meals for the homeless and low-income residents in the community, as well as Clara White's job training programs.

The mission has graduated more than 700 students from either its culinary or janitorial and construction programs.

In the past, the luncheon served food donated by restaurants. But this year it featured food cooked by the students in the culinary program.

Linda Black was out of work with no specific skills, but after she finishes the 20-week culinary program, she'll leave with a certificate and training to follow her goal of getting a job as a sous chef in a restaurant in Jacksonville.

"If it wasn't for Clara White Mission, I would have never had this opportunity to come in here and get this training, completely free on a scholarship," Black said.

Black is thankful for the opportunity to get back on her feet and better herself.

"I love the mission, I love what they do here," she said. "The outreach programs they have, I love. People can come in every morning and get a hot breakfast."

Stephanie Lovett is also succeeding thanks to the mission. She graduated from the program earlier month and is now working with the mission. She learned more than just how to cook, but also life lessons.

"You're able to eat every day, but you see the people that are hungry and it humbles you," Lovett said. "It humbled me."

The Clara White Mission serves breakfast to about 400-500 of those in need every morning. Forty-two currently have shelter at the mission.

More than 150 volunteers from around the city served up food Friday, including members of the Channel 4 team -- Richard Nunn and Joy Purdy.

Besides featuring the cooks in the program, the mission showed off its garden, where some of the food came from.

Ju'Coby Pittman, president and CEO of the mission, said the money that comes from the annual luncheon makes a huge difference in the lives of the students in the mission's job programs.

"We have an individual who has her own catering business, an individual that now has her own apartment, a car and taking care of themselves," Pittman said. "I mean, they are taxpaying citizens now. You and I don't have to pay for them."

Last year, Miracle on Ashley Street raised as much as $45,000 for the mission.

About the Author: