'Day of Impact' to give downtown facelift

More than 150 volunteers to clean 10 locations, including nonprofit centers


JACKOSNVILLE, Fla. – More than 150 volunteers will be hitting the streets of Jacksonville Thursday, cleaning up parts of the downtown area as part of a "Day of Impact."

One of the Clara White Mission's attributes is a garden and greenhouse. They're maintained by people who go there to get certified in certain skills.

As part of Thursday's Day of Impact, the Clara White Mission will get new plants and herbs, as well as a major clean up. Organizers with the nonprofit said this doesn't just benefit them, but the whole downtown area.

"It definitely falls within his game plan of beautifying Jacksonville," said Karen Hicks, housing coordinator for the organization.

Hicks is talking about Mayor Alvin Brown and his goal to improve the quality of downtown Jacksonville. She said the Day of Impact will keep visitors coming back to downtown and also bring together the local businesses and nonprofits.

"Just to have the nonprofits and also to get some of the businesses downtown incorporated in that so they see the nonprofits, see, yes, we do assist people and the homeless and the people who need it," Hicks said.

About 150 volunteers will clean up 10 popular locations downtown: Hemming Plaza, Main Street Park, the Jacksonville Landing, Jacksonville Day Resource Center, City Rescue Mission, Sulzbacher Center, Salvation Army, Clara White Mission, St. Philip's Episcopal Church and the lot adjacent to Trinity Mission.

Hicks said not only will it benefit the city, but also organizations like Clara White that help at-risk people gain new perspectives on life.

Khimil Ojoyo is the instructor for Clara White's construction janitorial program and said people who participate in the mission's programs are hard workers. He feels the Day of Impact will give a boost to the nonprofit, helping to send its residents and students in the right direction.

"The students here are just excellent when it comes down to being motivated," Ojoyo said. "They are highly motivated to make better life choices, and through this program, we're here only to enhance that creativity they already have."

An opening ceremony for the event was held with the mayor and other partners Thursday morning at the Jacksonville Day Resource Center.

The center is a place for homeless people to get shelter. It usually sees about 200 people a day.

Half of the volunteers were from the corporate community. The others are people that use city services like the resource center and the Salvation Army.

"When someone is homeless, sometimes they feel like they would like to give back but they don't really know how, and this gives me the opportunity to give back," said Paul Stasi, director of social services for the Salvation Army.

Volunteers pulled weeds, planted flowers and picked up. Many of the city service's groups hope the public will look at homeless people differently when they see them serving the community.

"The homeless are not bad, and we need to come alongside of them, provide them with the things they need so they can get back on their feet and off the street," said Penny Kievet, executive director of the City Rescue Mission.

The City Rescue Mission helps people battle addiction. It says it helps about 100 people a year overcome addiction, get a job or a place to live.

"These are people and they have needs, and if we can provide those needs so folks can enter society again and not be a drain but be a help, which is what's happening today with the Day of Impact," Kievet said.

This is the first year of the event. There are no concrete plans but organizers hope to do it again in the fall.