JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville couple has decided to stand up against across-the-board city budget cuts that left a local rescue mission scrambling to maintain its programs.
Gary and Nancy Chartrand are donating in a big way to the Clara White Mission, pledging $50,000 every year for the next five years.
In September, the city cut $82,000 from the mission's budget -- money that was earmarked specifically to fund its food program for the homeless.
Clara White Mission CEO Ju'Coby Pittman said the mission was in danger of having to cut three meals per week to make up for the budget cut.
The Chartrands wanted to keep those hot meals coming to those who need it most. Gary Chartrand, a local sales and marketing executive, said he and his wife discussed it for about two minutes before deciding to open their hearts and wallets to the mission.
"My wife was there that day (when he read about the budget cuts), and we started talking about it, and we had always been thinking about making a grant to Clara White," Gary Chartrand said. "We've been blessed with a very good business and financial resources, and we feel it's our responsibility to give back where we can and where it's needed badly."
The harsh reality of being in the red and not being able to serve some 500 people every day kept Pittman up at night.
"I feel like it's Christmas in November," Pittman said. "I am just taken aback and so elated that we did not have to stop our program. Our board was very concerned. Our staff was very concerned. And we should have been. But now, I have a big smile on my face."
Pittman said the Clara White Mission will push to have the $82,000 from the city budget restored to the mission in the future.
"Unfortunately, you can't put a price tag on a meal for someone who is homeless," Pittman said.
She said these expenses shouldn't fall on the shoulders of just one or two people. It really needs to be something the city addresses as a whole, she said. And she'll do whatever it takes to get that city funding back.
"We can't continue to do business the same old way. We have to be innovative," Pittman said. "I understand that resources are limited, but we're an organization that has made an impact in the community and unfortunately, if these two donors had not stepped forward, I might be having a different conversation with you right now."
In addition to the Chartrand's donation, the Mission has also received a $10,000 check from former NFL player Marcus Adair, and an $82,000 donation from the Jesse Ball Dupont Fund.