Clara White Mission reopens after several residents, employees tested positive for COVID-19

One long-time employee, Keith Smith, died battling the virus

As the mission reopens, it comes as many grieve over the loss of Clara White's longtime chef, Keith Smith, who had served for more than three decades.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Clara White Mission had to temporarily close its food program and drop-in center for cleaning. Everyone impacted also had to be retested before it could reopen Monday.

The Clara White Mission has been a staple in the Jacksonville community, offering meals and transitional housing for the homeless. Several residents and employees were infected with COVID-19. With that, the mission was cleaned and those who were impacted were put into quarantine.

The Mission’s longtime chef, Keith Smith, served for more than three decades. He died after contracting COVID-19.

Loved ones celebrated the life of longtime Clara White Mission chef Keith Smith on Saturday. (WJXT)

His family said he lost his battle, despite being fully vaccinated.

He was 51 years old and began as a volunteer at the mission when he was just a teenager. He was described as a gentle giant missed by all.

Clara White’s CEO, Councilwoman Ju’Coby Pittman, was also hospitalized with COVID-19.

It’s unclear if she contracted it during the outbreak at the mission.

The president of the Clara White Mission, Michelle Paul, released a statement thanking the community for its prayers and support over the past few weeks.

“Upon learning of the positive cases, the Clara White Mission was immediately closed and CDC guidelines were followed for clearing d quarantining affected individuals,” Paul wrote. “All residents who tested positive were asymptomatic. All residents and employees were retested and all employees must provide a copy of their negative test results prior to their return.”

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.