Serving food, smiles, and hope: ‘Miracle on Ashley Street’ a big success...again

The yearly luncheon marked highest attendance, raised the most money

Members of the News4JAX team spent the lunch hour serving up backyard BBQ at the annual Miracle on Ashley Street event. (WJXT, WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 29th annual Miracle on Ashley Street had its highest attendance ever and raised the most money in the event’s history, according to the Clara White Mission’s CEO Ju’Coby Pittman.

News4JAX is a proud sponsor of the outdoor luncheon that feeds the homeless and raises money for programs to get them back on their feed.

The tent out front of the mission was filled with happy faces in an iteration that was bigger and better than ever before.

“I did not have anything when I came here,” Ernie Verdell said.

He couldn’t help but be proud, knowing he came from the streets to the mission in 2009. Verdell was homeless and had hit rock bottom. However, the team at the mission believed in him.

“They did,” he said. “They gave me a lot of opportunities to do some things.”

The Army Veteran learned life skills; he got a job and housing and now gives back by working as an intake specialist at the same mission that once served him.

This yearly luncheon helps people just like him with programs for the homeless, veterans, and underserved. It also supports the White Harvest Farms in Moncrief. A line of celebrity servers fed the hungry and those who came for the fellowship.

“So many smiles, and so many happy people,” said recently retired WJXT anchor Mary Baer.

Team News4JAX represented. Richard Nunn, Kent Justice, Scott Johnson, and Jana Angel served alongside city leaders and business executives.

“My gosh it was a huge success!” Pittman said. “We served over 2000 people and raised $65,000! Having the community dine with the homeless. To be under a big white tent, where it doesn’t matter what color you are, where you came from, we came together and dined together for the benefit that will help this community.”

“I think it helps make connections and help people that really need help,” said Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters.

It’s an event where you see familiar faces every year. Supporters making it so successful, paving the way for success stories like Ernie’s.

“When you want something, you have to go and get it,” Verdell said. “And I started from the bottom.”

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About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.