by Mike Sharkey
Regardless how the Jacksonville Jaguars perform this year on the field, the team’s owners entered near sainthood Friday when Wayne and Delores Weaver dug into their own pockets and presented $21 million worth of funding to 38 area nonprofits.
Greg Gross is the former president of the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation. For the past year he has been interviewing the heads of nonprofits across all of Northeast Florida in an effort to determine which agencies needed how much and for what. Throughout the process, the agency leaders knew someone wanted to help them, they just didn’t know who or when.
All of the questions were answered Friday.
Gross said the recipients were selected based on several criteria and one of the most important was the organization’s past accomplishments. He said the checks presented Friday represent “significant infusions now, rather than multiple gifts over time.”
In fact, $10 million has been set aside by the Weavers as permanent endowments.
“Money alone is not the complete answer,” said Gross, who is now a private consultant. “Success requires quality people, planning, creativity and persistence.
“A majority of these gifts were based on what the agency identified as their most pressing need.”
The Weavers also spearhead the Jacksonville Jaguars Foundation and the Weaver Family Foundation. While both of those entities may rely on corporate and individual donations to an extent, Friday’s event was all about the culmination of something the Weavers have been thinking about for years.
“This really truly is a very special day,” said Delores Weaver. “I thought it would never get here. We have surely worked hard, but we feel privileged to be here today.”
Delores thanked each of the organizations on hand for what they do for the Jacksonville community.
“I have always said that writing a check is the easy part, it’s doing that thoughtfully that’s hard work,” said Delores, who has been married to Wayne for 52 years.
Two of the 38 recipients were Operation New Hope and the Clara White Mission, which received $100,000 and $500,000, respectively. Without this funding, Clara White CEO Ju’Coby Pittman-Peele said some of her services were in jeopardy.
“In light of what’s going on with the (City) budget, this is an opportunity for the Mission to continue the progress of the Mission,” said Pittman-Peele. “Not only does she give money, but we see Mrs. Weaver in the community rolling up her sleeves and making a difference.”
Kevin Gay is the president of Operation New Hope, an organization he founded nine years ago. Four years ago, he developed Ready 4 Work, a program that takes those recently incarcerated and teaches job and life skills. Due to budget cuts, Gay said he was looking at having to turn away 80 or more from the program over the next year.
“We have 160 ex-offenders in the program each day,” said Gay. “Our biggest challenge is there’s no money to deal with those locally. There were 54,000 arrests in Jacksonville alone last year.
“This $100,000 allows us to keep working with the locals. If we didn’t get it, 85 of them would be back on the street.”
Gay said his Ready 4 Work program boasts a 95 percent success ratio while the national average is 70 percent.
Wayne Weaver said the agencies can spend the money how they best see fit.
“This group was chosen and selected because of our relationship over the years and the fact we admire the work they do,” he said.
The following is the complete list and the amount they received from the Weavers:
• Amelia Island Museum of History — $100,000
• Betty Griffin House — $500,000
• Boys & Girls Clubs of Nassau County Foundation — $100,000
• City Rescue Mission — $100,000
• Clara White Mission — $500,000
• Community Connections — $1 million
• Community Foundation in Jacksonville — $1 million
• Community Hospice of Northeast Florida — $500,000
• Douglas Anderson School of the Arts — $500,000
• Dreams Come True — $300,000
• Florida Ballet — $100,000
• Gateway Community Services — $400,000
• HabiJax — $1 million
• Historical PAL of St. Johns County – $50,000
• Hope Haven — $600,000
• Hubbard House — $1 million
• Jacksonville Children’s Chorus — $125,000
• Jacksonville Public Library — $200,000
• JASMYN — $200,000
• Jewish Family and Community Services — $1 million
• LISC Jacksonville — $750,000
• Micah’s Place — $500,000
• OneJax — $350,000
• Operation New Hope — $100,000
• PACE Center for Girls-Jacksonville — $1 million
• Pine Castle — $100,000
• Planned Parenthood of Northeast Florida — $350,000
• Quigley House — $500,000
• Ronald McDonald House — $500,000
• Sanctuary on 8th Street — $200,000
• I.M. Sulzbacher Center — $1 million
• The Bridge of Northeast Florida — $1 million
• United Way of Northeast Florida (full service schools) – $1.625 million
• Volunteers in Medicine — $500,000
• We Care Jacksonville — $1 million
• Women’s Center of Jacksonville — $500,000
• WJCT Public TV/Radio — $1 million
• Youth Crisis Center — $750,000