Building on the success of Freed to Run, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Gunster law firm shareholder Mike Freed are launching an initiative to create a Shelter for Elders endowment that will safeguard and strengthen JALA’s housing-related legal assistance for indigent older adults.
“With Freed to Run, we created permanent legal aid funding to serve Northeast Florida children whose health issues are further complicated by their civil legal needs. Now we are going to do the same for our elders who are faced with housing insecurity in their golden years,” Freed said in a news release.
Freed to Run was a six-day series of six 26.2-mile marathons Freed ran from the state Supreme Court in Tallahassee to the Duval County Courthouse.
Freed originally set his personal goal in 2017 to raise $1 million. His effort was joined the next year by Baptist Health Foundation, which pledged to match donations at 125%, yielding the $2.25 million endowment secured last year.
The cumulative donation established an endowment that provides a JALA attorney assigned to Wolfson Children’s Hospital to assist pediatric patients and their families facing issues that need legal representation.
With the original campaign reaching its goal, the event’s focus is shifting to the oldest members of the community.
“The Shelter for Elders endowment will provide a permanent funding source for legal resources, expert counsel and advocacy services to supplement grant funding designated for seniors that has historically fallen well short of the need,” JALA President and CEO Jim Kowalski said in the release.
The new philanthropic initiative also has a new format.
The 2023 Freed to Run Challenge will be run on the streets surrounding the courthouse Nov. 17-18.
Individual participants and relay teams will raise funds for the endowment through peer-to-peer fundraising based on a challenge to complete half-mile laps around the Duval County Courthouse in a period of either 12 or 24 hours.
The distance covered by each individual or team will be measured by counting the number of laps they complete around the courthouse at any pace they choose.
“With our new event format, we anticipate that many more people will be able to participate. No one has to take a day off of work or travel to a distant starting point,” Kowalski said.
“Almost anyone can participate in an event that is entirely local on a weekend, and in which they can go at their own pace. One need not be a runner at all,” he said.
Event co-chairs for the Freed to Run Challenge are Billie Jo “BJ” Taylor, a Jacksonville attorney with Harrell & Harrell and an active volunteer with JALA; Paul Ferrara, senior vice president-commercial banking for Ameris Bank; and Dr. Mandana Davani, who specializes in diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine at Flagler Health+.
Former Jacksonville Sheriff Nathaniel Glover will be the race starter Nov. 17. Olympian Garrett Scantling will be finish-line master of ceremonies Nov. 18.
The Shelter for Elders endowment will support JALA’s work to prevent and address housing issues such as reverse mortgage foreclosures, door-to-door scams, wrongful evictions, substandard living conditions, discriminatory practices and other shelter-related challenges faced by vulnerable older adults.
Enabling seniors to shelter in place results in positive health outcomes, as compared to when they are forced into long-term care or other congregate living facilities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health organizations recognize housing stability as a social determinant of health.
Trouble paying rent or spending the bulk of a household income on housing can negatively affect physical health and make it harder to access health care.
JALA’s work with seniors also involves helping them address civil legal issues related to medical debt, which is at crisis levels in America, the news release states.
Anyone can register for the Freed to Run Challenge or donate to Shelter for Elders at jaxlegalaid.org/freedtorun to help support justice, dignity and housing security for indigent older adults.
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid is a nonprofit law firm established to support economic, social, and housing justice for low-income and at-risk people and families in Northeast Florida.