Clara White Mission
|Motto||Food for today, skills for life.|
|Region served||Duval County, Florida|
|Main organ||Board of Directors|
|Budget||US$ 1,391,512 (2007)|
The Clara White Mission (CWM) is a non-profit organization in downtown Jacksonville, Florida that advocates for the poor and provides social services. According to their website, "The Clara White Mission is to reduce homelessness through advocacy, housing, job training and employment by partnering with business and local community resources." CWM created an extensive and diverse network of public and private funding sources.
The Clara White Mission was formally founded in 1904, but Clara English White began feeding hungry people in her Clay street neighborhood in the 1880s. During the period between 1900 and 1950, Dr. Eartha M. M. White, a nationally recognized humanitarian who was Clara's daughter, turned the soup kitchen into an effective social agency.
Clara White died in 1920, but Eartha continued their "mission work", and at the height of the great depression the operation grew so large, it had to be moved from its residential location. The Globe Theatre had been closed for years, and Eartha White was able to purchase it. The West Ashley Street building was then dedicated in her mother's memory. At the time, the CWM was the only non-profit organization serving daily meals to the needy in Jacksonville. The mission incorporated in 1934.
The Clara White Mission was Eartha's home for over 40 years and the center of her activities. Besides the original feeding program, the building was home to a myriad of projects and initiatives through the years. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) used the mission as the work site for sewing and arts projects during the Depression; the building's top floors housed soldiers stationed in Jacksonville during World War II.
Beginning with Clara and continuing with Eartha, the mission provided rooms to prisoners after their release from jail; they were also fed, given clothing and assistance finding a job. The homeless received similar assistance.
The mission provided hands-on training for cooking/canning and business skills including typing, in addition to Braille instruction. The facility was renovated in 1946 and local business owners were encouraged to lease office space on the building's first and third floors to help pay the bills.
In 1902, Eartha and Clara White began the "Colored Old Folks Home", which became the "Eartha White Nursing Home". In 1965, construction began on Eartha M. M. White Health Care, Inc., a 125-bed, $780,000.00 facility, initiated by Eartha at age 89.
Throughout Eartha White's life, she actively collected period furniture, historical documents, and photos of Jacksonville's past as well as Black Americans. She solicited donations from all her contacts, both business and personal. The accumulation was housed in a building near Moncrief Springs until her death in 1974, after which many items were stolen or damaged. The remaining documents were turned over to the University of North Florida for safe keeping; the furniture and objets d'art were stored by the CWM.
The "Eartha M.M. White Memorial Art and Historical Resource Center" was dedicated on December 17, 1978 at the Clara White Mission. The "museum" is located at the north end of the second floor of the original mission building where Eartha's living quarters were located.
Most of the Mission's programs help the homeless daily:
- The feeding program provides over 400 hot meals each day, seven days a week.
- Transitional housing is provided for up to two years for the homeless to establish themselves in a job and leave the streets.
- Community outreach helps the homeless and at-risk youth avoid behaviors that are destructive.
- The drop-in day center is open to the homeless on weekdays, providing showers, laundry facilities, hot & cold drinks, snacks, computer and telephone access.
- Culinary Arts training program for homeless/low-income; with focus on veterans in need
- Janitorial/Construction training program for homeless/low-income; with a focus on veterans in need
Three quarters of area homeless are veterans and counselors are available to assist those seeking to improve their situation.
Clara at the Cathedral
"Clara's at the Cathedral Café" is a cooperative project between the St. Johns Cathedral and the School of Culinary Arts at the mission. Every Friday since April 13, 2007, a luncheon has been prepared by the students and staff from the Mission's culinary school. The meal is reasonably priced and attracts workers from downtown businesses and retirees.
"Ashley Street Catering" is a full-service caterer at the mission. They prepare the food, transport it and serve it at the location of the client's event. Most of the staff are graduates of the CWM culinary arts program and all profits are returned to the mission.
There are scores of companies, organizations and agencies on CWM's list of Community Service, Hospitality and Funding providers. Among them are the Blue Foundation, Community Development Block Grant Program, City of Jacksonville, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Jaguars Foundation, Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Kirbo Foundation, Kraft Foods, Landwirth Foundation, Public Service Grant Program, Sodexo Foundation, United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, United Way of Northeast Florida, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Weaver Family Foundation, and WorkForce Florida.
The "Eartha M.M. White Legacy Fund" was established in 2005 through the Community Foundation in Jacksonville with a $1.4 million endowment, funded through the 2003 conversion of the assets of Eartha M.M. White Health Care Inc.
An annual benefit luncheon is held in mid-May for the mission called, Miracle on Ashley Street. Local celebrities from business, politics and media serve guests, and chefs from area restaurants prepare their specialties. Entertainment is provided by students from the LaVilla School for the Arts. Attendance in 2008 was 1,500 and has risen steadily since the event was first held in 1998.
The CWM was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project on May 28, 2010. The organization was selected by weatherman and TV personality Al Roker live on the Today Show. CWM President Ju'Coby Pittman-Peele had been invited to New York ostensibly to talk about programs making a difference in their communities.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) named the Clara White Mission as recipient of the 2007 HUD Secretary’s Opportunity and Empowerment Award in a news release on May 16, 2008.
Ju'Coby Pittman; CEO/President awarded the FBI Director's Community Leadership Award- December 2012
-  Clara White Mission, History[dead link]
- News Release US Department of Housing and Urban Development, May 16, 2008, "CLARA WHITE MISSION’S PROGRAM RECEIVES HUD SECRETARY’S AWARD FOR EXCELLENCE"[dead link]
- UNF Library: Eartha M. M. White Collection - Biography University of North Florida Carpenter Library, Eartha M. M. White collection-biography
- idealist.org Idealist website, Clara White Mission, Inc.[dead link]
- Great Floridians @ Florida OCHP Florida Department of State, Great Floridians 2000 Program
-  University of North Florida, Eartha M.M. White Historical Museum and Resource Center dedication document
- Furey, Heather: Jaguars help Clara White Mission at charity bowl | jacksonville.com Florida Times-Union, June 17, 2009, "Jaguars help Clara White Mission at charity bowl"
- Jacksonville Episcopal Church : Saint John's Cathedral St. Johns Cathedral webpage, Helping our Neighbors
-  Clara White Mission, Contributions[dead link]
- Verney, Stewart: Community Foundation establishes Eartha White legacy fund | Jacksonville Business Journal Jacksonville Business Journal, February 28, 2005, "Community Foundation establishes Eartha White legacy fund"
- Annual 'Miracle On Ashley Street' Friday - Jacksonville News Story - WJXT Jacksonville WJXT-TV, May 11, 2009, "Annual 'Miracle On Ashley Street' Friday"
- Millman, Chris: Join the Team - Jaguars Trio Honored NFL Volunteers, "Jaguars Trio Honored"
- Scanlan, Dan: "Today Show’s Al Roker selects Jacksonville’s Clara White Mission for $50,000 grant" Florida Times-Union, May 28, 2010