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Founded 1994
Founder Robert V. Lee
Type Non-profit
Origins Episcopal Outreach
Area served
Method Outreach
Key people
Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III, Chairman & CEO
Slogan Building hope. Changing lives.

FreshMinistries is an interfaith, non-profit organization based in Jacksonville, Florida whose goal is to eradicate poverty, improve race relations and build stronger communities. The group is "working to improve people’s lives and bring hope to those living in distressed conditions."


The organization was founded in 1994 by Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee, III, an Episcopal minister who left Church of Our Saviour (Jacksonville, Florida) after serving as rector for over a decade. FreshMinistries has ties to several local and national charitable groups, and sponsors efforts in financial literacy, youth mentoring, education, housing development and other programs aimed at urban renewal, particularly in East Jacksonville. In most cases, these programs are funded with private or public grants, and FreshMinistries attempts to make them self-sustaining and gives them autonomy, but retains ties for oversight responsibility.

Current initiatives[edit]

The United NationsMillennium Development Goals (MDG) mirror the FreshMinistries' goals to eliminate poverty. All programs and partnerships interlock and build upon one another to create solutions to address the underlying causes of poverty that affect all communities. Current initiatives include:

  • Fresh Futures Youth Program, helping more than 100 young people each year gain life skills and summer employment. Fresh Futures is a year-round educational and youth employment initiative for youth ages 14–19. The program focuses on using education and social outreach to help adolescents set healthy goals, succeed in school and work, and improve their mental and physical well-being. Qualifying students are placed in summer jobs, thanks to partnerships with employers throughout the community.
  • Fresh Path Youth Program, offering a new start to youth who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. The mission of this program, funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, is to address the educational and employment barriers of 188 court-involved youth and young adults while helping them develop the employment skills needed to obtain good jobs. The program equips court-involved youth with skills to enable them to find work and earn higher wages and helps participants move forward successfully by combining the most promising workforce and juvenile justice strategies available.
  • LifePoint Career Institute, which has trained more than 900 unemployed and underemployed individuals for employment in the hospitality and healthcare fields. Eighty-seven percent of program graduates gain employment and retain their jobs for more than 9 months. The Institute provides training, at no cost to students, in nursing, hospitality and in the near future, aquaponics farming. LifeSkills lessons include job-specific training, self-management, money management, problem solving, time management, grooming, and developing self-esteem. Job search assistance includes classes on setting personal goals, workplace procedures, resume writing, completing applications, work ethics and interviewing. In addition, LifePoint provides a substantial computer learning center. Programs include:
    • Hospitality training: 10 weeks (300 hours) of training in a simulated hotel environment.
    • Certified Nursing Assistant exam preparation, including eight weeks (240 hours) of training in a simulated hospital environment.
  • Beaver Street Enterprise Center, the region’s only core-city business incubator, was launched as an initiative of FreshMinistries, Inc., with support from the Jacksonville Economic Development Corporation, and opened its doors in 2003. Located in the City’s Northwest Quadrant in both State Enterprise and Federal Empowerment Zone, the Center has helped launch more than 100 new businesses, created more than 2000 new jobs and generated more than $300 million in economic impact. BSEC was voted International Business Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubator Association in 2010.
  • Aquaponics: In 2015, FreshMinistries received a $1.98 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to launch an aquaponics training center in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

2010 Haiti earthquake response[edit]

In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, FreshMinistries and its international arm, Be The Change International (BTCI) were asked by the US Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a major aid and relief operation there. The organizations’ emergency relief effort shipped to the Haitian people many supplies, including three ambulances (one of which was delivered to the Haitian government), emergency aid, food, water, water purification systems, clothing, school supplies, large generators, and 147 large tents to serve as temporary schools and shelter.

Local boost[edit]

Tom and Betty Petway made a $1 million gift donation in December, 2003. The couple had worked with the organization since the late 1990s and respected the work the group does. Petway was CEO of Zurich Insurance Services:

"We're impressed with the work FreshMinistries has done in Jacksonville in creating opportunities for people of all races and faith traditions to participate economically and socially in our community. The organization needs the financial backing to continue the work it has started in the community, including assisting with other service organizations and ministries in the city." FreshMinistries used the money for several existing programs, including the Beaver Street Enterprise Center business incubator, youth programs, college internships and financial literacy initiatives.[1]

AIDS grant[edit]

FreshMinistries received $10 million of $100 million in abstinence-focused grants awarded by the United States Agency for International Development, part of the President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The grant funded Siyafundisa, an initiative to provide onoing HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Africa. The grant is the largest the ministry has received.[2]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 2015 – FreshMinistries receives a $1.98 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to launch an aquaponics training center in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • 2014 – FreshMinistries receives a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to fund FreshPath, a life skills and job-training program for court-involved youth.
  • 2010 - Beaver Street Enterprise Center named a finalist in National Business Incubation Association’s 2010 Incubator of the Year award in the nontechnology category.
  • 2010 - FreshMinistries given the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Award for demonstrating an outstanding and ongoing effort in the areas of beautification, litter prevention and litter cleanup, helping to create a healthier community.
  • 2009 - FreshMinistries was awarded for its work in the community by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office (JSO). This recognition was for its neighborhood anti-crime walks, efforts in assisting the Police Athletic League (PAL), and the rest of FreshMinistries’ initiatives that focus on community improvement and safety.
  • 2008 - Siyafundisa video was among 10 videos selected out of hundreds of entries to be shown at the White House Faith-Based Conference in Washington, D.C. Also, Beaver Street Enterprise Center was one of several public/private partnerships featured at the Conference in a panel titled “Great Human Needs.”
  • 2008 - Jackie Perry, Executive Director of Beaver Street Enterprise Center, was named the North Florida District’s Minority Small Business Champion of 2008 by the Small Business Administration (SBA) North Florida District Office.
  • 2006 - Jackie Perry, Executive Director of Beaver Street Enterprise Center, was named Jacksonville’s Advocate of the Year at the National Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED Week) luncheon.
  • 2006 - FreshMinistries’ Women to the Rescue initiative was awarded the FASTEN Award for its hurricane disaster relief efforts.
  • 2006 - Florida House Speaker-Designate Marco Rubio chose Beaver Street Enterprise Center as the first of 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida’s Future.
  • 2006 – FreshMinistries received the first place award for 2006 Partners in Transformations for its collaborative service in long-term community recovery.
  • 2005 - The U.S. Treasury awarded the John Sherman Award for Excellence in Financial Education to FreshMinistries for its Individual Development Account (IDA) Partnership and its work in providing financial education to Jacksonville, FL communities.
  • 2004 – FreshMinistries received honorable mention for the 2004 Public Service Grant “Excellence in Outcome Achievement” award.
  • 2000 – FreshMinistries was given the Historic Preservation Award by the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Historical Preservation Society for the “Great Save of the Klutho Apartments.”
  • 1999 – FreshMinistries was given the Historic Preservation Award by the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Historical Preservation Society for the “Rehabilitation of the Robert N. Ellis residence.”

Noteworthy accomplishments[edit]

Relief for Haiti - Following the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C. asked FreshMinistries and Be The Change International, to coordinate a large-scale effort to bring desperately needed doctors, medical technicians, translators and pharmaceuticals to Haiti. FreshMinistries and Be The Change International responded quickly and efficiently, delivering much needed goods to the country.

Crime rate drop in Jacksonville's Eastside - In late 2009, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Officer Stephen Gallagher announced at a community meeting on the Eastside that violent crime in the area was down 34 percent and property crime was down 32 percent from 2008. Gallagher credited the Eastside Neighborhood Association, an initiative of FreshMinistries, as an “extremely important” part of the drop in crime. Also responsible for the drop in crime were neighborhood cleanups and several neighborhood anti-crime walks organized by FreshMinistries to include Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford, local council persons, area patrol officers and neighborhood leaders.

Jacksonville chosen for Financial Access Pilot - In April 2008, Jacksonville, FL was chosen as one of eight cities in the U.S. to participate in a new pilot program to “increase financial education and bank and credit union accounts for Americans currently outside of the financial mainstream.” The pilot was recommended by several members of the President’s Council on Financial Literacy, including Dr. Lee. Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton said, "We're honored to have Jacksonville chosen to participate in this worthwhile new initiative. Our existing efforts, under the leadership of FreshMinistries, recognized in 2005 by the U.S. Treasury for Excellence in Financial Literacy … will be able to reach more low-to-moderate income families and help them save for the future."

Support from Governor Charlie Crist - In 2007, Florida Governor Charlie Crist visited the Beaver Street Enterprise Center business incubator and met with its staff, calling it “an excellent model for other communities to follow.”

Change Agent - In 2006, The Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III, founder and CEO of FreshMinistries, was named a "Change Agent" by the Florida Times-Union for creating FreshMinistries and, "helping people start businesses, revitalize their neighborhoods and get out of debt."

Operation New Hope - In 1999, FreshMinistries launched an initiative, called Operation New Hope, to train "forgotten" adults (those with troubled backgrounds) in Jacksonville in the construction industry, leading to employment opportunities. Aside from restoring individuals the program also restored neighborhoods and provided low income housing opportunities for core city residents. Operation New Hope is now no longer affiliated with FreshMinistries, having become its own separate, sustainable entity, and has since expanded its reach and operations in Jacksonville to include the re-entry and training of recently incarcerated individuals.

Klutho building restoration - In 1998, the City of Jacksonville asked FreshMinistries to take over the restoration of an important historical landmark, The Klutho Apartment Building, designed by Henry John Klutho, as part of a city-wide effort to revitalize economic growth in the Springfield neighborhood. The building now houses nonprofits and small businesses that are also working to restore Springfield.


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