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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 the Springfield area of 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 goals of FreshMinistries' 6 Point Community Initiative. All programs and partnerships interlock and build upon one another to create solutions to address the “whole social crisis” that affects all communities.

  • Be The Change International (BTCI) is a humanitarian organization that builds partnerships between Georgetown University, the Harvard School of Public Health and other institutions, individuals, non-profit organizations and governments worldwide. BTCI is FreshMinistries' international outreach arm.
  • Siyafundisa ("Teaching Our Children"), a five-year project to reduce HIV/AIDS incidence in South Africa, Mozambique, and Namibia by promoting abstinence until marriage, being faithful, and avoidance of unhealthy behaviors affecting youth.
  • Beaver Street Enterprise Center (BSEC): A 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) business incubator that helps businesses that have taken residence in the distressed urban area of Jacksonville. A second phase is currently under construction, which will be LEED certified and aimed at supporting "Stage 2" businesses.
  • Communities Empowering Youth is a program based on Helping America’s Youth Initiative, started by Laura Bush. It provides activities and services to reduce juvenile crime & violence, child abuse and neglect.
  • East Jacksonville Neighborhood Resource Center (EJNRC) provides direct-connect services for 30-45 East Jacksonville residents a day in the areas of health, education, job training/placement, resume building, food stamp application, affordable housing and more. It also acts as a meeting place for the Eastside Neighborhood Alliance's monthly meetings, the Youth Advisory Council and a classroom for financial literacy classes, school choice education and youth job preparedness workshops.
  • Jacksonville Hospitality Institute (JHI) offers free job training to underemployed and unemployed adults for the hospitality industry. The program is a 9-week training course that includes the following: classroom training; "life skills" training; hands-on training in the areas of hotel front desk service, food service and housekeeping; a 2-week internship at a local hotel. Current partners and employers of JHI graduates include the Omni Jacksonville Hotel, Ramada Limited, Radisson-Riverwalk and Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront. Although currently focused on the hotel industry, JHI is seeking partnerships in the healthcare industry.
  • Eastside Neighborhood Association (ENA) is an organized alliance of East Jacksonville residents with elected officers who work together to bring resources to the neighborhood and weed out crime through neighborhood unity.[1]

2010 Haiti earthquake response[edit]

In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, FreshMinistries/Be The Change International (BTCI) was asked by the US Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate a major aid and relief operation there. When Dr. Lee visited Haiti soon after, he saw that Haiti wasn't in need of just immediate aid, but also long-term, holistic improvement to positively effect every aspect of Haitian society. Soon, the concept for "Tomorrow's Haiti" was on paper and partners began to sign up.

Tomorrow’s Haiti” will create initiatives in Haiti that will simultaneously address education, economic development, health, safety, safe shelter and clean water, and family foundations. The program will be the first of its kind, addressing all of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals at once, modeled on FreshMinistries’ successful HIV/AIDS education program in South Africa, "Siyafundisa", in which it partnered with the Episcopal Diocese in South Africa, as well as FreshMinistries/BTCI’s thriving holistic approach to creating long-term sustainable change in inner-city Jacksonville.

Currently, the program is using the Episcopal churches and 254 schools within BAEH’s network as community centers from which to distribute relief aid to the Haitian people and introduce the community to the “Tomorrow’s Haiti” empowerment plan.

By starting with education – including vocational and life skills training for young adults, as well as HIV/AIDS health curriculum introduced into the BAEH schools – “Tomorrow’s Haiti” will empower Haiti’s people to lift themselves up. From there, “Tomorrow’s Haiti” will become a holistic initiative, based on UNICEF’s Child-Friendly City model, which will address the needs stated by word leaders and the Haitian Prime Minister during the United Nations Haiti Donors Conference in 2010.

So far, BTCI as signed memorandums of understanding with: The Rt. Rev. Jean-Zache Duracin, Bishop of Episcopal Diocese of Haiti; and The Honorable Jacques-Edouard Alexis, former Haitian Prime Minister and National Director of Centre National de Recherche et de Formation (CENAREF).

To date, BTCI’s emergency relief effort has 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. BTCI plans to ship more than 100 additional large tents to serve as schools and shelter, as well as medical equipment such as surgical beds.[2]

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.[3]

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. Rev. Dr. Lee said the group's successful administration of federal grants in Florida prompted the government to encourage it to apply. The new grant is the largest the ministry has received.[4]

Awards and recognition[edit]

  • 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.


External links[edit]