Recipient of Bernard V. Gregory Servant Leader Award Received “The World” That Came to Her


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern


Mrs. P.When Elaine Carson was in college, she never imagined one day she would be helping refugees from all around the world transition into their normal life in the United States of America. An assignment to study the Soviet Union and the plight of people behind the Iron Curtain birthed in her a passion for helping others on the mission field.

It would be many years later, in 1988, when she was serving the local church as a pastor’s wife that she received a call from Lutheran Social Services asking for her help with 30 refugees that would be coming from  what was now the former Soviet Union. She enthusiastically accepted the opportunity that would forever change her life.

After three years of volunteering, in 1991, World Relief Tampa heard about her efforts and asked her to open a part-time office in Jacksonville. Jacksonville’s climate, affordable housing, job opportunities and her persistence all worked together to make this office so successful that in 1999 World Relief made this local branch a full-time office.  World Relief Jacksonville started with a part-time paid staff of one and a handful of  volunteers and now has a staff of 22, representing 12 different cultures and languages.

Elaine Carson is affectionately known by most as “Mrs. P”, a nickname she received in the ‘70’s, when her husband Larry Carson, a Jacksonville Beaches pastor, was dubbed “Parson Carson” which by default made her “Mrs. P” and both names have stuck to this day.  Her love and compassion for refugees have earned her such a reputation that it’s not uncommon for new refugees coming into the country to know of her before they arrive.  They often ask volunteers who greet them at the airport, “Are you Mrs. P?”

World Relief Jacksonville celebrates their 25th anniversary this year, and through the years, Mrs. P has accomplished some amazing things.  She has networked with government agencies, local churches, businesses and volunteers to provide refugee resettlement for more than 5,000 individuals fleeing from persecution and unimaginable atrocities. Volunteers meet refugees at the airport and take them to their new homes in America.  They stock apartments with the basic necessities to help them get through their first days here.  Most importantly, they offer friendship to those coming into a new country and culture and help show them the ropes of life in America.

She began this journey as a volunteer receiving Ukrainian refugees and has now resettled refugees from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Columbia, the Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Russia, Syria and Sudan.

She goes far beyond the extensive legal documentation and paper work involved in running an office of this magnitude and establishing refugees in our county. The truest hallmark of her servant leadership goes way beyond being the director of World Relief Jacksonville. It is her love for and personal involvement with the families that come.  She has personally driven them to appointments, attended family celebrations, stood by them in health emergencies and attended funerals.  She says of herself that she is not a director or a manager, she is simply a mom.

In 2004 she extended the scope of work of World Relief to establish the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force through a grant from Department of Justice. Since then she has served 30 plus victims of trafficking through partnership with law enforcement.

She humbly attributes the work she does as simply being God’s plan for her life.  And while many missionaries go to serve in other part of the world, she sees that God has brought the world to her.  And it is with that sense of calling and purpose that she has devoted her life to loving and serving the refugee community. And it is for this lifetime of humble servant-leadership that Elaine Carson is the recipient of the 2016 Bernard V. Gregory Servant Leader Award.

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Social Justice Activist Fights to Bridge Gaps in Equality and Create Unity Across Cultures


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

chevara_crop (1)Chevara Orrin’s earliest memory of activism was as a three-year old, sleeping in concrete building tubes across the street from the White House in support of the Bangladesh Liberation War and protesting famine in Pakistan. Since then she has dedicated her life to advocating for causes and created forums to address the issues she feels are most pressing to our world today. Chevara has not just given a lifetime of service, she uses her power to inspire and serve others as well.

In life, it is inevitable that hardships will come. As a victim of incest, Chevara channeled her feelings into ways to help protect other people from the same experiences she had by becoming an advocate for the eradication of sexual violence against women and girls. In 2008, she founded WhiteSpace SafeSpace, a monthly support group and forum for incest survivors.

Chevara comes from a mixed-race family who faced many challenges along the way. She took these challenges and created MOSAIC: Experiences of Mixed Race People and Families to serve as a support forum, social network, and information and community resource.

While both of these initiatives were founded because of her life experiences, her charitable work did not stop there, but rather fueled her life’s devotion to making the world a better and more accepting place for everyone. With a passion for social justice, a rich legacy of civil rights, and the ability to inspire and engage, Chevara Orrin conceptualized and co-created, We Are Straight Allies.

We Are Straight Allies is a campaign that aims to unify the community to stand up for the LGBT community. This campaign started in 2012 in direct response to the Jacksonville City Council vote rejecting Bill 2012-296, better known as the Human Rights Ordinance, which would have added sexual orientation to the current non-discrimination policy. The wildly successful campaign has drawn the participation of prominent figures such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Olympic gold medalist and civil rights attorney Nancy Hogshead-Makar, cultural and faith leaders, and superstars from the corporate world, including the CEOs of Florida Blue and The Haskell Company to all rally together and support diversity in the community.

For her tireless efforts to bridge gaps in equality and create unity across cultures, Chevara Orrin is the 2016 recipient of the Edward R. Hayes Unity in Action Award.

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Jacksonville University – Not Just “In the Community” but “Of the Community”



by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

PrintJacksonville University was founded on April 16, 1934 in downtown Jacksonville as a junior college offering night classes. It quickly became a four-year, co-ed institution and moved to its present location in the Arlington area of Jacksonville in the early 1950s. It currently has approximately 4,200 student attending the university and hundreds of staff members. Jacksonville University is a small liberal arts institution that has made a large impact on the community.

Tim Cost became Jacksonville University’s 12th President on Feb. 1, 2013, and he came in with the mind set of making not only the university, but also the community a better place. Since JU had been celebrating their Charter Day each April 16th, he felt it was a natural fit to incorporate community service by holding a Charter Day of Service. This would take place every year around April 16th, in order to celebrate the schools birthday and have the university as a whole come together to better the community. The faculty is very supportive of this initiative, that they cancel classes for charter day so that people can get out and volunteer.

The school facilitates volunteer opportunities that range from planting gardens to reading books and everything in between. Because the ages of their students, staff and alumni range between 17 and 75, they offer a wide range of volunteer opportunities to accommodate everyone. JU has also started a social media push to encourage their alumni all over the world to get out and volunteer on Charter Day. Jacksonville University understands that when they focus all of their energy together, there is a lot more productivity.

In 2016 Jacksonville University has pledged 25,000 hours of service. President Cost feels that his students who are primarily 18 to 22 really have a strong passion for service work. It is something that the current generation appreciates and gets involved in. By investing in service, President Cost’s desire is for Jacksonville University to not just be “in the community” but “of the community.”

As a graduate of the class of 1981 from Jacksonville University, President Cost recognized that Arlington today was not the amazing Arlington that he left back in 1981. He then began to brainstorm with other university officials on how they could improve the area around them. There were later meetings involving JU along with JEA, The Sheriff, The Mayor, local churches and many other city members to figure out how they could best be of assistance to the Arlington Community. JU ensured that everyone knew that their doors were always open if people needed anything. They have also made many financial contributions as well as hours of community service to take steps to better the community around the campus. This project is now known as Renew Arlington and still has the same goal to better Arlington.

Jacksonville University has numerous athletic teams, Greek life organization, International Student Association, and many other groups of students that are eager to volunteer. All of the students and faculty who volunteer have shown dedication and embodied what it means to be unselfish leaders. The school has made a lasting impact on the community and plan to continue and expand their dedication to Jacksonville.

For their commitment to mobilizing volunteers to meet critical needs in our community, Jacksonville University is receiving the 2016 Tillie Kidd Fowler Award.

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Volunteer Uses His Love of Sports to Touch Our Community for GOOD


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern


Mike Hartley has touched nearly every area of our community for good.  Since 1989 Mike has served at THE PLAYERS Championship.  Through his strong leadership, he has led more than 2,000 volunteers to raise funds for community-serving organizations.

He has given his leadership skills to the nonprofit community by serving on numerous boards of directors. He currently serves on the board of The First Tee of North Florida, an organization with the mission to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. An avid golfer and sportsman, Mike also served as a past chairman of the Tournament of Players Championship.

In 2006 he served as chairman of the Gator Bowl.  Other boards he has served on include Boys and Girls Club; Leukemia Society; Dreams Come True; American Red Cross; UNF Athletic Board; JU Athletic Board; FSCJ Foundation Board; RITA Foundation Golf Tournament; Jacksonville Country Day School and St. Johns Country Day School.

His commitment to the community is not only reflected in the way he lives his life, but also in the way he runs his business. The Hartley Press is a full-service printing provider serving customers throughout the southeast. Through The Hartley Press, Mike is generous in his support of the community and has donated printing items and many hours of his time to local nonprofits and charitable causes.

For his extraordinary commitment to the Jacksonville community, Mike Hartley is the recipient of the 2016 HandsOn Community Award.

Join us in celebrating Mike and all of the volunteers who make our community a better place at Celebrate GOOD on April 17 from 2-6pm at Friendship Fountain.  Register for free admission at

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Overcoming Obstacles to Serve Others


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

ProbstMike Probst, a resident at Regents Park Assisted Living is well-known and loved by staff and fellow residents. He is in such a unique position at the facility in which he serves, it is almost impossible to calculate how much time and service he has provided. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Mike has served the practical, spiritual and emotional needs of the 120 residents of Regents Park on a daily basis for the last 4 years.

Mike was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma in 2012. The cancer spread to his bone marrow and he had to have 8 months of chemotherapy. Defying the odds, Mike is  now cancer-free, but the chemo damaged the lining of his bones requiring him to be dependent on a wheelchair. It is from this position that he provides extraordinary care for others.

At 64 years of age, he has found himself living with much older patients who are in various stages of mental and physical decline. When he could have easily given up, he turned his situation around and saw it as an opportunity to be a blessing. And he has been a blessing to these people since the day he arrived 4 years ago.

A short time after arriving at Regents Park, Mike noticed that many residents had wheelchairs in various stages of disrepair. Being quite the handyman before his illness, he began to voluntarily repair their wheelchairs. Many of the electric wheelchairs were in need of new batteries. Medicare does not provide for that, so Mike started a fund and raised money to buy new batteries and installed them for the residents for free.  Without this assistance, the wheelchairs would otherwise sit unused while the patients would be bed-bound.

He is so loved and trusted by his fellow residents that he has become the “go to” guy for just about anything they need. He is their TV programmer, moving man – carrying things to their rooms that they can’t lift, and serves wherever there is a need. Because he such a trusted friend and confidant, Mike is called upon at times by the staff to calm a resident who is stressed. He even calls Bingo for the ladies. For the past 2  years, he has also served as president of the patient association for 2 years advocating for patient care and concerns.

Mike has had an invaluable impact on the lives of the residents of Regents Park. He values each one and ensures that they are all taken care of.

Mike felt that his life was over when he ended up in an assisted living facility at age 60. But as he began to see those who were much worse off than himself, he realized he was there for them. He simply became a friend to every one of them and treated them as he would want to be treated. Mike Probst will be receiving the 2016  HandsOn Willing and Able award for his outstanding work in The Regents Park Assisted Living Facility.

Join us to celebrate Mike and other community volunteers at the Celebrate GOOD Festival on April 17, 2016 from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for free admission at


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Volunteer Lives His Faith By Serving Others


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

GilbertSherrick Gilbert is a member of the Riverside Presbyterian church, where he serves as an elder. Two days each week Sherrick volunteers at the clothing Center at Downtown Ecumenical  Services Council (DESC) filling orders, stocking shelves and working with clients in distress.

DESC was founded in 1981 by churches in urban Jacksonville to provide emergency assistance to people in need. In partnership with Dignity U Wear and Presbyterian Social Ministries, they distribute food , clothing, groceries and financial assistance.

During the past 12 months Sherrick worked 49 of 52 weeks, three days each week, four hours each day, for a total of 600 hours. The clothing ministry serves over 6,500 adults and 2,500 children each year.

He always arrives to volunteer early each day, stays until the work is done, is patient and kind to those with whom he works and for those he serves, and he doesn’t complain. On a typical day in the clothing center, he will help fill clothing orders for 120 people. When asked why he does it, he simply replies, “It’s a good thing to do.”

For the past year,  Sherrick has also volunteered one day a week at the Teacher Supply Depot, an organization that provides free resources for Duval County teachers. He also serves on the boards of Presbyterian Social Ministries and DESC.

Sherrick has an impressive record of volunteering and an even more impressive love for his community. He is an excellent example of someone who truly cares about others and does everything that he can in order to ensure that people have a good life.

Sherrick is receiving the HandsOn Faith Award at Celebrate GOOD.  Join us in celebrating volunteers like Sherrick on April 17, 2016 from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for free admission at

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Dr. Donates Vision Care to Working Uninsured


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern





Rose, Dr. HowardWhen ophthalmologist,  Dr. Howard Rose retired, he never stopped working. Instead, he chose to continue his career in a special way to  serve his community. He began his volunteer service in 2004 and has volunteered over 2,300 hours providing eye care for the working uninsured of Jacksonville at Volunteers in Medicine. His care is especially important to Jacksonville’s large diabetic population who suffer from eye disease related to their condition and need frequent monitoring to prevent blindness. He also refers for cataract surgery which allows patients to receive corrected vision and continue retain their employment.

When Dr.Rose began his volunteer service, he felt that there was a large need for ophthalmology among the uninsured in Jacksonville. Dr. Rose is part of a medical team that cares for the working uninsured with salaries 150% to 250% of federal poverty guidelines. Most of these patients resorted to emergency room care for their needs; a practice that crowds the ER’s and costs millions of dollars. The financial savings alone is staggering. But also, the primary care that he provides allows these patients to manage their chronic illnesses to avoid hospitalizations and acute episodes. Patients can remain in the work force and care for their families because of their improved health.

With over 2,300 hours put into volunteering in the past 12 years and giving $575,000 of service to those without healthcare, it is easy to see how much Dr.Howard Rose has contributed to the Jacksonville community. At the age of 85 he has proven to everyone that you are never too old to give back to the community and because of that, HandsOn Jacksonville is happy to award Dr.Rose with the HandsOn Young at Heart award on April 17th.

Come celebrate Dr. Rose and others who make our community a better place at the Celebrate GOOD Festival, Sunday April 17, 2016 from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for free admission at

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Teen Volunteer Promotes Global Literacy


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

Hecht3Whether it be delivering books to children in need around the world or in our city, Katie Hecht has opened the doors of imagination for countless children, allowing them to travel to places unknown and to live a life outside their own if only on the pages of the books they receive through her global initiative, Words On Wings. Katie was born into a home with drug addicted parents and she experienced firsthand, homelessness, abandonment, hunger and being bounced around in foster homes. But she has never let her past hold her back! She was adopted at the age of 5 and she has used her past instead as a means for helping others in need.

Katie has been an avid volunteer since the age of 5. Her family also has a long history of volunteer efforts and her mother, Joan Hecht started the foundation-Alliance for the Lost Boys of Sudan. Katie has put in hundreds of hours of service with the Alliance, but not because it was required of her, but rather, because she has a personal passion for helping others. That passion has led her to form two volunteer/charity initiatives of her very own

In fifth grade, she initiated “Katie Kares,” writing a call to action and enlisting the help of fellow classmates to collect and deliver over 250 toiletry items and blankets to a local homeless shelter.

Katie is also a national award winning writer and she uses her words to bring awareness to important topics like hunger, children’s rights and genocide. In 2013, her love of words and her desire for helping others led her to create a global initiative called “Words On Wings,” to help promote literacy to children in need. She has collected and distributed over $7500 in books written in Spanish and English. Katie feels strongly that every kid should have a new or gently used book of their very own. The excited looks on the faces of children receiving their very first book ever, validates her conviction. So far, Words On Wings has taken flight to four countries, landing at an orphanage in Peru, a rural library in Mexico, a summer reading program in Jamaica and the homes of many children in Jacksonville. This year, Words On Wings was incorporated as club at her school in an effort to ensure that even more children can experience the thrill of reading.

Katie has logged well over 500 volunteer hours through the Alliance and other volunteer efforts in our city, including serving food and assisting with various projects at local homeless shelters. She has participated in mission trips abroad in Jamaica and Peru and for two years, she served as Secretary for the Jacksonville Youth Council.  Katie currently serves as a selected member of Mayor Curry’s Young Leaders Advisory Council and served previously on Mayor Brown’s Young Leaders Advisory Council; helping to improve the lives of other youth in our community.

Katie Hecht may be young, but she has already impacted many people’s lives. With her passion for volunteering, there is no limit to the amount of good that Katie will do in her life time!

Katie is the recipient of the 2016 HandsOn Literacy Award.  Join Katie and other volunteers who are making a difference in our community at Celebrate GOOD on April 17, 2016 from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for FREE admission at

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Volunteer Cooks Up Awareness & Funding For Epilepsy


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

Your life as art.Jeff and Dawn Sedlitz are a very special couple who have dedicated their time and talents to raising money and awareness for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. Their grandson, Steven, of Port St. Lucie, had his first seizure when he was one day old. He has undergone five brain surgeries to remove pieces of his brain in an attempt to eliminate the seizures. At one point, he was having over 100 seizures a day. He is still on medication and has seizures daily. Because of these events, they were inspired to spend past five years learning more about epilepsy than they ever thought possible.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder marked by sudden recurrent episodes of sensory disturbance, loss of consciousness, or convulsions, associated with abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It is one of those challenges that turns your world upside down and causes you to question your faith and everything else you hold dear. Ultimately it’s the way we overcome these challenges that is most important.

In the summer of 2014 Jeff Sedlitz who is the president of St. Johns Professional Alliance contacted the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and said he and professional alliance wanted to do something to raise awareness for, however they had no idea the extent he and wife Dawn would go to make their idea a reality. In November, 2014 the first annual SJPA Chili cook off raised over $3,000 from 100’s of guests who came far and wide to be a part of the event. This year the Chili Cook was held on Saturday, November 14th and raised over $10,000, more than triple from what was raised last year! Because of this annual event, Jeff & Dawn inspired others to volunteer and plan events for the foundation. The foundation was able to gain over 30 new volunteers at this past event.

Working together with foundation staff and volunteers, Jeff & Dawn also lend a helping hand or a sympathetic ear to others dealing with epilepsy. It is crucial to bring more awareness to the community about Epilepsy and to help remove the stigma associated with it. Personal stories, like that of the Sedlitz’s, help bring awareness & support to the cause. While going out and promoting the event to local businesses and telling their story, they were able to find a free place to have the event, as well as recruit over 50 volunteers. One of the volunteers they got for the event, Jeff Hennessy, was able to talk about his epilepsy to his peers for the first time after hearing their story. This made a lasting impact on everyone that was in attendance at this event.

Jeff Sedlitz has made a lasting impact on the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and helped many families throughout the Jacksonville area. On April 17th HandsOn Jacksonville is honored to be awarding him with the HandsOn Health Award in order to acknowledge all of the hard work and time that he has put in.

Jeff is receiving the 2016 HandsOn Health Award.  Join Jeff and other volunteers who are making a difference in our community at Celebrate GOOD on Sunday, April 17, 2016 from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for free admission at

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Volunteer Inspires Teens With Passion for Service to Others


by Shelby Durden

Jacksonville University Intern

CJump 8x10When it comes to volunteering, Christine Jump has done it all. Christine is a lifetime volunteer and she has inspired others to dedicate themselves to a lifetime of volunteering. Her son, Tyler Jump, started his own non-profit when he was just 8 years old. Tyler’s Tabs started by collecting soda pop tops and turning them in for cash to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. Christine continues to serves on his board.

With the leadership of Tyler and Christine the non-profit has grown leaps and bounds and is about more than just collecting can tabs now. They organize meals, supply drives, and cleaning days at Ronald McDonald House. They have helped the Ronald McDonald House tremendously and they do not show signs of stopping anytime soon!

Christine has also used her passion for helping others by encouraging teens to succeed and make a difference. She works with teens by encouraging them to volunteer, setting up volunteer activities, helping students prepare college applications and by giving them interview lessons. Christine is the driving force behind many of Orange Park High School’s student activities including Students Working against Tobacco, Orange Park High School Volunteers at the Memorial Day 5K Run Fundraiser, organizing SWATs Education Events, collecting undies for Dignity U Wear and scheduling volunteer days at the Ronald McDonald House. All of the events that she has facilitated have been a huge success and have continued to get more people involved in our community.

Christine Jump is a kind hearted person who exemplifies how a selfless leader should act. She leads by example and her drive to see kids succeed in whatever path they decide upon is an inspiration to all. The Jacksonville area is a better place because of volunteers like Christine.

Christine is the recipient of the 2016 HandsOn Mentoring Award.  Join Christine and other community volunteers at Celebrate GOOD on April 17th from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Sign up for free tickets at

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