By Dr. Judith A.M. Smith, President & CEO
No matter how you slice it, the Gator Bowl is a great event for our city. Yes, there was good football, and yes, the out-of-towners brought much-appreciated dollars to our community, and yes, lots of fun was had in parties and cookouts and contests and rallies.
But the part that was missing in the media—both press and TV—was what happened on New Year’s Day before Monday’s game. While most people were resting and relaxing that Sunday after their New Year’s Eve festivities, something really amazing was happening on Norwood Avenue at the Gateway to Heaven Christian Center on behalf of the children served by War On Poverty, a nonprofit organization located in the Brentwood community.
Spurred by Ohio State’s 15-year tradition of doing community service in their bowl’s host city, well over a hundred volunteers from Ohio State University and the University of Florida teamed up on a service project managed by HandsOn Jacksonville that brought together students, families, faculty members, Brutus the Buckeye mascot, and the Ohio State marching band with parents from the BOLD Afterschool Program.
In about two hours these high energy, industrious volunteers produced over 300 container gardening kits, more than 500 healthy snack packs, and 35 warm fleece blankets for upcoming distribution to families served by War On Poverty. And what fun to see Gator Bowl rivals sitting side by side in service to Jacksonville kids who need a little extra help.
Way to go, Ohio State! And way to go, Gator volunteers! We appreciate that you have left something very personal behind in our community besides fond memories and a healthy economic impact. You are an example that other schools could emulate, and you are welcome in sunny Jacksonville anytime.