Army Veteran’s Mission to Serve the Homeless of Jacksonville

ChorbakShelby_Durdenby Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

Caitlan Chorbak is an Army veteran with a huge heart. Caitlan has a way of empowering and motivating others to do what they never before imagined. She found her passion working with the homeless of Jacksonville.  With just a small team, she hits the streets multiple times a week to provide needed items, and helps them set long term goals to get into a more stable situation.

She also gives many hours to The Mission Continues to help with a variety of projects such as painting schools, building playgrounds, replacing fences, serving meals and mentoring veterans going through the transition process. The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life after the military to find purpose through civic action. They deploy veterans on new missions in their communities, so that their legacy will be one of leadership and service.

The Mission Continues has helped thousands of post-9/11 veterans reintegrate successfully by focusing their talents and energy on tackling challenges in their communities. The Jacksonville service platoon has spent many hours providing boots on the ground support for organizations across Jacksonville who may have a need but don’t always have the staff or volunteers to make it happen.

Last year Caitlan  gave over 150 hours and provided meals and cold weather gear to the homeless, assisted homeless in coming off the streets, advocated for veterans benefits, built a fence at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home, slept in a cardboard box for homelessness awareness and led multiple homelessness forums. She has made a lasting impact on the lives of many people in our community. We are honored to have such an amazing volunteer working in our community!

HandsOn Jacksonville is hosting the Celebrate GOOD Festival on Sunday, April 17th from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Come out and celebrate Caitlan and other volunteers who are making a difference in our community.  Register for your free admission at

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Volunteer is Dedicated to Keeping Jacksonville Beautiful

by Shelby Durden
Buckley, ChrisChris Buckley is the recipient of the 2016 HandsOn Earth Award for her work with the Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission.

The Keep Jacksonville Beautiful Commission is a local, grassroots affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, the nation’s largest volunteer-based community action and education organization. This organization is made up of volunteer representatives of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors who put forth large time commitments in order to ensure that Jacksonville stays clean and beautiful.

Chris Buckley is the current chair goes above and beyond her call of duty to ensure that this program continues to run smoothly. At any given Keep Jacksonville Beautiful event, meeting, or activity Chris can be found ahead of time setting up and providing food that she spent money out of her own pocket for. She goes out of her way to ensure the volunteers and members of the commission are taken care of at all times.

Meetings and interviews are a necessity with this program in order to keep the citizens involved with what is going on in their city and Chris understands that. She is always willing to do interviews with TV stations before the sun even comes up or meetings with very short notice. This past year she spent her own money and time to attend the Keep America Beautiful National Conference and the Keep America Beautiful State Conference in order to learn new ways to enrich Jacksonville.

She continually provides resources and does so much that the commission for Keep Jacksonville Beautiful never hears about. She puts forth all of her efforts because she cares deeply about Jacksonville and the environment, and not for recognition. Chris Buckley has gone above and beyond to give all of her time and resources to Keep Jacksonville Beautiful. Because of her outstanding leadership, this organization is able to continuously succeed year after year.

Come out and celebrate Chris and other volunteers who give back to our community at this year’s Celebrate GOOD festival, April 17th from 2-6 p.m. at Friendship Fountain.  Register for FREE admission at

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Cliff’s 600 Hours of Volunteer Service Ensured 1,000’s of Meals Were Given to Those in Need


by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

HonikerCliff Honiker is the recipient of the 2016 HandsOn Hunger Award.

Feeding Northeast Florida (FNEFL) is a community effort to establish food security across 17 counties in Northeast Florida. Formed through a collaborative partnership between Feeding America and Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, FNEFL was founded in 2014 and has been growing substantially ever since.

The only way an organization like this can grow, is with the help of pivotal volunteers. To become a lead volunteer with FNEFL one must serve over 100 hours with the organization. In 2015 one volunteer went above and beyond and ended up putting in over 600 hours of service in a little over a year. His name is Cliff Honiker and he has made a lasting impact on FNEFL and the lives of many in the Jacksonville community.

Cliff’s hard work over the past year has translated to provide over 100,000 meals to the community this past year. He is trained to coordinate volunteer events and manages groups of volunteers in food sorting tasks at Feeding Northeast Florida. Not only has Cliff impacted the organization as an individual volunteer, but his leadership skills have motivated hundreds of people to do the same.

Being one of the lead volunteers, Cliff is responsible for the supervision of  volunteer groups while they sort through rescued food and pack it for distribution into the community. He has an amazing work ethic that always pushes him to do more for the organization. Cliff always stays focused on the mission, no matter how much is asked of him. Because of Cliff thousands of meals will be given to the community and help establish food security in our community.

HandsOn Jacksonville is celebrating Cliff and other volunteers like him at the Celebrate GOOD Festival on Sunday, April 17th from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for FREE admission at

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12-Year Old is Bound for Mars, but Leaving Footprints of GOOD Here On Earth!




by Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern

IMG_5538Taylor Richardson  is the 2016 HandsOn Youth in Action Award recipient. With more than 100  community service hours and more than 700 books donated to children through the community, Taylor is truly deserving of this award.

Taylor is a twelve year old who has already impacted more people in her short lifetime than some people do in their whole lives. As an aspiring astronaut who wants to visit Mars one day, she knows the meaning of hard work.  She’s a an honor student at Fletcher Middle Gifted and Talented school, a triathlete, a girl scout with Gateway Council, student space ambassador for the nonprofit Mars Generation which is in itself an admirable track record for a 12 year old girl, but it’s what she does in her free time that makes her so special.

IMG_4942Taylor has always had a passion for reading and because of that she has always had a lot of books at her disposal. Reading has not always come easy for Taylor. .  She has ADHD which some people look at as a disability, but instead, Taylor explains it as “Abundantly different, happily divine”. She had to work harder at reading than most, but she eventually perfected it despite the obstacles. As her reading ability grew stronger she wanted all kids to have that same reach and feel what it was like to overcome an obstacle. She felt that books could lead you, or make you take flight, to help you achieve your own dreams.

She realized that some kids didn’t have their own books to read and wanted to do something about that.  Hence, Taylor’s “Take Flight with a Book” drive began in February of 2015 when she donated 175 books to the United Way’s Reading Pals Program. She has currently collected and donated a total of 700 books and is launching her 3rd drive this month with a goal of collecting 1,500 more books.

Her philanthropic work does not just stop with donating books. Taylor volunteer services include activities that impact the quality of life for children in Duval County. She advocates for literacy and anti-bullying initiatives. She reads to pre-kindergarten and elementary age children at the Johnson Family YMCA, various DCPS elementary schools, and the UNF pre-kindergarten program. Taylor has inspired young and mature audiences to read more about their possible dreams and aspirations.  One of her most notable accomplishments was an anti-bullying public service announcement that featured various leaders in the corporate and nonprofit sectors speaking out about bullying.

image1Taylor is racking up so many awards for her achievements, and HandsOn Jacksonville is proud to present her with this year’s HandsOn Youth in Action Award!

PS:  This month, Taylor received yet another award – this time from the Governor of Florida with the Champion of Service Award!  Congratulations Taylor!  Come out and celebrate Taylor and other volunteers who are making a difference at the Celebrate GOOD Festival on Sunday, April 17th from 2-6 at Friendship Fountain.  Register for FREE admission at

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Volunteer Gives Back Through the Arts


By Shelby Durden
Jacksonville University Intern



Owens, Sherri

Sherri Owens is the 2016 HandsOn Art of Caring Award recipient.

With more than 35 hours of service to more than 80 girls, Sherri Owens has become a well-loved volunteer at PACE Center for Girls Jacksonville.

Owen’s roots begin in Jacksonville, where she was raised and educated. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and a Minor in Fine Arts from Flagler College, which explains her aptitude for art. This endowment birthed the creation of her self-made and owned business, Sassy Ink, in which she serves as a full designer and hosts clientele from all over the nation.

Sherri humbly attributes her heart for service to her parents, who she explains were all about giving their time and resources to others in need. Last year, Sherri was given the title Mrs. Jacksonville US Continental 2015. Owens decided to combine her desire to serve, her resources as a pageant title holder, and her artistic flare, by begging to invest tirelessly into the PACE Center for Girls by teaching a painting class at the center.

She committed monthly visits to the center, where she enabled girls to explore with different mediums of painting, including water color, acrylics, paper metal, burlap, ink, mixed media and more. Her goal was to provide the girls with insight and exposure to a field that many of them had never experienced. Many of the girls were artistic, but they had never had lessons or the supplies needed to create this amazing art.

Her investment did not stop there. She met Mary Warner, a long-time volunteer at PACE and founder of Ms. Mary’s Boutique. Mary’s boutique is a quarterly event at PACE that enables girls and their families to shop for free, gently used clothing donated from a host of community partners. She was fascinated by Ms. Mary’s dedication and began to think of ways to contribute to the boutique.

She used her platform as Mrs. Jacksonville, as well as her design-savvy skills, to conduct an official promotion and campaign to collect prom dresses and other clothing items from philanthropic participators in the Jacksonville community. The donations poured in, and they have not ceased since. So many donations have poured in, in fact, that Sherri now has a large truck that she uses to collect everything!

Most recently, Sherri was able to partner with Versona boutique to generate monetary donations for PACE Jacksonville, in addition to donations of brand new clothing items for PACE girls. She is working on a long-term partnership that will feature PACE donations by Versona collected throughout the year.

Sherri continues to host painting classes with the girls at PACE, and thoroughly enjoys the experience. She raves about the angel project she completed with the girls, providing an opportunity for the girls to give gifts to their loved ones during Christmas. The next desire of her heart is to continue donating painting supplies to PACE girls, and begin an entirely volunteer-run art program at each PACE center in the state!

Join us at the Celebrate GOOD Festival on April 17, 2016 to celebrate Sherri and all of our community volunteers.  Visit for FREE admission! 

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Corporate Employees Join forces to Revitalize Terry Parker High School


According to many researchers, the physical condition of a school is a stronger predictor of academic achievement than many family background factors and socio-economic conditions.

_K7A9972On Saturday, September 12, 2015,  HandsOn Jacksonville partnered with Fidelity Investments and Florida Blue to focus on revitalizing the learning environments at Terry Parker High School. For Fidelity Investments, this was the third consecutive year of investing in Terry Parker High School.
_K7A9918 _K7A9878Projects included

  • Creating a “Put N Cups” display along the front fence
  • Painting inspirational quotes above doors around the school
  • Building a compost area for the school’s culinary program – STEM
  • Installating a raised garden bed – STEM
  • Repainting the TPHS auditorium
  • Designing and repainting the school walkway
  • Landscaping and mulching common areas
  • Painting “Peace Poles”
  • Installing a “Senior Rock” for high school students to sign

Duval County School Board Member, Cheryl Grymes

All of this was accomplished in just 7 hours by 75 Fidelity employee volunteers, 12 Florida Blue employee volunteers, 12 Terry Parker teachers, staff and students, 20 Flagler College Phi Alpha Omega sorority members and HandsOn Jacksonville staff and volunteers.

In addition, Fidelity’s 800 local associated collected 140 bags valued at $6-7k filled with teacher supplies to give to Terry Parker teachers.

Florida Senator, Audrey Gibson

Florida Senator, Audrey Gibson

We were joined by Florida State Senator, Audrey Gibson and Duval County School Board Member, Cheryl Grymes, who both applauded the work being done.

The day culminated with the installation of the 5,000 pound Senior Rock, and several Terry Parker seniors were on hand to be the first to sign it.

Would your business employees like to make an impact in our community?  HandsOn Jacksonville can help.  Contact Bonnie Barnes, Business Development and Corporate Activation Director – to learn more._K7A0026

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Staff Spotlight: Meet Bonnie Barnes

Barnes_BonniePosition:  Business Development & Corporate Activation Director

What could you not live without?

Dark chocolate

Where is the most exciting place you have ever been?

I’ve been to many countries and seen many things, but as a child, the most impressive thing was our national parks.  I looked over the ledge into the Grand Canyon, watched Yellowstone’s geysers blow and bent over to miss Carlsbad Cavern’s stalagmites, all before ten years of age.

What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

baylie&amp%3bmomDive in Blue Springs, 130 ft. down a shaft; parasailing in Puerto Vallarta; helping daughter film a hurricane on the beach (but having a daughter is probably the scariest.)

Who is your hero and why?

Dr. Frances B. Kinne.  She has accomplished so much and given to so many.  She recently spoke to the Women of Influence at the age of 99 and eloquently shared so much with each of us.  She is a mentor, hero and leader.

What song would be included on the soundtrack of your life?

“I Believe”

I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows,
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows.
I believe for everyone who goes astray
Someone will come to show the way.
I believe,
Oh, I believe.
I believe above the storm
The smallest prayer, will still be heard.
I believe that someone in that great somewhere
Hears every word
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf
Or see the sky,
Then I know why I believe.
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf
Or see the sky,
Then I know why I believe

What did you want to be growing up?

I didn’t have much guidance and really didn’t think much about it. As a survivor, I opened my first business at 17, having worked since I was ten years of age.

What inspires you to work at HOJ?

Volunteerism is the best medicine. For every complaint you might have, always remember, you are better off than some and less fortunate than others. By paying it forward, you are rewarded with gifts far greater than money.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself?

I love life.

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Staff Spotlight: Meet Jeremy Ruffner

Position:  Community Engagement ManagerJeremy low res –
Intern, Wounded Warrior Project

What could you not live without?

Chocolate chip cookies.  They always make you happy.

What is the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Serving my country at the age of 18 was the scariest thing I have been a part of.

Who is your hero and why?

My grandfather is my hero.  He  instilled in me that even though things in life get tough and we sometimes want to give up, that if we keep pushing through, we can make our dreams come true.  And for this, I am here today.

What is your philosophy of life?

Let life lead you in the direction you should go.  For the path is set before we are even born.  Bumps in the road may happen, but it is to teach us something about life.

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Staff Spotlight – Meet Karen Hughes



VP Programs & Services

What could you not live without?

I’ll first state the obvious and the sentimental- my husband, my family (including the canine member) and my friends. I truly love people and my life has been so enriched by all of the folks with whom I’ve crossed paths and built relationships with throughout the years.

As for stuff I couldn’t live without, in no particular order…a good pair of running shoes (preferably Saucony), brightly-colored sunnies, doughnuts, my camera and mascara.

What was the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

When I was 20 years old, I took an internship for the summer in South Carolina. I had a trip-tik from AAA with the directions to intern-housing in Hilton Head because this was before GPS, Waze or cell phones. As I pulled out of Williamsburg, I remember thinking that in 12 hours I’d be living with roommates I’d never met and reporting to a job with a boss I’d never met in a place where I’d never been. I fought tears and the urge to turn around for the first few hours of my drive. I was scared, but I kept driving. What a life lesson though for taking a chance, for allowing yourself to be afraid of something and doing it anyway.

Who is your hero and why?

A hero is revered for his or her courage, bravery in the face of adversity, ability to overcome. Have you ever spent time with a child at a children’s hospital? HERO. Have you stood up for someone who was being treated unkindly? HERO. Have you watched as someone with physical limitations crossed the finish line of a race? HERO. There are remarkable stories of heroes throughout all of history, but I think we should look to our daily lives in search of heroes. They are all around us.

What song would be included on the soundtrack to your life?

Wouldn’t it be great if our lives did have a soundtrack? There are two groups that I fell in love with as a young teenager who I’ve carried with me since that time; The Counting Crows and Bruce Springsteen. I have the albums, I know the stories, they have songs that can change my mood instantly. If I had to name one song though, it would be “Land of Hope and Dreams” by The Boss. In addition to the obvious Americana vibe, it has a message of inclusion. At the end of the day, we are all in this together. Be a part of your world, love and accept those around you, give everyone a fair chance. We all have a place and a purpose in our land of hope and dreams.

What did you want to be growing up?

It changed often as I learned new things and developed new interests. In fact, I recently left a 10+ year career in banking to pursue a career in the non-profit sector. I think it would be fair to say it is still changing.

What inspires you to work at HOJ?

The sense of community in Jacksonville is one of the primary reasons that my husband I love it here and why we’ve chosen to make it home. At the heart of community is a sense of connection, of belonging to something bigger than oneself. At HOJ, we inspire, equip and mobilize volunteers. We connect people to their passions so they can be part of that something bigger. We leverage volunteerism to bridge gaps and meet needs. We build community and we lead and teach others to do the same through volunteerism. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.

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Judy Smith – Bridging Differences, Uniting Humanity through Service

by Laura Jo Brunson

Judy2015 webJudith A.M. “Judy” Smith is not a woman easily defined.  Executive. Professor. Retired Navy Commander. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Great-grandmother. Funny. Fun. Generous. Faith-filled. Friend. While any one of those terms fails to fully define Judy, in combination they add up to servant leader – a role as natural to her as breathing.

Judy works tirelessly to improve her community, to inspire others to do the same, and to make sure others have the tools and opportunities they need to serve. In Judy’s case, it’s impossible to separate “servant” from “leader.” Her work has bettered thousands of lives throughout Jacksonville over the last two decades. Yet few of those thousands would recognize her name.

judy and chet

Judy and Chet

It was no love affair with Jacksonville when the Navy stationed Judy and her husband, Capt. Chet Smith (now retired), here in 1986. A year later the community formed a citizen honor guard several miles long as a tribute to the families of the sailors killed in the attack on the USS Stark during the Iran-Iraq War, and the Smiths knew that Jacksonville was home.

After retiring from military service in 1995, Judy secured her first, last and current civilian job – president and CEO of Volunteer Jacksonville. Under her leadership, Volunteer Jacksonville transitioned from a volunteer center and nonprofit resource into HandsOn Jacksonville, a proactive project management center that inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the community. In addition, the agency strengthened Project Blueprint, its signature program that trains people how to serve on nonprofit boards. The organization has consistently ranked in the nation’s top-ten volunteer agencies under her leadership. And Judy is proud that HandsOn Jacksonville has been recognized consistently as one of the Best Places to Work in Northeast Florida by the Jacksonville Business Journal. The agency also has received the Points of Light HandsOn Network Affiliate Leadership Award and the George W. Romney Volunteer Center Excellence Award. However, under her leadership, what may be the agency’s greatest accomplishment is less obvious.

Consultant Jane Jordan, who has helped nonprofits raise more than $158 million and run more efficiently over the last 35 years, led the Volunteer Jacksonville selection committee that hired Judy. For Jordan, the discipline of a military career and Judy’s natural and abundant energy created a perfect fit.

Judy in NYC for Super Service Challenge Award

Judy in NYC for Super Service Challenge Award

“She made volunteering something tangible and valuable for everybody, particularly in the nonprofit sector,” Jordan said. “Volunteerism has been raised to a much higher level. There are now people who put their lives around volunteering. There are people who really value their experiences and grow from them. There are people who probably would not have left their house if they hadn’t had the kind of opportunity that HandsOn Jacksonville and Judy have given them to get out and do things they never thought they could do.”

Year after year, Judy worked to improve the organization to change the community for good through meaningful action. Jacksonville attorney and historian Doug Milne who also leads workshops on local history for leadership development programs says Judy makes good things happen.

Nothing is beneath a servant leader!  Judy has even been spotted in a dumpster smashing down boxes so more can fit in.

Nothing is beneath a servant leader! Judy has even been spotted in a dumpster smashing down boxes so more can fit in.

“One of the great things about Judy – and it’s typical of people of her type – is that she knows what she has to do in society and she just does it,” he said. “She recognizes that as part of the community, she is expected to do her share without fervor and praise – just dig in and do it. That’s the servant mentality in her.”

Ed Hayes, a cross-culture consultant who had led interactive workshops on diversity for Project Blueprint (as well as other leadership development programs) for the last 20 years, sees a parallel between Jacksonville’s advancements and Judy’s impact on the community.

“Judy’s been an anchor in bridging the gap for those organizations that need assistance and can’t find it anywhere,” he said. “Then she’s been able to bridge the gap between those who are in need and those who are willing to give their resources, their time and their money to help that come about.

Judy works behind the scenes and calls the signals with no ego. It’s always about the ‘we’ with Judy. She is a true leader in serving humanity.”

In his 1970 essay “The Servant as Leader,” Robert K. Greenleaf, who coined the term Servant Leadership, wrote:

 A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid,’ servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” 


Judy receiving Women of Honor Award in 2014

To make sure she herself performs to her highest ability, Judy returned to graduate school to earn a doctorate in organizational leadership. She has taught as an adjunct professor at the university level and served on many local, regional and national boards, including the Points of Light, the largest international organization dedicated to inspiring and mobilizing volunteers; the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Governors; the International Center for Spirit at Work; the Florida Association of Volunteer Resource Management and its predecessor organization, the Florida Association of Volunteer Centers; the Volunteer Center National Network Council; the United Way Agency Directors Association; and the First Coast Women Officers Professional Association.  She is a graduate of Leadership Jacksonville, and a current member of the East Arlington Rotary and the Jacksonville Women’s Network.  She also has received local, regional and national recognition for her achievements.

In 2014, the Jacksonville Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women recognized Judy for her work to create a stronger community. In her acceptance remarks, Judy said she hopes everyone will realize “that all successful lives include service to others, that service bridges our differences, and that what unites us in our humanity is far more powerful than what divides us.”

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