Jacksonville is a patchwork quilt of different neighborhoods, each with their own unique identities, spread over the largest area in the lower 48 that shares a city government. We have been blessed beyond words to be invited, by ministries in some of those unique and beautiful neighborhoods, to serve with them in their own piece of our beautiful city.
Since our launch, we have hosted 4 hiring events (which are intentionally smaller than job fairs) that have been created with a specific community in mind, and our partners have helped us to co-create some amazing experiences for friends and neighbors. In March, we had the opportunity to come alongside two specific communities: the “Westside Bestside,” specifically in Hyde Park, and Cleveland Arms, in northwest Jax.
While I have loved every event we’ve hosted here, these have been two of the most inspiring events I have ever witnessed. Let me tell you why.
March 3 – Redemption Church
On March 3, we served alongside Redemption Church, on Lane Avenue, with Pastor Jimbo Stewart. Jimbo is an inspiration, and I love his vision for Redemption, for church revitalization, and for a local church’s role in the community where it has been planted, by God, with a purpose.
We had ten employers there with us, and we selected and invited those partners with the explicit intention of partnering with businesses who could offer provisional job offers on the spot, or who could otherwise offer an expedited road to employment. It worked.
Over the course of a couple of hours on a Saturday morning, we met 71 people and, by the end of the day, 51 had been offered provisional jobs. For those like me who don’t like math – that’s over 70%. That broke the record for on the spot hires by a landslide, and meant there were a lot of extremely happy faces leaving the event.
Every person who got a job, and a lot of others too, had the chance to meet Pastor Jimbo, who took a lot of time to get to know and congratulate every person. Many of them took a photo and wrote a note, which made it onto the “Wall of Fame,” where we celebrate lives changed. Because of those relationships, and the warmth those folks felt from Jimbo, some of those families came to Redemption’s Sunday service the next day.
March 29 – Celebration Dream Center
A few weeks later, we had the pleasure of joining Celebration Church at their Dream Center in Cleveland Arms, which is in 32209. For those who don’t know Jacksonville, there is a narrative about that zip code – in the news and otherwise – that often emphasizes challenges and overlooks existing and potential beauty.
On this Holy Thursday, the day in Christian history that represents Jesus’ last supper and the day He washed his disciples’ feet – an act which perfectly exemplified his heart for humility and service – Celebration washed the feet of their community.
Breaking another record, Celebration hosted a hiring event for 119 people that resulted in almost 250 anticipated interviews for the folks who came through. That’s an average of 2 interviews per person, which is astounding.
Beyond the amazing results, Celebration’s pastors – like Pastor Jimbo – took a lot of time to personally greet, congratulate, and pray with job seekers. Prayer happened spontaneously, in every corner of the Dream Center, and the atmosphere in the room was calm, peaceful, and abounding with hospitality.
Together, these hiring events served almost 200 people, both offering incredible quantitative results and amazing opportunities to share love, invitations, and encouragement. Now, a few weeks later, I’m reflecting on the faces, the stories, and the blessings bestowed through local churches answering the call to be the hands and feet of Christ, in their communities.
Our one, big, beautiful city is made all the more lovely by each piece of the quilt becoming stronger, more vibrant, and more whole. We, at FlourishNow, are so honored to watch the body of Christ – the thread that holds it all together – at work in Jacksonville.