The Clara White Mission has served Jacksonville’s disadvantaged for over 100 years. As the oldest historically founded African-American non-profit, they have continuously offered meals for the hungry and transitional housing for the homeless. It has now temporarily been bitten by the pandemic bug and forced to shutter its services due to a COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of the outbreak, longtime employee Chef Keith Smith succumbed from complications of the deadly virus.
“The staff of the Clara White Mission is a close family and we grieve the loss of one of our own,” said Clara White Mission Board President Michelle Paul in a statement to Channel 4 news.
Paul said after “some employees, as well as a few residents,” tested positive for the coronavirus, all of whom were asymptomatic, the organization shut down and stopped its feeding program. CDC guidelines were followed for cleaning and quarantining affected individuals, Paul said.
All residents and employees were retested and all employees must show negative test results prior to their return.
Clara White Mission CEO Ju’Coby Pittman was hospitalized two weeks ago after contracting the virus and is still recovering.
The mission is targeting a full reopen date of July 26.
Mission patron Zachary Ellis said he will be relived to return to Clara White’s day shelter which has closed. He’s one of the hundreds of homeless residents who had to be turned away because of the COVID-19 outbreak in the facility.
“Out here in the streets, if you’re hungry, you really get what you want, need to eat,” he said. “So that puts everybody in pre-predatory mentality.”