Paradise Gives Back
We are luckier to call them neighbors than we are to live in paradise.
When Joe Jernigan opened his first Shades location at the Wharf in 2004, he had no idea the impact his dog, Lola, would have on customers. “Lola was my sidekick. She was pretty much trained in the store and became a fixture of the business. Every year, people would come by and take annual photos with her. We even had customers put her on their own Christmas cards.” However, when Lola passed away in December of last year, Jernigan knew he had to find a way to honor the face of the store. “We decided to do a tribute shirt to Lola since so many of our customers felt the loss as well. However, instead of the usual pencil drawings of her we have on the back of our shirts, this one was a direct photo to print. Proceeds from the tribute shirt go towards benefitting senior dog rescues in the area. We soon came to realize that the shirts were not just for Lola, but everyone who had a special pet in their life at one point too.”
Courtney Dobroski says that the community support inspired her to start not just a clean-up, but a movement called Eco Clean Marine. “I had started tithing and was looking for ways to give back to the community. As I was walking along the pathway to check on my fish for another business I have, I noticed there was a plethora of trash in the area. Immediately, I knew that was my calling.” To date, Dobroski has done several trash pick-ups that take place on the first Saturday of each month. “I enjoy being a part of something that is so impactful for our community. The community support has also been fantastic and they inspire me to keep pushing.”
Tim Harry with the Children’s Rescue Initiative (CRI) has seen things people could not fathom. The CRI, whose mission is to rescue children worldwide from labor and sex slavery, has rescued over 2600 children in recent years. In fact, Harry says only two other initiatives worldwide have rescued more children than CRI has. “We raise money to rescue these children. We employ veterans who assist us and then we work with locals to find their whereabouts. We have everything from a pre-arrival team to a post team who work to find a suitable home for the rescued children. There are over 40 million slaves worldwide and one out of four is a child. Since they are so young we take care of them. We supply them with medical care for life and the proper funds for school.”
Polly Andrews says the best part of Youth-Reach Gulf Coast is watching the young boys grow up to become men. The Summerdale-based program serves as a home for boys who do not need to return to the environment they came from. “We don’t want these boys leaving how they came, so we set them up for a better future and a great life. The transformation is just amazing to watch in these young men. I would not even say it changes only their life, but the generations that will follow them.” Andrews also attributes the success of the program to the number of volunteers and donors that dedicate their time and efforts to the program. In fact, the program is free at no cost to the residents or their families.