World Relief Refugees Working in Aquaponics Greenhouse

World Relief Jacksonville works to resettle refugees from all over the world and help them obtain self-sufficiency. We are so happy to have Benjamin and Erica working with us in our aquaponics greenhouse! 

Benjamin is a refugee from the Congo and was a former secondary school teacher who taught French and English. He taught English mostly to the adults in the village he was from. When he first heard about the aquaponics job he thought it might be hard or only for literate people. Benjamin was amazed by the technology of the closed loop water system and how it was able to go from the fish to the plants and recycle. "I love seeing the fish especially and I miss working on the days I have off. I even come back on the days I am off just to look at it all. I really like working here," Benjamin said.

Erica is a refugee from Columbia and was a former worker on a traditional dirt farm. Erica has knowledge about different plants and gardening. She enjoys cooking and likes working in the greenhouse because she gets to garden in a different way and learn new ways to grow food. She likes taking the produce home that is grown in the greenhouse and learning how to cook with new plants she hasn’t cooked with before.

About our Founder | Dr. Lee

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About Dr. Lee

The Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III
Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

After serving as rector of Church of Our Saviour in Jacksonville, Florida, Dr. Lee was called to establish a new kind of ministry. Having created the concept for FreshMinistries in 1988 and incorporating it into a working 501(c)(3) in 1989, Dr. Lee elevated the organization to a full-time ministry in 1994. It was his dream to bring his ministry out of the church and into the community to serve all faiths and races. His interfaith, interracial outreach unites people in need and the people who have resources to share with the less fortunate. Dr. Lee’s mission for FreshMinistries and its partners is to utilize all available resources as tools to empower individuals in need with opportunities to improve their lives and those of their families. These opportunities, provided through the many programs of FreshMinistries, work through education, economic redevelopment, health initiatives and housing in communities throughout the world.

Before becoming an ordained priest, Dr. Lee had a successful career in business. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University and continued graduate studies in journalism at the University of Georgia. Upon accepting his calling into the ministry, he earned a master’s of divinity from Yale University and a doctorate of theology from New York Theological Seminary.

Currently serving as a non-stipendiary Canon for Outreach and Ecuminism in the Diocese of Florida, he has also served parishes in Connecticut and Florida. He has served as the Chairman of the Interfaith Sub-Committee of the 2005 Super Bowl Host Committee in Jacksonville and as a director for: St. Mary’s Outreach Ministry in Jacksonville, the Samaritan Center, Dignity-U-Wear, Christian Healing Ministries, Jacksonville Interfaith Council, Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville (HabiJax), Jacksonville Urban League and the Florida Council of Churches. By appointment of President George W. Bush, Dr. Lee serves on the Presidential Advisory Council on Financial Literacy; by appointment of Governor Jeb Bush, Dr. Lee currently serves as a member of the Governor’s Faith-based Advisory Board, for the state of Florida. As a mayoral appointee he also serves on the Mayor’s Faith-based and Community Advisory Board for the city of Jacksonville. Dr. Lee is also the first head of a not-for-profit organization to serve as a Director on the Board of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the Compass Rose Society an organization of the Anglican Communion serving the Archbishop of Canterbury. By appointment of Queen Elizabeth II, Dr. Lee has also been inducted into the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

Fresh Path Success Stories | Deidra Brooks

Deidra Brooks landed a fulltime job with FarmShare just one week into her Fresh Path internship.

Deidra Brooks landed a fulltime job with FarmShare just one week into her Fresh Path internship.

Deidra Brooks, 19, was directed to the Fresh Path program by her probation officer. “I had a felony on my record,” she says. “When I came to Fresh Path, I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t think it would benefit me. But it has benefited me in many ways.”

After completing the job readiness components of the program, Deidra worked as an intern at a summer camp, cleaning and helping in the kitchen. Soon after that, she started working at Jacksonville’s foodbank distribution operation FarmShare, and after one week as an intern she was offered a fulltime job.

“I load trucks, I load stuff on pallets, I wrap boxes, I put food out to go to the different agencies to donate to others for food drives, for the disabled,” she says.

Fresh Ministries made a dramatic difference in her life, Deidra says. “I’m off probation now. If it wasn’t for Fresh Path keeping me busy with something that could benefit me in the future, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Deidra says that her Fresh Path training taught her the value of hard work and providing excellent customer service.

“I think I have a chance now at a good life and being successful,” she says.

Summer Internship Students

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Marcus Richards, is currently a student at Paxon School for Advanced Studies and is a first year student in our Fresh Futures program.

Richards, is participating in the summer internship program, working at WJCT. Richards loves learning the ins and outs of every department. “I have a passion for music and I’m hoping when I go to the production department, to sit behind the soundboard and learn more about radio,” says Richards. Richards is having a great time at WCJT!

Fresh Futures students Win Recognition

Two of our Fresh Futures students have recently received recognition in a big way, and we are really proud of them.

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Jordan Mills was one of 100 students from around the country selected for the Disney Dreamers Academy, sponsored by Steve Harvey and Essence Magazine. The Jean Ribault High School sophomore got to spend four days at Disney World in Orlando in March, meeting with Harvey, enjoying the resort , participating in a parade and receiving mentoring in graphic design and communications, part of his chosen career field.

Mills says that meeting with Steve Harvey was great. “He brought all the students into the room, no media, no parents, no cameras. He talked to us about life choices and being mindful of the decisions we make. He was fun. He actually used some words that I probably would get in trouble for using. It was funny, but overall, he made sure we got the message that he was talking about.”

Asia Duncan

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Asia Duncan, a sophomore at First Coast High School, has been selected to attend the National Academy of Future Physicians in Boston, Massachusetts this summer. She wants to be a cardiothoracic surgeon, and says her career path was inspired by watching “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“Surgery is cool to me,” she says, “opening up someone’s chest, having the opportunity to save them, being the last hope they might have.” Duncan is a straight-A student and is most excited about getting to view an actual open-heart surgery when she is Boston. She is working to raise money for her travel, and so far has raised $865 of the $2000 she needs.

Both students are in their second year in the Fresh Futures program, and each credits the program with much of their success.

“I’ve learned life lessons, of course, hands-on learning experience and of course got my first job,” says Mills. “I was a party coordinator at Pump It Up (party coordinators). I actually want to work at Pump It Up again.”

“Fresh Futures gives me opportunities that I normally would not be able to take on,” says Duncan, whose internship last summer was with the Florida Department of Health. “I hope to work in a clinic this summer.”

LifePoint Success Stories

Dimonica Carter

The Jacksonville Hospitality Institute helped land Dimonica Carter, 24, a job at DisneyWorld in Orlando. “I applied for Disney while I was in the class,” she said. “Within a week, they hired me.”

Dimonica Carter credits LifePoint Career Institute with helping launch her career at Disney.

Dimonica Carter credits LifePoint Career Institute with helping launch her career at Disney.

Dimonica was living in a women’s homeless shelter and taking cosmetology classes when she saw a flier about the LifePoint Career Institute and decided to enroll. She continued with cosmetology classes while learning to work in the hospitality industry and is now a cosmetologist working with the entertainment cast at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

“I help the performers with hair and makeup, helping them look show-ready for our guests,” she says. She credits LifePoint with giving her skills and a foundation upon which to build a career. “The class was very uplifting,” she says, “It gave me great information and the people were so positive. It gave me hope and great skills.”

She has worked at Disney for a year now and loves it. “The job is demanding, but they love me. It really is a career. I appreciate where I am right now, but I can’t forget where I came from.”