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The Vineyard Transitional Center gains significant support

U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean impressed by group’s mission

Posted 12/31/69

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – It didn’t take long for U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean (FL-4) to join the groundswell of support for The Vineyard Transitional Center during a visit on Thursday, Sept. 7.

The …

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The Vineyard Transitional Center gains significant support

U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean impressed by group’s mission


Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – It didn’t take long for U.S. Rep. Aaron Bean (FL-4) to join the groundswell of support for The Vineyard Transitional Center during a visit on Thursday, Sept. 7.

The message, not fancy charts and clever Chamber of Commerce-like pitches, was all organizer Pastor John Sanders, Sheriff Michelle Cook, former Green Cove Springs Mayor Van Royal and Penney Farms President and CEO Teresa Scott needed to get a commitment for the Congressman who represents Clay County in Washington, D.C.

“I’m on board,” Bean said.

Bean said he will meet with Florida Rep. Sam Garrison (R-18) next month to find ways to fund the nonprofit that works with inmates to transition back into society.

Sanders and Cook expanded a program that provides inmates with temporary housing, life skills counseling and job training.

“Where do you go now? I get out of prison, I’m told I get a bus ticket sometimes, or I get $100,” Bean asked. “Or is that true?”

Sanders laughed. He said too many end up homeless – or back in jail.

The Vineyard and Operation New Hope collaborated to take inmates on a 12-month path to becoming an asset in the community. The program’s first seven months start at the Clay County Jail, where qualifying inmates start classes and counseling. The final five months will involve The Vineyard. Those who don’t have a place to live can stay in one of the six dorm rooms on Pine Street. They will continue with job training and classes that address anger management and social skills.

The original center was demolished a year ago after engineers said it would cost more to make repairs and refurbish than to build a new one.

Since then, Sanders and the board of directors have worked tirelessly trying to raise $1 million. A big part of the fundraiser is the annual Pork Butt sale. In fact, there will be a pre-sale event on Saturday. Sept. 14, at 518 Pine St., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Patrons will be served pork sliders and a side dish, while Ashton Taylor will provide entertainment. Since more than 600 butts were smoked a year ago, Sanders said he needed to know how many he would need ahead of Thanksgiving.

The group said they are about halfway toward their $1 million goal. But plans are moving toward a grand re-opening around Christmas time in 2024.

Royal said residents at the center will get the attention and opportunity to be productive members of the community.

“We’re three blocks from the new culinary arts program at the Augusta Savage Center,” Royal said. “Mike Vallencourt (of Vallencourt Construction Co.) walked to his office from here, and these 12 guys (residents), Mike said he can pick them up and put them to work just like that. We also talked to Reggie (Fullwood, President and CEO of Operation New Hope in Jacksonville) yesterday about getting a bus to carry them to the part-time welding school in Palatka.”

Once an inmate is released, Cook said the county benefits more if they return to work and stay out of trouble.

“Talk about your natural fit,” she said. “No program like this exists in Clay County. From a public safety standpoint, I would love to be able to work ourselves out of a job. We don’t want people coming back to jail. We want to give them every opportunity to be successful, give them every opportunity to support their family, support their kids.

“When we have them in our jail, we do programs for them. But once they walk out the door, we cannot continue that relationship. This is a continuance of that pathway. Instead of going 30, 60, 90, 120 days in jail again, they can continue to be here and have mentorship and guidance for the rest of their life because they can always come back to the office and get more assistance, training, and help. We don’t have anything like this. And so this allows us to give people who truly want to make their lives better.”

Bean was impressed and vowed to do his part.

“In the auction business, once we reach a level of mutually agreed, a level where everybody agrees, we say sold. I’m going to say sold because I’m on board to help sell it.

“The United States is struggling with its budget right now. So, we have to look at what programs are out there that we would qualify for. I have a great friend Sam Garrison, who is also going to be doing big things in the Florida Legislature. We want to reach out to him, but I’m going to be one of your ambassadors now.”

For more information or to help The Vineyard Transitional Center, contact Sanders at (904) 305-4641 or Joseph Smith at (904) 343-1869.