by Cole Pepper
October 9, 2013
It is one of my favorite nights of the year. It’s the night when the countless hours of hard work, of all of the favors called in of the shameless promotion really pay off.
It’s the harvest of the fruits of the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships and the Florida-Georgia Weekend Block Party BBQ contest.
Wednesday evening, for the fifth time, we presented the Glyn Cook Memorial Scholarship to college students who had once been homeless.
A little background for the initiated. In 2008, cancer took my father-in-law, Glyn Cook, at the age of 63. Not only was Glyn a rock of stability in a family full of women, but he was a great example for me and a former Chairman of the Board at Daniel. Daniel, as you may know, is Florida’s oldest child service agency and the oldest non-profit in Jacksonville. I’m honored to serve on the board now as the Vice Chairman.
After Glyn passed away, my wife and her sisters and mother and I decided to create a scholarship in Glyn’s memory for kids at Daniel. This, we thought, would help Daniel to continue to make a difference in the lives of kids in college and beyond. It’s the “teach a man to fish” principle.
One of Daniel’s flagship programs is called Project Prepare. Homeless teens, usually high school age, who cannot live at home for a variety of reasons, some as simple as an inability to coexist with a parent (usually in these cases, its a single parent) to abuse and abandonment and everything in between, are given a stable place to live. In addition to the housing, they are also taught life skills like time management, budgeting, cooking, cleaning, hygiene…the kind of things that most of us take for granted.
Now, I should state, that not every applicant automatically gets a scholarship. These must be earned. And after the kids earn the scholarship, we expect even more from them: community service, better grades, and most of all, to be a good example to other kids in their situation (of anybody else, for that matter).
So tonight, at the education center on the Daniel campus, we heard directly from four of our seven scholarship winners. One of the winners read comments from her sister, another winner in school in south Florida, and another sent a letter of thanks, ready by the program’s director Shelly Davalos (who fought back tears of pride as she read).
So where does barbecue come into play? Each year, the money made from those two barbecue contest goes to fund these scholarships. Each year, we’ve been able to give larger scholarships and make a bigger impact on the lives of these college students. So for those of you who have competed in, attended, judged, volunteered or aided in any way our efforts in the past five years, know that your efforts have made a difference in the lives of kids who at one time saw no future. For some, Daniel was there at such a crucial time that they admit that without finding Daniel, they would be in a dark place or even dead.
If you want to read more about Daniel’s programs and successes, you can check out the website (DanielKids.org) or follow Daniel kids on Facebook or @Danielkids on twitter. Or, just come out to the Florida-Georgia Weekend Block Party BBQ contest on Friday, November 1 around the arena.
Once again, thank you.