Jacksonville Nonprofit Selling Chocolate To Help Pay For Homeless, Addiction Services

Jan 24, 2019

City Rescue Mission, a nonprofit that serves the homeless and addicted in Jacksonville, is now selling chocolate to help offset the costs of its free programs thanks to a generous donation.

City Rescue Mission Executive Director Penny Kievet said the donor, who has asked to remain anonymous, called her out of the blue and asked if the organization would be interested in some chocolate making equipment that he had.

“We invited him in, he came in, shared with us everything that he had,” she said. “I ended that conversation by saying, ‘you do know, I have no money. I can’t buy anything. I don’t have it. I can’t take that away from the programs.’ And his response was, ‘I want to give it.’”

Chocolate tempering machine at City Rescue Mission.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News

Kievet said on top of the equipment and 300 or so molds, worth an estimated $30,000, the anonymous donor even shared his secret recipe.

So now the religious organization is running a new company called Charis Chocolates - the name is derived from the Greek word for grace. CRM even built a little shop at their headquarters at 426 S. McDuff Ave., which Kievet said will be run by people in their residential addiction recovery program called Life Builders.

Charis Chocolates shop at City Rescue Mission.
Credit Brendan Rivers / WJCT News
Charis Chocolates.
Credit City Rescue Mission

“The good that it’s going to do for the program that we have here, that we fondly call Life Builders, is just amazing because I think that this can sustain itself for a very, very, very long time, and teach some skills,” said Kievet. “Our hope is that once they master that and become an official chocolatier that there will be employment opportunities because we’re hoping that the business is so good that we’re going to have to hire some people to do that.”

Money raised from the chocolates will help pay for CRM’s emergency services, residential recovery and workforce development programs.

The chocolate company is the newest of four social enterprise projects at CRM designed to bring in additional revenue.

Kievet said CRM’s other three social enterprise projects brought in about $800,000 last year. They are Crossroads, a short term recovery program in partnership with the Department of Corrections; Recovered Treasures, a thrift store on Normandy Blvd.; and Homes of Hope, houses that were bought and renovated by CRM which are now being rented out to people who have graduated from the Life Builders Program.

The chocolates are now for sale online at CharisChocolates.com, by phone at 904-421-5145 and in person at CRM’s headquarters on McDuff Ave. and at Recovered Treasures, 5345 Normandy Blvd.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.