Grass Roots Organization Benefits From Entrepreneurship Assistance

 Grass Roots Neighborhood Organization Benefits From Entrepreneurship Assistance at the Jacksonville Urban League

After many years of walking door-to-door in an attempt to organize and inform residents of the environmental issues impacting the Fairfax neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida, Iris Hinton contacted Thomas B. Waters, Director, Jacksonville Urban League Entrepreneurship Center seeking assistance to establish her grass roots neighborhood-based organization as a bona-fide non-profit corporation. She knew this assistance was necessary to elevate her organization from a group of concerned and impacted citizens to an organization that could qualify for corporate, local, state, and federal assistance, and would be taken more seriously. Ms. Hinton sought organizational assistance from other professionals and entities who offer the same services.  However, these entities charged fees, something that the residents and former workers of Fairfax couldn’t afford. After meeting with Mr. Waters, Ms. Hinton knew that she was in the right place. Mr. Waters explained in detail the services of the Jacksonville Urban League Entrepreneurship Center, and the thing that resonated the most was that the services offered were free.

The catalyst that caused the formation of the Fairfax Environmental Committee for Justice, Inc. was compelling. It centered around an old lumber plant that treated lumber with chemicals to help preserve the wood products. For many years, this plant operated in the middle of the Fairfax neighborhood, and employed many of its’ residents. Unbeknownst to the workers and residents of Fairfax, this plant was slowly poisoning them and their environment. It took years for workers and residents to realize that something was wrong. This was based on many workers and residents that became ill of all sorts from similar cancers and other illnesses and some that even resulted in death.

After numerous health studies and environmental assessments, it was determined that the soil and water within the immediate boundaries of the former plant was contaminated with toxic and carcinogenic chemicals such as copper, and arsenic. Moreover, it was determined that those chemicals seeped into the underground and surface waters, and became airborne. Worst, the toxins migrated beyond the Fairfax neighborhood into surrounding areas, and was contaminating a major waterway and wildlife.

Ms. Hinton studied publications written about the impacts of the Wood Treaters Plant, and contacted the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). After much work, Ms. Hinton was informed that for her group to directly benefit and impact health and cleanup efforts, they must form a recognizable non-profit organization. Hence, the Fairfax Environmental Committee for Justice, Inc. was formed as a 501(c)(3), and is one of two designated Superfund Sites in the country thus allowing them to apply for a federal cleanup grant and other federal grant assistance.

Ms. Hinton said, “I have volunteered my time for many years to advocate for education and health assistance for former workers and surrounding residents of the defunct Wood Treaters Plant in the Fairfax neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida. With direct coaching and technical assistance from the Jacksonville Urban League Entrepreneurship Center, we are now incorporated with our 501(c)(3) status and qualify for EPA Superfund Grant assistance.