In early 1985, a bank teller and parishioner at St. Michael’s Catholic Church shared with her priest, Father Edward Booth, that she often cashed peoples’ checks given to them by various churches. Some shared with her that they were struggling to make ends meet, and the churches gave them financial help.
St. Barnabas, Son of Encouragement
As a result of this conversation, Father Booth and a group of St. Michael’s parishioners decided to create a non-profit organization to serve as a one-stop program for people needing assistance. The organization could qualify and document the needs of people asking for help, and the churches could pool their resources to provide the maximum amount of assistance.
In 1986, that visionary group acquired their non-profit status and rented a small place where they could interview citizens experiencing crisis and in need of assistance. They named the organization “Barnabas” in honor of the patron Saint Barnabas, who was known as “Son of Encouragement.”
Since then, Barnabas has gone from simply fulfilling the needs of crisis situations to offering services and referrals for individuals and families to pursue integrated support from other associated agencies. However, the heartbeat of the organization has always been, and continues to be, the hundreds of volunteers who provide their time and dedicated work toward fulfilling the Barnabas mission of connecting people, help and hope.
“The story of Barnabas is no more or no less than the story of its hundreds of volunteers and donors who care about the less fortunate in Nassau County — and then match their action with their concern.”
— Barnabas Board Member
A group of parishioners at St. Michael’s Catholic Church begin Barnabas with the intent to help alleviate suffering for individuals and families in crisis situations within Nassau County. They operate out of St. Michael’s old school building.
The Fernandina Beach Ministerial Alliance joins the effort, and other churches begin contributing to the organization. Barnabas is incorporated as a secular, non-sectarian agency and begins to receive financial support over time from a broad range of individuals, faith-based groups, United Way, civic groups, charitable foundations, and local businesses.
In 1991, Paul Burns, a longtime resident of Fernandina Beach, donates a small building at 11 South 11th Street, and Barnabas begins operating from that location.
Barnabas opens its New to You resale store in Fernandina Beach. Revenue from store sales helps fund Barnabas programs. Additionally, the store provides clothing, household items, and furniture to those in need. In 1996, New to You moves to its current location at the corner of Jasmine and 14th Street.
Barnabas opens a West Side satellite office in Hilliard. The site is entirely staffed by volunteers and saves those in need the one hour drive into Fernandina Beach, expanding the Barnabas reach more fully into Nassau County.
Dr. Tom Washburn
Under the leadership of volunteer Dr. Tom Washburn, and in partnership with the Nassau County Health Department, Barnabas establishes a free urgent care medical program to provide high quality healthcare services to uninsured, low-income adult Nassau residents. Known as the Samaritan Medical Program, the clinics are staffed by volunteer healthcare professionals and initially held in the cramped meeting room of Barnabas’ small building on 11th Street. Baptist Hospital Nassau supports the program by offering diagnostic services such as lab work and x-rays. This program provides the foundation for growth in a broad range of health services.
Experience in the medical arena quickly shows the correlation between diminished physical health and poor oral hygiene. With funding secured through a grant from the Sontag Foundation, the Barnabas Dental Program opens to provide dental care access for the uninsured, under-employed residents of the county. When a local dentist moves to a new office, Barnabas rents his old site at 1886 South 14th Street and begins to provide dental services during the day and medical services in the evening.
Beginning with the economic recession in 2008, Barnabas continues to experience an extraordinary increase in demand for all of its services. While program expenditures triple, the agency continues to operate out of numerous cramped facilities. The Board of Barnabas begins exploring ways to consolidate space and ensure efficient, cost-effective delivery of services to meet the growing needs of the community.
The Barnabas Board starts the “quiet phase” of a capital campaign, as well as purchases an existing building at 1303 Jasmine Street in Fernandina Beach, one block away from the New to You resale store, and begins plans for its renovation.
In addition, Barnabas opens a new satellite office in Callahan to meet the needs of individuals and families in the west side of the county. It is located in the same building as the Episcopal Children’s Services Head Start program.
At its January Annual Meeting, Barnabas kicks off the public phase of its “Building for Room for Compassion” capital campaign, as well as announcing lead gifts.
For more details on our capital campaign, click here.
Renovations continue throughout the summer and fall, with staff members moving into the new building in late December.
Barnabas holds its official ribbon cutting ceremony at the conclusion of its Annual Meeting. The building is named the “J. Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver Center” in honor of major donors to the building campaign. To read more about the grand opening, click here.
In March, Barnabas announces expansion of its Health Services in conjunction with the opening of its new facility. In addition to urgent care medical and dental services, Barnabas is now able to offer preventative health care and chronic disease management, mental health counseling, and vision and hearing screenings. To read more about our expanded health services, click here.