Barnabas Nassau County, FL

Barnabas News

Barnabas Center Thanks the Community for Successful Empty Bowls Luncheon









Barnabas Center’s recent fourth annual Empty Bowls fundraiser was a success thanks to the generous sponsors and contributors, more than 400 attendees, event committee, volunteers, and bowl painters. What is Empty Bowls? An empty bowl is the symbol of hunger. In support of our neighbors coping with poverty and hunger, each year Barnabas hosts a simple meal of soup, bread, and dessert contributed by local businesses. The event raised much-needed funds and increased awareness about crises, health care, food insecurity and hunger in Nassau County.

Barnabas is especially appreciative of the support of the Delores Barr Weaver Forever Event Fund, along with Presenting Sponsors The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and Baptist Medical Center Nassau. Platinum Sponsors included Omni Resorts Amelia Island Plantation, WestRock, Jack and Charlotte Roberts, and David and Judy Easterly. Gold Sponsors were Martex and Lisa Presnell Productions.

Barnabas is deeply thankful for the 19 volunteers from the Rotary Club of Amelia Island Sunrise, as well as numerous individuals who donated their time and talents during the event. These included event emcee, Lewis Turner from First Coast News; featured speaker Nassau County Commissioner Justin Taylor; the Peck Community Ensemble for their beautiful presentation, and Encore Event Technologies for their video expertise. The dedicated committee members who tirelessly worked to ensure the success of the luncheon included: Chair Anne Apt and members Andrea Hoffman, Robin Jones, Momi Malspeis, Lisa Presnell, Mary Anne Sharer, and Annie Sparkle.

To learn more about Barnabas Center and its services in Nassau County, please visit

Barnabas in Top 1% of Charities Nationwide   

     Barnabas Center is celebrating another milestone this month. With a transparency and accountability rating of 100%, Barnabas Center has been ranked a 4 star charity, the highest possible rating, for the 11th year in a row by Charity Navigator. Only one percent of rated charities nationwide achieve this status, indicating that Barnabas Center outperforms most other charities in America.

Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator is the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities. In a quest to help donors, their team of professional analysts examines tens of thousands of non-profit financial documents. They use this this knowledge to develop an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 8,300 of America’s best-known and some lesser known, but worthy, charities.

“We are honored that we have earned the highest rating for nonprofit management by Charity Navigator this year. We work very hard at being good stewards of the monetary and other resources that are donated to us and strive to be a transparent and well-managed organization,” said Wanda Lanier, President  & CEO of Barnabas Center.

SnackPacks Feed Nassau’s Hungry Kids                                                                                                                               But Continuation Funding from the community
Needed to Keep Program Running Strong

A truck driver arrives with large pallets of nutritious food.

At a time when children should be at their energetic best, exploring their world and participating in all manner of school activities, too many of Nassau County’s students are primarily thinking about where their next meal is coming from. It’s a sad fact that one in four children in Northeast Florida is considered food insecure. That insecurity is keeping these children from learning and achieving their best in and outside of the classroom.

     Thanks to Barnabas, a new collaborative project is taking a bite out of this problem. This past school year brought the launch of the SnackPack program to Nassau County schools.  Thanks to grants awarded in 2016 by the Walmart Foundation and the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, more than 9,000 lbs. of nutritious food was distributed to 328 local food-challenged school children this past school year. The more than 5,036 SnackPacks that were distributed contained “child-friendly” items like fresh fruit, granola bars and peanut butter. The food was purchased from Feeding Northeast Florida and delivered during the school year to Nassau County Public schools. Most of these children also participate and benefit from free or reduced school lunches Monday through Friday. The SnackPack program is meant to “bridge the gap” over the weekends and school holidays.

      Y. Michelle McGriff, Senior Director of Partnerships & Program Development at Feeding NE Florida, reports that each SnackPack weighs approximately 1.5 lbs. and contains enough food to provide two meals over the weekend. Locally, the SnackPack program is administered by Angela Mcclellan, Manager of the Families in Transition (FIT) program/Homeless Liaison, Nassau County Schools. Local teachers have identified the children with the most acute needs and have targeted this program for them.  She receives notes and emails weekly from the teachers and children’s parents who report that the students are benefitting greatly from this program.

    One such note reads, “Thank you so much for this program and the hard work you put in.  I have two students that look forward to their bags every week.  It is truly a blessing to them.”     

The program has been a great success for the 2016-2017 school year, but with school starting up again in August, Barnabas is searching for continuation funding to serve the more than 500 local school children who meet the federal definition for homelessness. While another $5,000 grant has been awarded for the upcoming school year by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, to help support the SnackPack program, much more is needed to fully fund the program and achieve our goal of eliminating child hunger in Nassau County.   

     If you would like to help feed Nassau County’s food-challenged children, please donate to Barnabas Center at or contact Tania Yount, Chief Development Officer at (904) 261-7000 ext. 107.

April Fundraiser to Support Barnabas a Success! 

Five local shops on historic Centre St came together in April to raise funds for the Barnabas Center’s Campaign for Sustainability Endowment Fund. From L to R: John Lecker, Lori Lecker, Barnabas CEO Wanda Lanier, Drenda Vijuk and Carlin Catanzaro hold a check with the total donation of $17, 257.


Thanks to the collabration and community spirit of five local retailers, one very generous donor, and the positive power of retail therapy, more than $17,000 was raised in support of Barnabas Center’s Campaign for Sustainability. This fundraiser, held on April 27th, consisted of a 10 percent of donation of the day’s sales by the owners/operaters of five stores located on historic Centre St: Lori+Lulu, Art on Centre, JJ Cooper, Pearl and The Picnic Basket. The owner of The Picnic Basket, Drenda Vijuk, also made a matching donation equal to the net sales of all five retailers for the day.

This is the second donation Drenda Vijuk has made in support of Barnabas’ Campaign for Sustainabilty which has a goal of $1.5 million to support the Barnabas Endowment Fund. This will allow Barnabas to continue to offer Nassau County residents crisis assistance, medical, dental and other needed services, far into the future. The fund will be invested and the earned interest will support the many critical services Barnabas provides to our community.

Financial management of the Barnabas Endowment Fund is handled by the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida, which has more than 50 years of experience, and deep roots in our region’s nonprofit sector.

   “Barnabas has always impressed me as being well run, but also having compassion for those who are struggling. So, it was an easy choice for me to make this gift to Barnabas. We are all here only a short time, but an endowment lasts forever”, Drenda Vijuk explained.

    While the recent fundraiser was a success, there’s still a large amount to be raised There are numerous ways individuals and families can offer support to the campaign, such as gifts of cash, stocks & bonds and real estate. Other gifts can be made in the form of IRAs, will and bequests, life insurance and gift annuities.                                                                                         If you would like to make a gift to the Barnabas Endowment Fund, please contact Tonia Yount, our Chief Development Officer at (904) 261-7000 ext 107 or visit our website at




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