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Life & Work with Jason Sowell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason Sowell.

Hi Jason, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m a Florida native and have lived in Florida my entire life… a bit of a unicorn, they say. I graduated from Trinity Baptist College in 2001, and went on the pastor a couple of churches then in 2008 I started a non-profit organization called Current Initiatives. I started current with the idea of wanting to meet tangible, overlooked needs that families in our Florida cities were struggling with.

I wanted to bring missions more local and more tangibly to our neighborhoods. Our first initiative to accomplish this was the Laundry Project, which assists lower-income individuals and families by taking over a laundromat for a day and covering all expenses associated with and providing the necessary items required to wash and dry clothes and linens.

From there, we started the Hopes for Homes Project, which provides complimentary remodeling and improvement work on homes owned by working-class families facing financial challenges with home repairs and maintenance. Volunteers work to repair damaged roofs and porches, remodel kids’ rooms and bathrooms, update energy-inefficient kitchens, and more.

Our third initiative, called Affordable Christmas, began in 2012, which is a seasonal initiative giving underserved families and parents the opportunity to purchase holiday gifts for their children for no more than $10 an item. Studies show that purchasing gifts, rather than receiving them for free, gives empowerment and dignity to these working parents who need a hand up.

This year, we will celebrate 14 years of dealing hope to communities through these initiatives.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Every journey has its ups and downs, and my journey with the current has been no different. When I started current, I had no idea how to run a non-profit organization and raise money. When we started the Laundry Project, I knew virtually nothing about laundromats and had no real plan to organize the projects, but we figured it out as we went.

Since then, we’ve learned to put together fundraising plans and build budgets and lean on the leadership and expertise of some incredible supporters along the way. For the first six years of current’s existence, I worked part-time at Starbucks to keep my bills paid and spent most of my free time trying to build current into a sustainable organization.

In 2016, we lost one of our most beloved Board Members at 44 years old to cancer. It was a gut punch for me personally as well as for the organization. He was the most encouraging person, filled with hope and positivity. In his honor, we adopted our mantra of being “Hope Dealers” to our communities through meeting tangible needs and helping to create dignity and empowerment for the families we serve.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Technically, I’m the Founder and CEO of a non-profit called Current Initiatives. What I really see my job as is being a Hope Dealer.

That applies not only to the families we serve through our Laundry Project, Hope For Homes Project, and Affordable Christmas initiatives but also to our volunteers and supporters and to our communities at large. Hope is not just an abstract idea, it’s very tangible. We see that tangibility through small acts of kindness in various ways. A simple act of dignifying kindness can bring so much hope and change someone’s world.

I think I’m most proud of this philosophy in our charitable work. We believe how you meet needs is just as important as what needs you meet. Charity should create dignity and empowerment, not dependency. Hope is found in dignity and empowerment. We do what we can to implement this philosophy into all of our initiatives.

We want to help parents and individuals be the hero of their own families/stories rather than us being the hero. We try to create opportunities for them to do that through examples like Affordable Christmas, where parents can purchase new gifts for their kids in a budget-friendly way so they can go home and give their kids a good Christmas rather than strangers giving those toys to their kids for them.

I’m also very proud of our Laundry Project initiative which meets a basic, largely overlooked need. Clean laundry brings a lot of dignity, and most people take clean laundry for granted. For many families, clean laundry is a luxury rather than a regularity because they are often choosing between buying groceries or washing their clothes due to being lower-income and other financial struggles.

To date, we’ve washed over 200,000 loads of laundry (2 million+ pounds) for more than 25,000 families in 15 states across the U.S. I believe this philosophy sets us apart in serving our communities.

Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love the cultural differences throughout the city.

From the beaches to the Westside and all around you’ll find a diverse style of living and neighborhoods. What I dislike is that very often the diversity of cultures are not highlighted and celebrated.

Great cities are built on forward-thinking which requires a diversity of thought and cultural inclusion. I’d like to see more of that become reality with Jacksonville.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Current Initiatives, JLat Photography, Jarrett Haas, Micah Pringle, Pep Rally, Inc., Christopher Brickman, and Jake Keck

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