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City of Jacksonville to Distribute $2.775 Million Gift from United Arab Emirates for Hurricane Irma Relief Project

October 15, 2018

- Local gift part of $10 million UAE pledge to help statewide recovery efforts

- Gift recipients include Duval County Public Schools, Ken Knight Drive Neighborhood, Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville, the I.M. Sulzbacher Center, and Charles Reese Park


(October 15, 2018, Jacksonville, Florida) – As part of its ongoing commitment to help Florida communities recover from Hurricane Irma, UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry announced today the disbursement of $2.775 million in funds to aid restoration and rehabilitation efforts across the local community. This gift is part of a larger relief pledge from the UAE to the state of Florida of $10 million for recovery efforts. 

“We are delighted to help the City of Jacksonville embark on the next phase of its recovery after residents here faced record flooding and storm damage caused by Hurricane Irma,” Ambassador Al Otaiba said. “This community showed great resilience in the storm’s immediate aftermath. Everyone in the UAE watched with great concern, and we wanted to help the state recover with projects to help the people of Florida get back on their feet.”

The City of Jacksonville will distribute the gift to fund Irma relief projects, including computer labs to two local schools, William M. Raines and Jean Ribault High Schools, and innovative programs to facilitate student access to technical education.

The gift will also be used to restore Charles Reese Park, repair damaged houses, and develop other public infrastructure efforts. In addition, the gift will support the City’s efforts to minimize the number of people experiencing homelessness and fund the creation of two multi-service mobile medical clinics that will provide primary care, hygiene, and mental health services to homeless individuals.

“We know the impacts hurricanes can have on a community all too well, having experienced back-to-back storms within a year of each other,” said Mayor Lenny Curry. “When Irma impacted our area last year, she brought unprecedented storm surges and historic levels of flooding to our city. Many people in our community are still recovering from the aftermath. But Jacksonville is full of strong, hard-working, dedicated people, and our history shows that. Thanks to the grant funding from the United Arab Emirates announced today, we are able to restore and rebuild one of our city’s most impacted neighborhoods, and make it stronger than before.”

Duval County Public Schools 

Duval County Public Schools will receive $425,000 of the UAE grant to fund programs at the Construction and Architecture Career Academy and for computer labs at two local schools, William M. Raines and Jean Ribault High Schools.

“Transferring knowledge and skills from the classroom to real-world application is an objective of quality education, especially in the skilled trades,” said Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “This grant gives our students a tremendous opportunity to do that. With partners like Builders Care and HabiJax, our skilled trade students will apply what they learn in our schools and labs on an active construction site. That significantly improves their readiness for careers when they graduate. This grant benefits our community in two ways. First, it will help revitalize the Ken Knight Drive area. Second, it will better prepare Duval graduates for high wage employment when they graduate from our high schools.”

The projects funded by the UAE grant will help accelerate student access to technical education. In partnership with Builders Care, Habijax and A. Philip Randolph Career Academies, students will jointly complete proposed neighborhood rehabilitation projects as part of the Construction and Architecture Career Academy. Students will be able to participate in the full process of building a home and other renovation projects.

Ken Knight Drive Neighborhood

One of the hardest hit communities by Hurricane Irma was the Ken Knight Drive neighborhood, on the Northside of Jacksonville. In response to the debilitating effects of the storm, Builder’s Care and Habitat for Humanity of Jacksonville will receive approximately $650,000 combined to fund the Ken Knight Drive Neighborhood Home Repair and Restoration Project.

“Builders Care is immeasurably appreciative of the UAE's commitment to help Jacksonville's most vulnerable citizens affected by Hurricane Irma,” said Executive Director Justin Brown. “We are also grateful to the Mayor's office for putting together this collaboration of local nonprofits; addressing the immediate needs of flood victims in a community persistently distressed by generational poverty.”

“We are so grateful for the UAE’s financial support of the revitalization and restoration of the Jacksonville community,” said HabiJax President & CEO Mary Kay O’Rourke. “Because of their generosity, additional families in the Urban Core of Jacksonville have access to a safe and healthy home and access to affordable homeownership.”

In addition, the City of Jacksonville will receive $800,000 to restore the Ken Knight Drive neighborhood park, Charles Reese Park, and to fund other public infrastructure projects in the area.

I.M. Sulzbacher Center for Mobile Medical Clinics

Jacksonville has more than 5,000 people experiencing homelessness throughout the city. Local providers have facilitated 100,000 medical and dental visits in the last three years. However, realizing the increasing number of people who rely on these services, Mayor Curry called on providers to recommend ways to increase access to medical and dental services for homeless persons.

The I.M. Sulzbacher Center will receive approximately $900,000 from the UAE grant to design and build two multi-service mobile medical clinics to provide primary care, hygiene, and mental health services to homeless individuals otherwise disconnected from existing community services.

“Sulzbacher is so incredibly grateful to our friends from the United Arab Emirates for the amazing gift of two mobile units to increase both health and social service access to our most vulnerable homeless neighbors living on the streets of Jacksonville,” said Sulzbacher President & CEO Cindy Funkhouser. “The mobile units will allow the homeless providers to reach people where they are to connect them to the help they need to end their homelessness.”
Other Florida Recovery Initiatives

In addition to this grant, the UAE announced in August a $2.7 million grant to Naples, Florida, which will be managed by the United Way of Collier County and distributed to key neighborhoods for rehabilitation, as well as to the Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) and Grace Place for Children and Families.

The UAE has an extensive record of helping US communities recover from natural disasters – from New Orleans to New Jersey after Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012), to Joplin, Missouri (2011), which was devastated by one of the largest tornadoes ever recorded in the U.S. Most recently, the UAE announced a $10 million grant to the state of Texas following the impact of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.


Media Contact:

Embassy of the United Arab Emirates

(202) 243-2448


About the City of Jacksonville

The City of Jacksonville is the largest city by land mass in the continental United States, serving approximately 850,000 residents. Located in Duval County, City of Jacksonville leadership includes the mayor and a 19-member City Council. To learn more about the City of Jacksonville, visit COJ.net.


About the United Arab Emirates

The UAE is a source of stability, acceptance, innovation and growth in the Arabian Gulf and around the world. The United States and the UAE are close friends and strong allies, working together to promote regional security, create economic prosperity and address pressing global challenges. In fact, the UAE is the largest export market for US goods in the Middle East and more US naval vessels visit UAE ports than any other port outside the United States. Cultural, educational and medical partnerships between the UAE and US are spurring innovation, inspiring creativity and increasing understanding in both countries.

For more information: www.uae-embassy.org and @UAEEmbassyUS.