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Anonymous chocolatier gives sweet new beginnings at City Rescue Mission

The mystery man donated $30,000 in chocolate-making equipment to City Rescue Mission. Proceeds from chocolate sales will go toward homeless and addiction recovery programs.

What makes the perfect piece of chocolate? Some people base their opinions on texture or sweetness, but a new Jacksonville chocolate company stands apart from the crowd because of the people who hand-craft the sweet morsels and the anonymous chocolatier who made it all possible.

Charis Chocolates is an entity of City Rescue Mission, which provides services for the homeless and addicted in Jacksonville. “Charis” is derived from the Greek word for “grace.”

“They saved my life,” Cheryl Clark, a recovering alcoholic who graduated from City Rescue Mission’s LifeBuilders program for addiction recovery, said. “[It was] the best thing that had ever happened to me, but the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

Clark is also a trained chef who spends nearly 40 hours a week volunteering at Charis Chocolates, which is located inside CRM’s McDuff Avenue Campus.

The money generated from Charis Chocolates sales will be used to fund programs for City Rescue Mission, primarily the LifeBuilders program.

“It’s an 18-month residential recovery program,” Penny Kievet, executive director of City Rescue Mission, said. “And that’s where all the funding is going.”

Kievet said a friend from church, who wanted to remain anonymous, approached her recently to see whether she’d be interested in his chocolate-making equipment. Kievet replied that she didn’t have the money to purchase it.

“He said ‘I don’t want your money,’” Kievet said. “He donated equipment, he donated molds, he donated everything that you need in order to become a chocolatier or a chocolate company, including the secret recipe.”

The anonymous chocolatier’s donations totaled about $30,000. Additionally, City Rescue Mission shelled out around $10,000 more to get the shop up and running.

The Charis chocolatiers are "students" in the addiction recovery program or, as in Clark’s case, graduates. Their hands are not only crafting chocolate, but second chances for others here on the First Coast.

“If we could bring more women in and more men in to help [them], and if making chocolate and dipping Oreos will do that, I’ll do it all day long,” Clark said.

Click here to learn more about Charis Chocolates.