JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — He's a Marine veteran with a heart as big as his smile. Every Saturday for the past 2 years Charlie Griffin has used his own money to buy meals for the homeless or anyone who's down on their luck in downtown Jacksonville. Now the veteran wants to help the community even more.
On the corner of Ocean Street and Union Street Griffin goes to work helping the people who need it the most. Saturdays at noon, that's exactly where you'll find him, passing out lunch to the underprivileged.
"It's like they're forgotten people," says Griffin. "So when they can walk in this door and know that we can just help them, just knowing that someone cares about them, it means everything."
The medical clinic will be located inside of the First Coast Community Development building and in the lobby of the building is a painting of a Muhammad Ali quote, which states 'Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth'. Griffin says the quote is important to him.
"We're blessed to be able to wake up, have a nice bed, have food, not many worries like that," says Griffin. "So for us to give back day in and day out, week in and week out, that quote is everything."
While Griffin has been paying to feed the homeless using his retirement checks from the Marines for the past 2 years, he's in the process of creating a medical clinic for the homeless.
"We've partnered with the county, so we are an STD clinic," says Griffin. "In the area that we're in it's a high rate of HIV, hepatitis, so that gets the process started."
Griffin partnered with pharmacist Dr. Albert Chester to help launch medical services inside of the First Coast Community Development building.
"Just knowing what he's doing in the community and has been doing, I couldn't help but what to help as much as I can," says Dr. Chester. "Anything and everything we do to wrap our arms around the community, our arms around people in need who are very vulnerable is what we're going to continue to do."
"Dr. Chester is definitely the pro," says Griffin. "He calls it medication management therapy, so they're able to bring their meds in, let us know what medications they're on, make sure they're on the right medications."
Dr. Chester described the medical space where exam rooms are available for a nurse practitioner to give a consultation to those who need medical help.
"Along with your basic primary care we eventually want to move into some specialty things because down here you do have some mental issues," says Dr. Chester. "You have sometimes when you're going to need a psychiatrist, maybe a drug abuse specialist and this will be our room for that."
This clinic is personal to Dr. Chester, he was born and raised in Jacksonville.
"My heart still lies in the heart of the city, in northwest Jacksonville and of course downtown," says Dr. Chester. "It means the world to me to be able to jump back on and be the Robin for lack of a better term in this whole thing."
When told that he's saving people's lives and making a difference, Griffin smiles but brushes off the compliment.
"When you say it, I receive it," says Griffin. "But I just don't think about it like that, I'm here doing my part, I'm paying my rent."
First Coast Community Development is a 501c3 non-profit and while Charlie Griffin has been feeding the homeless every week out of his own pocket, he does welcome donations. You can text the word "Serve" to 50155 to help Griffin and his cause.