Recent News

A Letter from Our New CEO, Lori Ann Whittington

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As the new CEO of Pine Castle, I know I have big shoes to fill! Jon May left an incredible legacy for all of us to build on, and I know we will – together. Alongside our dedicated staff, volunteers, donors and participants, I will work hard to ensure that we not only continue the great history of Pine Castle, but that we also build an exciting future.

My personal philosophy for life is that Faith is first, Family is second, and Career comes third. That doesn’t mean that I’m not driven to success. What is does mean is that my faith informs my life first, and I believe, as our participant Percy said in the recent Florida Times Union article about Jon May’s departure, “It doesn’t matter what type of disability you have, everybody just wants be loved.” In the Gospel of Matthew, the greatest commandment given to us is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is what happens at Pine Castle – we deliver the mission with love now – and that is what we will continue to do as we move forward together.

As for my family, I am married to Ron Whittington, a public relations consultant and writer, and we have one daughter in college, and another daughter finishing high school this year. Ron’s mom, Frankie, also lives with us and is going strong at 88!

My qualifications to lead Pine Castle include more than 25 years of nonprofit experience. As a matter of fact, my entire career has been invested in the nonprofit sector. I have worked for local nonprofits, regional offices and national agencies in a variety of cities, including Dallas, Texas, Atlanta Georgia, and here in Jacksonville. I am a former Executive Director of the First Coast Area’s American Cancer Society office, and have been a consultant for a variety of social service agencies such as: the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, Beaches Action Team / Baptist Medical Center, Barnabas Center, Feeding Northeast Florida, ElderSource, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of North Florida, DieRections, Creating Healthy Families, The Carpenter’s Shop Center and United Way of Northeast Florida. My expertise includes a strong fundraising background and a passion for strategy.

My immediate focus will be on the amazing People of Pine Castle – the participants, staff, volunteers and donors – followed by an emphasis on maintaining and growing the quality of our Programs to make continuous Progress towards innovative and meaningful new strategies to fulfill our mission.

The future is bright for Pine Castle! The fiscal year ended with a strong surplus and the organization is sound. I look forward to working together with each of you to serve even more people of different abilities in our community.


Lori Ann Whittington

Thank You to Our Newest Corporate Program Partner

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The mission of the GATE Foundation is to support the efforts and services that nurture and protect the well-being of family and community. Pine Castle was selected as the 2015 beneficiary of the GATE Foundation Charity Golf Tournament.

On November 23, 2015, The GATE Foundation presented us with an $85,000 check to benefit all of our day programs, group homes, senior services and community employment programs. Since the check presentation, The GATE Foundation has committed to being a 2016 Corporate Program Partner to further support Pine Castle and our mission. 



18th Annual Independence Golf Classic Recap!

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holland-knight-pine-castle-201x300flowers-baking-pine-castle-201x300After unexpected flooding leading to the cancellation of the original tournament date, the 18th Annual Independent Golf Classic had perfect weather on December 7, 2015 at Atlantic Beach Country Club! Thank you to our presenting sponsor 121 Financial Credit Union.

Since its beginning in 1997, the Independence Golf Classic has raised over $1,000,000, drawing support from those interested in contributing to the strength and success of Pine Castle’s programs. Proceeds will support the long-term success of Pine Castle’s vocational and life skills training, job development and coaching, a seniors’ program, and long-term residential care.

Baptist Health, Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, bestbet Jacksonville, Bott-Anderson Partners, Inc., Florida Blue, Moran Environmental Recovery, Flowers Bakery, Republic Services, San Jose Rotary, The LBA Group, Wells Fargo and many more participated.

This year, we recognized Holland and Knight and Flowers Bakery for their outstanding leadership in providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities within the First Coast Business Community.


18th Annual Independence Golf Classic

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Pine Castle is nearing it’s 18th Annual Independence Golf Classic! This year the Independence Golf Classic is presented by 121 Financial Credit Union and will be held on Monday, December 7th at Atlantic Beach Country Club.

Since its beginning in 1997, the Independence Golf Classic has raised over $1,000,000, drawing support from those interested in contributing to the strength and success of Pine Castle’s programs. Proceeds will support the long-term success of Pine Castle’s vocational and life skills training, job development and coaching, a seniors’ program, and long-term residential care. 

Sponsorships for this premier tournament are available and appreciated. For details regarding Tournament Sponsorship Opportunities, visit our event page, or contact Anthony Sutton, (904) 733-2650 ext. 282



Pine Castle’s 3rd Annual Run For The Roses Soiree

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2015-rftr-save-the-date-media-mix-225x300Our 3rd annual Run For The Roses Derby Day Soiree is right around the corner!

Join us Saturday, May 2nd at the Timuquana Country Club! Patrons will enjoy a night of traditional derby day activities including a “Bonnets & Bowties” contest, silent and live auctions, and dinner and drinks! The mint juleps will be flowing, so don’t forget to bring your best bonnet or bowtie!

Last year we raised over $90,000 for Pine Castle programs. We hope to surpass expectations again this year! There’s no better feeling than partying for a purpose!

To see pictures from last year’s Run For The Roses, click here!


It’s “Report Card” Time for Pine Castle!

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Accountability and transparency are two concepts that the Pine Castle family embraces whole-heartedly. We are proud of our successes and are pleased to share them with you in our Annual Report 2014. Here are just a few of the highlights… Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 1.46.32 PM

• 467 persons received Training, Education, and/or Support Services
• 87 persons received Community Employment Coaching
• 38 persons received Residential Services
• Campus Work Opportunities/Product and Contract Sales totaled $1,474,510 (+33%)
• Development Contributions totaled $601,886 (+25%)
• Source of Funds = $5,710,176 – a 10% increase vs. Fiscal Year 2013
• Use of Funds = $5,651,278

In 2014, Pine Castle expanded opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in learning, working, and meaningfully connecting to the First Coast community. We sincerely thank our many caring supporters for making it all possible. Read our Annual Report 2014 to find out more about our programs and our supporters here!

Pine Castle Holds 17th Annual “Independence Golf Classic”

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17th Annual Independence Golf Classic

Pine Castle’s 17th Annual “Independence Golf Classic”, presented by 121 Financial Credit Union, was held at Deerwood Country Club was held on Monday, July 14, 2014.

Representing tournament sponsor, Jason Hyrne & Jeff Wyatt of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, First-place Gross Division winners were Jeff Wyatt, Karisa Akins, Alan Henderson and Clay Churchill (pictured).  Representing tournament sponsor, Borland-Groover Clinic, First-place Net Division winners were Tom Birdsong, John Gol, West Bernhardt, and Eric Drake.

Since its beginning in 1997, the Independence Golf Classic has raised over $1,000,000, drawing support from those interested in contributing to the strength and success of Pine Castle’s programs, which assist adults with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities to reach their greatest possible levels of independence.  Proceeds will support the long-term success of Pine Castle’s vocational and life skills training, job development and coaching, a seniors’ program, and long-term residential care.  

Pine Castle’s Executive Director, Jonathan May, expressed his appreciation for the tournament sponsors and participants’ dedication to the agency’s mission.  “As we celebrate over 60 years of Pine Castle’s service to the Jacksonville community and surrounding counties, we look back on a time when people with disabilities weren’t fully a part of society, and there were no educational or employment services available to them,” he explained.  “Consistent community support for programs which assist citizens with disabilities demonstrates that today, everyone matters.”

The tournament’s Awards Luncheon, sponsored by Sam’s Clubs of Jacksonville, provided an important opportunity to honor Publix, Chartwells Thompson, Service Solutions and Goodwill of North Florida, four area companies that have partnered with Pine Castle and demonstrated leadership in the creation of job opportunities within our community for those with disabilities.  Pine Castle’s Community Employment Program has provided qualified employees and on-the-job training and follow-up services to the business community since 1988.

Other top sponsors of the event included Flowers Baking Co., Tom Bush Family of Dealerships, Baptist Health, the law firm of Driver, McAfee, Peek & Hawthorne, Moran Environmental Recovery, Art Dobosiewicz/UBS Financial, LBA Group, and Drs. Bruce and Deborah Krieger.

Celebrating a Year of New Work Opportunities for Vocational Training Participants

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On any given weekday, Pine Castle’s campus is a very busy place with year-round learning and work opportunities for over 250 people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.  Individualized vocational training and work experience, education and the development of life skills will benefit them throughout their lives by helping them to achieve greater personal independence.

This spring marks one year since Pine Castle was awarded a new contract through RESPECT of Florida to assemble a full line of drug test products and kits for use by Corrections and Juvenile Justice agencies across the state.  (See Castle Connections, Fall 2013 to read about Pine Castle’s state-wide distinction as RESPECT’s “Employment Center of the Year”.)

 Staff member Tiffany Lockett leads a team of seven vocational program participants who train and work at minimum wage rate in Pine Castle’s ICE (Inter-Cooling Environment) House.  “The ICE House is the base of this operation and was specially designed and built last year to preserve temperature-sensitive kit products and includes space for my team to organize items and prepare kits for shipment,” Tiffany explained.

The large volume of incoming orders for kits and other drug testing products creates challenging work for Tiffany’s team members and for many additional people in other training areas across the campus.  Tiffany, who has worked at Pine Castle for twelve years, and other veteran staff members have developed an expertise in evaluating work to be done and strategizing the best ways to adapt it for individuals functioning within broad ranges of cognitive and physical abilities.  “Pine Castle’s long experience in assisting people with I/D disabilities to gain work skills and experience enables our staff to study and effectively modify nearly any task to accommodate an individual’s needs.  Our goal is to present the work so that each person can strive as independently as possible to complete their work successfully,” Tiffany said.

Team member Jennifer has some difficulty counting products, so Tiffany applied visual cues to the tabletop in Jennifer’s work station.  The adaptation of the workspace allows Jennifer to confidently position the correct number of items to package each time.

 Tiffany’s team eagerly sorts a newly received shipment of products as she monitors their progress.  Jennifer indicates that she has assembled the products needed to fill another container.  Tiffany checks Jennifer’s count and gives her the go-ahead with a warm smile.  Jennifer smiles back at her proudly and begins to carefully place each item into the box.  “I love my job,” she said.

Rotary Club of Jacksonville to Provide Vital Health Care Equipment for Campus

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Pine Castle will soon receive two much-needed pieces of equipment to safeguard the wellbeing of people served on campus.  Rotary Club of Jacksonville awarded grant funding in April to purchase an additional defibrillator for emergency response to cardiac arrest and a hydraulic patient lift to aid in the transfer of people to and from wheelchairs during personal care.

Since Pine Castle’s founding in 1952 as one of the first schools in the state for children with intellectual/developmental (I/D) disabilities, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville has provided generous and highly impactful support for the organization, first by hosting a charity ball in 1953 that retired the mortgage on Pine Castle’s property where the organization remains to this day.

Because state funding covers only about 60% of the costs to operate Pine Castle’s programs, community partnerships like this one are crucial to meeting the needs of over 300 people in the First Coast community each week. 

Rotary of Jacksonville Lift article 001Over a decade ago, Pine Castle introduced professional health care coordination services within its five group homes, hiring the organization’s first full-time Registered Nurse to meet the year-round health care needs of 38 residents, all with moderate to profound levels of I/D disabilities.  The staff members of Pine Castle’s campus-based training, education and employment day program hoped that their program, too, could someday include a nurse.  The Program’s newly promoted director, Michel Johnson, recalls, “We were receiving many applications each year from individuals of all ages with both I/D disabilities and medically-complex conditions, including new high school graduates in need of vocational and life skills training to transition successfully into independent adult life.  Without a medical professional on Pine Castle’s campus to manage their daily needs, sadly, we had to turn them away.”

In 2008, Pine Castle opened the Life Enrichment Center, a 16,000-square-foot facility which included the campus’ first clinic, managed by the organization’s second Registered Nurse.  Pine Castle became one of very few organizations on the First Coast that provides specialized vocational and life skills training, personal care and health services each weekday for people with I/D disabilities and complex health conditions.

Sincere thanks to Rotary Club of Jacksonville for their most recent contribution to make possible the best care for some within the community who need it most.

Pine Castle Honored

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Nursing, RESPECT Awards 2013 010

(L-R) Pine Castle’s Gail Bates, Business Manager Ok Sun Burks, Production Manager Mark Barno, and Executive Director Jon May.

Chosen from a state-wide group of 50 organizations that provide employment opportunities for people with disabilities, Pine Castle was named “Employment Center of the Year” this September by RESPECT of Florida. 

RESPECT was created by the state legislature in 1974 to assist people with disabilities to achieve maximum independence through gainful employment and serves as a purchasing program for government agencies.  Pine Castle Executive Director Jon May accepted the award in Tallahassee and congratulated Gail Bates, who received the “Rookie of the Year” award for tremendous achievements during her first year of work in Pine Castle’s Mop Shop.

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