A Father’s Legacy Lives On

Daily Point of Light # 6460 Feb 21, 2019
Jo Chesser (3rd from right) and some of the dedicated volunteers that help to feed the hungry in her community./Courtesy Jo Chesser

When Jo Chesser’s dad Jim passed away in 2017, he left a huge hole, not just in her heart, but in the hearts of the countless people he helped in his 35 years running a community food bank with his church Fort Caroline Presbyterian. Jo knew that one way to keep her father’s memory alive was to create a foundation in his name and continue his work. She formed the Jim Dotson Foundation, and along with her mother and siblings and a slew of volunteers and partners, continues to feed, clothe and comfort the needy in her community.  With the help of partners including Lutheran Social Services, Publix, Feeding Northeast Florida, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Winn-Dixie, Farm Share,  Walmart and The Five Star Veterans Center , the Foundation feeds about 750 people a month. Not satisfied with simply volunteering on her own, Jo reaches out to co-workers and friends and inspires them to do the same, creating an even more powerful force in her community.

Jo is committed to making a difference in her community and she is today’s Daily Point of Light Award honorees. Points of Light spoke with her about her commitment to service.

What inspires you to volunteer? 

My parents taught us at an early age to give back to those who need help. My dad Jim Dotson had a food bank at a church for about 35 years and when he passed May 4, 2017, I wanted to continue his work so I started the Jim Dotson Foundation. It is still very much a family endeavor. My mother, daughter, sisters and good friends all  pitch in with specific roles that make it appear seamless, but as everyone knows, it takes a hard working village of committed folks to make it look that way

Jo Chesser (Left) shows off a plaque honoring her dad Jim Dotson, co-founder of the food bank that she continues in his honor./Courtesy Jo Chesser

Describe your volunteer role. 

As president of the Foundation, it’s my job to be sure everything gets done. That means being sure we have what we need for our mobile pantry.  We make boxes of canned goods and my daughter and I have pickup twice a week at Publix where we pick up meats, produce and bread.  We store the food until our pantry day.  Also, we get clothes donated  and fold and put the clothes in boxes by gender and size. 

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work? 

Since the foundation started the best thing is helping and meeting the people that come to the pantry.  A lot of our people give back, by helping us by take the boxes to other cars or sharing what they have with others or in one case, an older lady that makes homemade flan to share. We see the community coming together and wanting to help each other out. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer? 

It’s hard and never-ending work but I love doing it. 

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about? 

Yes we have two events coming up. On March 30th we host Jacksonville Sheriff Office Zone 2 roll call.  We usually have about seven shifts come in starting at 5 am through 6:30 pm. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with lots of dessert for them.  We strongly support all of our first responders and do what we can to let them know we do care.  We host roll call every other month for Zone 2 and working on getting the fire department and FHP too. 

We are having our First Fundraiser event on June 22th to raise money for a building.  We are having this at Mudville Grille 3105 Beach Blvd Jacksonville, Fl with live music, bbq and a silent auction. 

The Foundation feeds the local police force twice a month as a way of saying thanks./Courtesy Jo Chesser

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?

There are people out there in need of things and it would make this world a better place if others did just a little something.   

 What do you want people to learn from your story? 

That we are just everyday people trying to make our community better by helping. We all struggle in life but by giving just a little bit back, we truly are rewarded.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Jo? Visit All for Good for local volunteer opportunities.



Brenda Solis