MAITLAND, Fla. – Kevin Gay, CEO and founder of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Operation New Hope, has been selected to receive The Florida Bar Foundation’s 2016 Medal of Honor Award, the Foundation’s highest award, in the non-lawyer category.
A Jacksonville native, Gay left the corporate world and founded Operation New Hope in 1999 to help rebuild Jacksonville’s challenged urban communities and give ex-offenders the opportunity to successfully transition home and lead productive lives.
“Kevin has demonstrated both great commitment and success in providing aid to those in our legal system who need it the most,” said Wm. J. Sheppard, who nominated Gay and who was the recipient of the Foundation’s 2004 Medal of Honor Award in the lawyer category.
Operation New Hope is a faith-based nonprofit community development corporation with a two-pronged business model that includes the development of affordable housing and workforce development focuses on the reintegration of ex-offenders. In 2003, President George W. Bush selected Operation New Hope as the pilot site for the Ready4Work program, a prisoner reentry program that has since been introduced in 16 U.S. cities and has been hailed by former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama.
Participants attend a comprehensive four- to six-week career development training course featuring employment and life skills and are partnered with a case manager, who provides guidance and support, referrals for community assistance, life coaching and follow-up drug screening. While recidivism rates are nearly 70 percent within three years nationally, Jacksonville’s Ready4Work program has a recidivism rate of less than 35 percent. Meanwhile, it has a 70-percent retention rate in its workforce programs, which involve partnerships with more than 300 businesses in Jacksonville and the surrounding area.
Operation New Hope has helped more than 3,700 ex-offenders reenter their communities and workforce and has indirectly served their 7,200 children. The organization’s Breaking the Cycle program provides training, counseling and support for the family members of those who have been incarcerated. And in just over a decade Operation New Hope has restored or built close to 80 homes in the urban neighborhoods of Historic Springfield and East Jacksonville.
Gay is also a founding member of Reconcile Jacksonville, an organization promoting interracial community interactions, and has served on many community boards, including that of HabiJax, one of the largest Habitat for Humanity affiliates. He has received numerous awards, including the Neighborhoods USA Notables Award, the Jacksonville Business Journal’s Ultimate CEO Award, and most recently, the OneJax Humanitarian Award for 2016. He has served on the Florida Department of Corrections Prisoner Re-Entry Advisory Board, on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and on the transition teams for Jacksonville mayors Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry.
“As a Jacksonville native and influential community leader, Kevin serves with a genuine spirit of compassion for our city and people,” Mayor Curry wrote in his support letter for Gay’s nomination. “Since 1999, his vision, leadership and efforts through Operation New Hope have been an inspiration, not only here on the First Coast, but also across the nation.”
The Medal of Honor Award in the non-lawyer category recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to improving the administration of justice.
“I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to advocate for justice for those coming home from jails and prisons. So to receive this award from The Florida Bar Foundation is a tremendous honor. It is also very humbling when I think of my many heroes in the legal community who use their incredible talents, time and resources to ensure justice for so many around our great state,” Gay said.
The Medal of Honor Award, sponsored by Florida Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company, will be presented at The Florida Bar Foundation’s 40th Annual Reception and Dinner June 16 at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. Tickets can be purchased at www.TheFloridaBarFoundation.org/tickets for $125 per person.
Lawyer Medal of Honor Awards
|2017||John F. Harkness, Jr.||https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/john-f-harkness-jr-receive-florida-bar-foundations-2017-medal-honor-award-lawyer/|
|2016||Kathleen Schin McLeroy||For her innovative ideas to increase IOTA revenue, her successful efforts to preserve county funding for legal aid, her leadership of organizations supporting pro bono at the national, state and local level, as well as more than 20 years of direct services to pro bono clients.||https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/tampa-attorney-kathleen-schin-mcleroy-receives-florida-bar-foundations-2016-medal-honor-award|
|2015||William A. Van Nortwick, Jr.||For his decades in leadership of virtually every statewide organization and committee involving pro bono and legal services in Florida, for leading the One Campaign to promote pro bono work throughout the state, and for serving as a role model for other judges and lawyers, inspiring greater volunteer participation through his example.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=4303|
|2014||Bob Butterworth||For his effective enforcement of victim and consumer protection, environmental, civil rights and anti-trust laws as Florida's longest-serving Attorney General, his noteworthy accomplishments in expanding open government in Florida, and his willingness and capacity to assume difficult jobs when it was crucial to the public good to do so.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2164|
|2013||Robert C. Josefsberg||For his half century of counsel to governors, judges and clients ranging from a rock star to the poorest of the poor; his dedicated pro bono service to individual clients, as well as legal services and other charitable and community organizations; and his longstanding advocacy for civility in the legal profession.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2543|
|2012||Henry M. Coxe, III||For his pro bono work, fundraising for legal aid, and leadership of the organized Bar.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2611|
|2011||Bruce B. Blackwell||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2667|
|2010||Joseph P. Milton||For his leadership in promoting professionalism and ethics to his fellow attorneys through his extensive service to the bar and by setting the highest example in his own law practice.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2771|
|2009||Sylvia H. Walbolt||For her 45 years of providing free legal services to clients ranging from Guantanamo detainees to a St. Petersburg organization that feeds the hungry.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2822|
|2008||Terrence Russell||For his exceptional lifelong compassion and undaunting efforts to secure state funding for legal assistance for the poor through the Florida Access to Civil Legal Assistance Act.|
|2007||A. Hamilton Cooke||For his many contributions to providing access to justice for those living in poverty throughout Florida, and his tireless service to HabiJax.|
|2006||W. Dexter Douglass||For a lifetime of service and sacrifice, particularly as chair of the Constitutional Revision Commission in 1998.|
|2005||J. Dudley Goodlette||For spearheading the passage of the Florida Civil Legal Assistance Act.|
|2004||William J. Sheppard||For a long and distinguished legal career working on behalf of the underprivileged and oppressed, ensuring that "equal justice for all" is not a hollow phrase.|
|2003||Robert M. Ervin||For his unselfish, dedicated career of service to the public and the legal profession.|
|2002||Martha W. Barnett||For her outstanding service as immediate past president of the American Bar Association and her commitment to the principles of duty and service to the public.|
|2001||Patrick G. Emmanuel||For his distinguished record of active participation and lifelong dedication to the objectives of The Florida Bar.|
|2000||Joseph W. Hatchett||For his distinguished 22-year career of judicial service dedicated to upholding the civil rights of the oppressed, the vulnerable, and the unpopular.|
|1999||Samuel S. Smith||For his unswerving dedication to the legal profession, and for his leadership in establishing the Guardianship Program of Dade County.|
|1998||Burton Young||For his distinguished selfless service in working toward the betterment of The Florida Bar and the legal profession.|
|1997||Justice Richard W. Ervin||For his achievement and service to the public by improving the institutions of government and the administration of justice in Florida.|
|1996||William O.E. Henry||For his dedicated leadership to the community, public service in the legal profession, and outstanding efforts in representation of death row inmates.|
|1995||Steven M. Goldstein||For devotion of time and energy to providing legal services to the poor, for his voluntary services to the Bar, and for serving as a role model to his colleagues and students at the university law school.|
|1994||Thomas H. Barkdull, Jr.||For his distinguished career as a practicing lawyer and appellate judge.|
|1993||Raymond Ehrlich||For his commitment to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.|
|1992||James C. Adkins||For his contributions to the law and legal profession as a member of the Supreme Court of Florida.|
|1991||Thomas LeRoy Collins|
|1990||Janet Reno||For her dedication to the highest ideals of our institutions of justice, children and the poor.|
|1989||Neal R. Sonnett||For his commitment and leadership in improving the criminal justice system and in protection of individual rights.|
|1988||James C. Rinaman, Jr.||For his work in furthering the public service activities of the organized bar.|
|1987||Talbot D'Alemberte||For significant achievements in judicial and legislative reform, civil liberties, legal education, advancement of the legal profession and the work of the organized bar.|
|1986||Russell E. Carlisle||For his dedication to the advancement of pro bono service by the legal profession and for his work in carrying IOTA across the nation.|
|1984||Ben F. Overton||For leadership of the bench and bar, support for continuing judicial education and service to the public.|
|1983||Arthur J. England, Jr.||For his leadership in establishing the interest on trust accounts in Florida and nationally.|
|1981||Wm. Reece Smith, Jr.||For his long years of service to the Bar in establishing the first judicial nominating commission and for service on behalf of legal services to the poor.|
|1980||Chesterfield H. Smith||For his years of dedicated service to the bench and bar.|
|1979||Reubin O'D. Askew||For his leadership in establishing judicial nominating commissions, and for the re-organization of the judicial system.|
|1978||Tobias Simon||For his protection of the rights of the oppressed and the poor and for his advocacy for improved prison conditions in Florida.|
|1977||Richard T. Earle, Jr.|
Non-lawyer Medal of Honor Awards
|2017||Jane Elizabeth Curran||For her 33 years of visionary leadership of The Florida Bar Foundation as its founding executive director, her immeasurable contributions to the national IOLTA movement, and her tireless advocacy promoting access to justice statewide and nationally.||https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/orlandos-jane-elizabeth-curran-receive-florida-bar-foundations-2017-medal-honor-award-non-lawyer/|
|2016||Kevin Gay||For his work as CEO and founder of Operation New Hope to help rebuild Jacksonville’s challenged urban communities and give ex-offenders the opportunity to successfully transition home and lead productive lives.||https://thefloridabarfoundation.org/kevin-gay-receives-florida-bar-foundations-2016-medal-honor-award-nonlawyer/|
|2011||Kathleen "Katie" Self||For her pioneering work in the implementation of Teen Courts across Florida; the volunteering of her services in establishing the Teen Court of Sarasota, the state’s first; and for her leadership in expanding the program to 50 Florida counties that together divert more than 22,000 at-risk children into Teen Courts every year.||http://thefloridabarfoundation.org/?p=2670|
|2008||Elizabeth Lander "Budd" Bell||For over four decades of volunteer advocacy to improve the lives of Florida's children, elderly and disabled persons.|
|2007||Dr. Walter F. Lambert||For his life's work as a medical advocate for abused and neglected children, and for his significant volunteer work for South Florida children in foster care.|
|2006||Janet McAliley||For selfless dedication to the better lives of children and immigrants, through her service to the Dade County School Board, and as president of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.|
|2005||Abraham S. Fischler, Ed.D||For turning the dreams of countless people into realities through his intellect, commitment, drive and spirit.|
|2004||Rosalie Heffernan||For giving meaning and substance to the U.S. Constitution by starting an after-school elective called "Constitutional Studies."|
|2003||Lois Thacker Graessle||For a lifetime of selfless volunteer service in the pursuit of justice.|
|2002||Raul G. Barrera||For improving the administration of justice by bringing truth to the ideal of equal justice under the law for migrant farmworkers.|
|2001||John B. Orr, Jr.||For his courageous stand against a 1956 package of bills filed in the Florida legislature whose purpose was to perpetuate school segregation.|
|1999||Gene Miller||For his integrity as an investigative reporter in the coverage of the murder trials of two wrongfully convicted death row inmates.|
|1998||Reverend Fred L. Maxwell||For his leadership in Orlando to provide housing for for the homeless.|
|1996||Jean F. Norman||For her efforts and contributions in organizing "Law School for the Layman" and "Helping Children Cope with Divorce" programs for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.|
|1994||Major John Smith||For his leadership, dedication and pioneering efforts in establishing the "GUTS" program for at-risk African-American males.|
|1993||Elaine Webb-Alvarez||For her outstanding efforts and leadership as a child advocate in the State of Florida.|
|1992||Abraham R. Brown||For his tireless efforts to address the spiritual needs of those confined to penal institutions.|
|1991||Mary Ellen Beaver||For her tireless advocacy for legal rights on behalf of migrant farmworkers.|
|1990||Audrey Lincourt Schiebler||For her pioneering achievements in improving the administration of justice to abused and neglected children.|
|1989||Marshall McDonald||For his work in improving the State Judicial System by bringing judicial reform and improved judicial compensation standards to Florida.|
|1988||Sr. Cathy Gorman||For her work to provide access to legal services, housing, health care, education and fair employment standards to migrant farmworkers.|
|1987||Rev. A. Leon Lowry, Sr.||For community leadership in promoting civil rights through constructive change.|
|1985||Sylvia Alberdi||For her dedication to the ideals of good government in service to the people of Florida as staff director of the Florida Senate’s Civil Judiciary Committee.|
|1984||Martin A. Dyckman||For his leadership in establishing and maintaining open government in Florida and excellence and accountability in our elected and appointed officials and for support for reform of the state’s prison system.|
|1982||Lucy Batchelor||For her work as director of the Human Relations Programs at state correctional facilities.|
|1981||William C. Clark||For his work as a lay member of Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission.|
|1978||Robert A. Rosof||For his pioneering work with juvenile offenders at the Dade Marine Institute.|