The 2020 MBA Graduate and Thurgood Marshall College Fund Hennessy Fellow received $10,000 for his community service project
By Chris Bryant
Florida A&M University (FAMU) 2020 MBA graduate Jonas LaBoo found a way to feed people and help businesses hit hard by the global pandemic.
As part of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Hennessy Fellows Program, LaBoo was granted $10,000 to put toward community service projects. His idea involved feeding 300 people at three Tallahassee restaurants and helping students and families buy groceries.
“The event went well,” said LaBoo. “I accomplished the goal of highlighting how Black-owned businesses are hurting during these hard times while providing for those in the Black community.”
LaBoo proposed feeding families while supporting local Black-owned restaurants.
“After speaking to them, I could tell that they were all affected by the epidemic,” LaBoo said regarding calling the three local restaurants, Leola’s Crab Shack, LC’s Café, and Mr. B’s Real Grill BBQ. He selected each to provide 100 free meals to families in need.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, like other businesses, the three restaurants have struggled. Fewer people are eating out because of stay-at-home restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
“These are businesses that I’ve been to before,” said the 22-year-old Tallahassee native whose long-term goal is to create a private equity firm that handles high impact investing. After discussing the proposition with the restaurant owners, he realized that by providing meals for 300 families, he was also helping the local eateries.
Food insecurity was already a problem locally, but as a result of the pandemic, many people have been furloughed or laid off. LaBoo contacted Brenda Williams, executive director of the Tallahassee Housing Authority. Williams selected 10 families to receive groceries.
LaBoo also wanted to assist students who were still living in residence halls. He reached out to Kimberly Ceaser, a case manager in the Division of Student Affairs and a program coordinator for the Dorothy Henderson Scholars Program, which includes students who face homelessness or were in the foster care system.
“I looked through the last 30 to 40 students who had reached out to me,” said Ceaser, who chose the students based on their need. “This was a great project and I’m glad that he did reach out to Student Affairs.”
LaBoo purchased groceries for each of the students selected..
“She chose 10 students who are still living on campus because they have nowhere to go and we paid for their groceries,” said LaBoo. His community service project showed him things are worse than he imagined.
“It’s one thing to hear about unemployment on TV,” LaBoo said, “but to actually see face to face just how appreciative the people were that they could buy groceries for their families, showed me how severe things are.”