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Every Sunday morning, a Jacksonville man patrols the beaches area looking for people in need. He hands out food, drinks and socks with a loving embrace.
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — He’s described as a boot on the ground warrior for the homeless population. Tracy Gebeaux spends his Sunday mornings on what he calls the Love Patrol. He reaches out to people where they are.
If you ask around the beaches area, you’ll quickly find out there’s something special about Gebeaux. His Sunday mornings begin at McDonalds on 3rd Street in Jacksonville Beach. While on the Love Patrol you’ll notice simple exchanges with a smile as he hands out food, drinks, and socks. With his buddy Joker in tow, Tracy rolls through the streets of Jax Beach giving out what he himself once needed.
“Just like me, he was homeless at one point,” Gebeaux said while petting Joker. He’s a rescue dog that helps Gebeaux help others.
The economy crashed in 2008 and he says virtually so did his world.
“Everything I knew was in construction or on a fishing boat and neither one of those things were hiring,” Gebeaux said.
“That was tough. Once I decided enough was enough and I needed to just outwardly say ‘listen guys I’m sleeping in my truck I’m hurting here,’ and immediately within 24 hours things started to turn around.”
Gebeaux understands what it’s like to need a loving embrace and the importance of hearing words many people use sparingly.
“Love you,” Gebeaux exclaimed as he hugged a woman who he says reminds him of his mother.
“Many hands make light work,” Gebeaux said. “So, what seems like it’s insurmountable isn’t if you get the right people involved that have the right heart.”
With the help of local churches, groups, donors, and volunteers, he’s able to hand out food, hugs and so much more. Gebeaux formed the Jacksonville Beach Brother’s Keeper organization. He arranges cold weather shelters and ‘Compassion Nights’ offering one night for showers, meals, supplies and shelter for area homeless.
“Every single homeless person at the beaches sleeps outside every single night,” Gebeaux said. “There are no overnight shelters.”
He says there is a day shelter that does an amazing job but what he’d like to see accomplished is the alignment of the numerous groups that work individually to pool their resources together to make an even bigger impact.