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Jacksonville, Fla. – April 9, 2020 – LISC Jacksonville today issued the following statement: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Janet G. Owens, executive director of LISC Jacksonville, passed away yesterday in Jacksonville following a long battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her closest family members. The entire LISC family mourns the loss of Janet and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends. Janet was a tremendous driving force in advancing LISC Jacksonville’s mission and work in our urban communities. She will be remembered as an inspirational community leader, advocate and trustee. She will be dearly missed.”
Sherry Magill, Chair of the LISC Jacksonville Advisory Board, issued the following statement on behalf of the Board of Directors: “Janet was a rare spirit, always filled with love and a positive outlook, and possessed an extraordinary ability to make everyone she encountered feel important and heard. She inspired and challenged everyone, in her uniquely kind and gracious manner, to overcome obstacles in creating a better quality of life for all. Her devotion to her family, her work and her community was selfless. Jacksonville has suffered a tremendous loss, but we are also filled with gratitude and lifelong appreciation for having received all that Janet gave to so many, for so long.”
Owens joined LISC Jacksonville as executive director in 2010 and shifted the organization’s strategic focus to a more comprehensive approach to community development, catalyzing a decade of significant community impact and accomplishments under her leadership. Owens directed the launch of numerous initiatives that have improved access to quality education, increased family income and wealth, created affordable housing, spurred economic investment and development, and fostered safer and healthier neighborhoods for thousands of urban residents and stakeholders.
In 2019, Owens received the University of North Florida’s OneJax Humanitarian Award in recognition of her integrity and dedication to improving human relations among diverse local groups. Leadership Jacksonville also recognized Owens as an outstanding community trustee during its 2018 Leadership Celebration. She also received the Women of Distinction Award for her career accomplishments and commitment to community service by the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council in 2009.
“Janet was a phenomenal community leader whose passion for helping our most vulnerable neighbors was rooted deeply in her soul, and she radiated that passion to everyone around her. She was an uplifting individual who had remarkable intuition on how to bring people together and enact long-lasting, positive change for so many. Janet was also a very courageous individual, persevering in advancing LISC’s mission despite the personal health challenges she faced in recent years. I am honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to work alongside her for many years. Being around her was absolute, pure joy,” stated J.F. Bryan, IV, former Chair of the LISC Jacksonville Advisory Board from its founding in 1999 to earlier this year.
During the past 10 years under Owens’ leadership, LISC Jacksonville invested millions of dollars in improving Jacksonville’s most challenged inner-city neighborhoods, taking a “bottom-up” approach to community revitalization. Rooted in the understanding that each community has its own human resources, Owens guided LISC Jacksonville to serve as a bridge builder between community members and external resources, such as capital and lending, to empower community members to create their own redevelopment plan. Positive impacts from these efforts will continue to be felt in neighborhoods including Northwest Jacksonville, Historic Springfield, New Town, the Railyard District and others for decades to come. Owens was also the driving force behind LISC Jacksonville’s investment in several pivotal historic preservation projects in downtown Jacksonville, including the Barnett Bank and Laura Street Trio.
“Janet Owens embodied all the things that make a great community developer, and a great person: she was both a sharp, clear-eyed thinker and an impassioned advocate, both pragmatic and compassionate. She was a true communicator and inspired partners from all walks of life to dedicate themselves, as she did, to the mission of catalyzing broadly shared prosperity in Jacksonville and Northeast Florida. She has left enormous shoes to fill, but, in her honor, we commit to continuing her life’s work. Personally, I am deeply saddened by the loss of my extraordinary colleague and friend. I send my condolences to her family, friends, colleagues and the countless community partners and residents whose lives she touched. It has been said that those who are remembered never die. Let’s get up every day and go to work fueled by memories of our beloved Janet,” stated Maurice A. Jones, president and CEO of LISC’s national office.
Prior to joining LISC Jacksonville, Owens was vice president of marketing and communications for United Way of Northeast Florida for eight years, and previously held leadership roles at Girl Scouts of Gateway Council and Volunteer Jacksonville. Owens also served in various city government capacities in Washington, D.C.; Adrian, Mich.; and Greenville, S.C. She was a Paul Harris Fellow, member of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville and served on numerous nonprofit boards, further exemplifying her lifelong commitment to helping vulnerable communities thrive.
“There are truly no words to describe this profound loss, and what it means for Janet's loved ones and the entire city of Jacksonville. Janet was a passionate community developer, and a connector like no other. She worked tirelessly throughout her career to bring the people and places she cared for so deeply together with partners who could help them forge opportunity and wellbeing. Janet is irreplaceable, but she has left us with the momentum and structure and inspiration to be able to carry on her critical, compassionate work,” stated Denise Scott, executive vice president of LISC’s national office.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) helps residents transform distressed neighborhoods into healthy, sustainable communities that are good places to live, work and play. Since 1999, LISC Jacksonville has invested nearly $500 million in urban core neighborhoods, including developing affordable housing as well as retail and community space, and helped create more than 3,000 jobs.
Joe Wolf, Hart & Associates