LoveLakeland’s May 2023 CityMakers

Kristina & Jeremy Mockabee

By Jonathan Camargo

A Legacy of Celebration

Many people never consider the impact they are making on the world in their lifetime. While some people’s impact reaches far and wide, other people’s impact reaches their direct circle. Either way, everyone makes an impact.

Here in Lakeland, we like to honor and share those who are making a direct and positive impact in our community. We call these people CityMakers. They give from themselves to help make our city a beautiful, welcoming place for all.

This month’s CityMaker is a couple; Jeremy and Kristina Mockabee. As Salvation Army officers, they oversee Lakeland’s branch and work tirelessly to help Lakeland families get on their feet.

Answering the Call

It’s been three years since the Mockabee family was sent from Atlanta, Georgia to Lakeland, Florida by the Salvation Army. Jeremy and Kristina Mockabee became Salvation Army officers in 2013. Both received degrees in Practical Ministries and were commissioned as Congregational Life Officers in Greenville, South Carolina. They have three children named Morgan, Aubrey, and Maverick, and together their family has experienced three commissions.

After their three appointments with the Salvation Army, Jeremy is able to say that the Lakeland appointment is his favorite one yet. The Lakeland community has something special about it, and Jeremy loves the unique, generous spirit that radiates through it. The philanthropic heart of Lakeland is the perfect setting for the work of the Mockabees and the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army is a faith-based organization that began as a church. The Mockabee’s faith has been the driving force in their life as they have moved from location to location. While Jeremy would have chosen Lakeland on his own, he believes that God’s perfect plan brought his family to the community.

Here to Help

“Lakeland’s uniqueness is this overwhelming, engulfing feel that the community has in wanting to help one another,” says Jeremy. “They want to help and they’re eager to come alongside, not only the Salvation Army, but other great organizations that we get to serve alongside in this Community.”

Part of the Salvation Army’s statement is to do the most good. This statement is a promise to supporters that the most good will be done with whatever they give, no matter how much, whether millions of dollars, an old shoe, or simply time. As Officers in the Salvation Army, the Mockabees are dedicated to helping those in need in the Lakeland community.

Daily Work

The Mockabees are involved in the work of the Salvation Army on a daily basis, from small opportunities to exceptionally large campaigns. Currently, they are focused on a capital campaign and are working on raising $19.5 million in funds to further their work in the Community.

Jeremy and Kristina’s daily work involves running the capital campaign. As ordained ministers with the Salvation Army, they also oversee a congregation, running both the Sunday service and the Wednesday night youth group.

The Mockabees truly understand the meaning of teamwork and partnership. Together they oversee the capital campaign, the congregation, and their family. They tend to divvy up the responsibilities and work side-by-side to get things done.

Jeremy says, “It’s a great partnership that my wife and I have. We can tackle something and kind of divide and conquer. She is 100% dedicated, just as much as I am, to making sure the Salvation Army is successful…and that the people we encounter, that we can make their lives a little bit better and add value to them.”

Starting a Legacy

While the Salvation Army has long been a part of Lakeland, Jeremy and Kristina Mockabee are doing some different things with the organization. With nearly 25 full-time employees at The Salvation Army, the Mockabees first found themselves needing to knock down some walls in order to connect the various departments and team members.

Since then, things have been running a lot smoother and people are feeling more connected. The team has actively searched for ways to help children and families in need.

Jeremy believes that contributing to the education of Lakeland’s children is essential and should be a top priority for anyone who cares for the betterment, and future, of the community.

“We’re focusing on the kids. We have a daycare and after-school care. Every child that comes through our daycare or after-school center tests higher than the average Polk County student. The progression rate for a homeless family right now, the average rate, is 88%. That means 88% of children experiencing homelessness will progress to the next level.

Jeremy Mockabee, May 2023 Lakeland CityMaker

A Life of Service

The Lakeland Salvation Army is also focused on helping the homeless and especially homeless families. When the Mockabees arrived in Lakeland, the Salvation Army ran a 20-apartment shelter entirely for families and transitional housing with 24 units. Within their first six months, the Mockabees had multiple conversations with their advisory board, staff, people in the community, and government officials. From those interviews, they decided it was time to launch a capital campaign.

From that campaign, Jeremy explains, “Our 20 bedroom-shelter is now getting ready to be a 40 bedroom shelter, our triplex is going from 24 apartments to 36 apartments. We’re also building 13 houses, three-bedroom houses, as well. That’s going to be semi permanent supportive housing for families. We have a 30,000 square foot warehouse that we have for disaster services. We have our daycare center that holds all of our kids, and we’re getting ready to build part of the campaign, a 35,000 square foot community center that will serve the community.”

When considering all that he and Kristina have done with the Salvation Army for the Lakeland community, he believes that their impact so far has been in green lighting and igniting the capital campaign for growth. He explains, “We’re going to help twice as many people than we were already able to help.”

Planting the Seeds

Working for the Salvation Army means that the Mockabees will not stay in Lakeland permanently. Officers are typically moved every three to five years, and the Mockabee family has already been in Lakeland for three.

Jeremy says, “We’ll probably be here five years. We were told we’d see through the building phase of the capital campaign.”

While they may not be here to see the work in action, Jeremy is content with what they will have accomplished by the end of their time in Lakeland.

An Ode of Thanks

The Mockabees are grateful to have served the Lakeland community and left their mark. “We have such a cool opportunity to plant the seeds. We may not see the fruit of that, but it’s not about us getting the glory for that, or getting the accolades about that. It’s about helping the community we’re living in,” Jeremy continues, “I guarantee the people that follow us will see the fruits of our labors. Families are going to be impacted by this, and their children, and their children. It’s generational.”

Jeremy feels his work with the Salvation Army isn’t about immediate gratification, but it’s about serving Lakeland for years and years to come through the things they’ve already done. No matter where they are commissioned to afterwards, the effect that they’ve had on the Lakeland community will keep them motivated and moving forward.

Learn More

The Salvation Army in Lakeland has been a beacon of hope and spiritual encouragement to families throughout West Polk County for over 99 years. The Salvation Army Advisory board has taken a visionary step in building a Community of Hope, an innovative project where struggling families can overcome homelessness and rebuild their lives. This bold initiative created a campus where quality programming can be provided in a safe, encouraging neighborhood to assist families who face the crisis of homelessness. This community provides holistic solutions for meeting the physical, social, educational, and spiritual needs of each family. (Source: Advisory Board)