Have you ever wanted to share a city with someone long-distance? A tricky feat, to say the least. Jacksonville, the largest city in the lower 48 states, is a bit too big to fit in a box. At least, that’s what most people would say. Jonny Videl thinks differently.
It all started when his friend was stationed in Iraq, about a year and a half ago. Jonny decided to send his friend a care package. He threw a box together and sent it over to his friend. Once the package arrived, the others who were stationed with Jonny’s friend wanted a box of their own. This word of mouth care packaging system rapidly expanded. Soon, Jonny was coming up with packages for college kids, conferences, housewarming gifts, property managers, and more. The best part about these packages is that they’re totally local, and totally Jacksonville. As Jacksonville in a Box grew larger, Jonny realized he needed a place to put these boxes together. Enter Arc, Jacksonville’s own community for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Arc specializes in giving individuals a chance to work, learn, and have fun, without worrying about discrimination or a lack of peace. Jonny decided to partner with Arc, whose wonderful members work hard on putting together these awesomely local boxes. Jonny is completely indebted to Arc, which brought Jacksonville in a Box out of the ground, and has helped make it the successful business that it is now. Currently, Jacksonville in a Box has two sizes. The large box is an experience box, with over 12 items, including Jaguars stickers, Bono’s barbecue sauce, burger seasoning from FreshJax, Sweet Pete’s candy (my favorite), a Jacksonville Suns foam finger, and more. The smaller boxes contain only edible items. Jonny’s hoping to expand his reach and fit as many bits of Jacksonville in a box that he can.
Jonny’s got his own love for the city that he hopes to share with others. He’s a big fan of the beach, but he’s especially proud of the rejuvenation that has taken place downtown and in the neighborhoods around Jax. “There’s so many cool pockets,” he says. His favorite hang out area is Murray Hill. His goal is to spread “a little taste of Jacksonville” with anyone he can. To Jonny, this is more than sending people a box–it’s about sending Jacksonville along with it. The biggest reward he’s had so far is getting the chance to shine a spotlight on The Arc. Without Arc, Jacksonville in a Box wouldn’t be what it is.
Jacksonville in a Box is one of the coolest things I’ve discovered here. How many times have I thought, If only I could show someone a glimpse of Jacksonville? Jonny Videl has given me, and the rest of the city, the opportunity to do just that. He’s done the hard work of getting local companies on board; now, all he needs to do is share this awesome idea with the rest of the city, so that the world can discover all the bits of Jacksonville that we love.