SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Colleagues, friends and family are still mourning the Nov. 1 death of Jackson Limousine founder E.J. Jackson, even as they prepare for his annual Thanksgiving grocery giveaway.
“Mr. Jackson was all heart. He never gave up on anyone,” said retired employee and family friend, Charlie Jamm. “He helped [many] that were unemployable, and he never stopped believing in them.”
That big heart extended to the homeless and hungry, whom he fed every Thanksgiving through his E.J. Jackson Foundation. Friends say Jackson seemed to have prepared the organization for his death, so that his staff could continue distributing more than 12,000 meals to families in need, days after his funeral. His goal this year was to provide 20,000 meals.
“He was preparing everything for this big event to minimize any hardship for us,” Jamm said.
Before his death, Jackson purchased essential items the foundation normally rented for the giveaway each year.
“He got a forklift, a pallet jack and a refrigerator truck. Now that we have the truck, we can accept more food,” Jamm said.
Jackson’s passing hit the staff hard, but they were determined to continue the annual tradition.
“Right now I am speechless. It’s kind of tough,” said Jackson Limousine staff member Latrice T., who declined to divulge her last name. “But we’re going to keep his legacy going. I have two supervisors here – they are great women – they will make sure that no one goes hungry this year.”
She was talking about Lynn Harris, a 30-year veteran of the limousine company and the foundation, who is now taking over the day-to-day management, and Catherine Tovai, affectionately known as Cat, who has worked there for 16 years.
“We’re all here at the disposal of Lynn,” Jamm said. “She’s always been here running his business —whatever she wants that’s what we step up to do.”
He placed a lot of confidence in his employees at the foundation and his celebrity limousine service over the years, routinely trusting them to run both the Jackson Limousine business and the E.J. Jackson Foundation.
“They ran the business pretty strictly. That’s why he was able to relax,” Jamm said.
The business’ organizational structure following Jackson’s death remains up in the air for now.
Jamm said Jackson left Lynn Harris 50 percent of the limousine business, but wouldn’t expand on who would own the other 50 percent. “It wouldn’t be fair to say because it’s a legal matter, and I can’t speculate,” he said.
Company structure doesn’t seem to be on the minds of those looking for the Thanksgiving meals. L.A.-based community members are already forming lines in anticipation of the foundation’s 34th annual Turkey Grocery Giveaway Nov. 22.
Many spend several nights in sleeping bags and tents until the day of the event.
The foundation is prepared for them, working with many volunteers and well-known sponsors through the years like Hillshire Brands, Nestle, State Farm and more to feed the hungry and those in need.
“Yes, everything is going as usual; we’re out here now,” Jamm said. “There are 13,000 to 14,000 boxes to fill with food, and put in pallets. We’ll put all the produce together next week.”
“It’s a tremendous job, but we are full on and cracking. We have volunteers from around the city,” he said, emphasizing that support and donors are still welcome for the event, which takes place two days before Thanksgiving. It’s an event that continues despite the death of the organizer, a man who seemed to enjoy giving back to the community.
“He instilled a lot of himself into his staff. Everybody knows what their job is,” Jamm said. “You don’t have to tell us what to do to keep his legacy going; he’s alive in all of us.”
The turkey giveaway begins at 6:30 a.m. Nov. 22 at the Jackson Limousine parking lot at 3669 W. Slauson Ave. Throughout the day, volunteers will distribute boxes of groceries, which will contain a turkey, stuffing, vegetables and other holiday staples.
More information about the event is available by calling (323) 734-9955.