Citizen Airman brings hope and health to Jacksonville’s underserved

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chelsea Smith
  • 125th Fighter Wing

For Tech. Sgt. JeanPaul Heath, the long road to this full circle moment was predestined.

In October, Heath, a 125th Fighter Wing logistics specialist and tractor trailer driver, along with his wife Utophias, will open a residential home for aging seniors and the disabled called A Heath’s Haven Inc., based in Jacksonville.

The labor of love bridges a childhood hope to bring much-needed adult residential care and support to the aging and “unique” needs populations of northeast Florida.

“I’m proud to say that I’m following my mother’s footsteps,” Heath said.

In the mid-1980s, Heath’s mother suffered a debilitating leg injury that left her unable to work for three years. Instead of returning to work as a nurse, she chose to open a residential home in Willingboro, NJ, when Heath was 14, to continue her love of caring for others, he said.

“It was definitely a transition for me as a kid but it really turned a house into a home,” he added.

Now, four decades later, Heath continues what his mother started, bringing a range of services for adults with unique challenges or behavioral health issues who are unable to live alone in the community and need daily assistance.

The over 2,000 square foot property accommodates up to six adults who will have access to round-the-clock care including residential habilitation, social activities, meals, transportation, and laundry services, among community living benefits that attribute to the whole well-being of the individual.

“It’s heartfelt for me,” he said. “If we were going to open a residential home, I wanted it be like my mother’s home. It’s not a facility atmosphere, it feels like a home. Our goal was to make it a nice atmosphere for our clients.”

The venture starkly contrasts Heath’s full-time career in logistics and ground transportation, another passion drawn from his grandfather who owned a trucking company and mentored him early on in his career as a tractor trailer driver. Yet, it aligns with his strong desire to serve the community and vulnerable populations, a catalyst that led him to enlist in the New York National Guard in 2002.

Shortly after, Heath transferred to the Florida Air National Guard in 2005, continuing his career in logistics. For seven years, he’s been supporting the Counterdrug Program and plans to continue in his role while assisting his wife, a certified practical nurse, who will head the residential home full-time.

They will also hire two full-time staff, accept volunteers and have a registered nurse on-call, he said.

While life gets busier for couple, they are in it for the long haul, driven by their desire to cut away at some of the housing shortages and long-term care options for aging and “unique” needs populations, he said.

“I have always been and will always be engaged in public service and public life,” he said. “This is us doing our part to make someone’s life a little easier.”