#SavetheVLSC | Volunteer Life Saving Corps of Jacksonville Beach

Services Provided

Public Relations Strategy
Messaging (Internal & External)
Media Relations
Press Release Writing, Distribution & Pitching
Editorial Writing
Video Scripting
Social Media Management
Newsletter Writing

Volunteer Life Saving Corp

#SOS: Saving a Jacksonville Beach Institution

The Volunteer Life Saving Corps (VLSC) is a 501c3 non-profit that was established as a volunteer service in Jacksonville Beach, FL 1912, and chartered by the American Red Cross (ARC) in 1914. VLSC lifeguards protect the Jacksonville beaches on Sundays and holidays throughout the year and provide pro-bono training for paid professional guards employed by the City of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue (JBOR). In 2021, an issue arose between the City of Jacksonville Beach (COJB) and the VLSC, related to a Department of Labor (DOL) investigation of the city using some lifeguards on both a volunteer and paid basis, the implication being that some individuals could be coerced to volunteer in order to be considered for a paid position.

No Lifeguard On Duty

After being fined by the DOL, the city attempted to dissolve the 113-year-old VLSC, the nation’s oldest such volunteer organization. The VLSC felt the city was overreacting and its lawyers stated there was no requirement from the DOL for the VLSC to discontinue service; only that guards could not work on both a paid and volunteer basis. The situation between the city and the VLSC devolved and the city eventually locked the guards out of the historic ARC Volunteer Lifeguard Station, which the two parties shared, which was owned by the American Red Cross and sat on land owned by the city. The lease stipulated that should the VLSC ever stop using the facility, it would be turned over to the city. Many interpreted the city’s motivation as an effort to take full control of this valuable real estate asset. However, the VLSC’s primary concern was to continue operations. They wanted to make their voices heard and pressure public officials to defend their beloved institution’s right to exist. They asked Beson4 to help with this public relations effort.

A Tidal Wave of Public Support

For over a year, Beson4 worked hand-in-hand with the VLSC to develop strategy, craft key messages and educate and engage the public in support of the VLSC. Twice, the VLSC successfully mounted petition campaigns to try and force the issue onto local ballots and legally compel the city to negotiate with the VLSC for a return to service.

Past well-known local VLSC members who had gone on to their volunteer experiences in a wide range of roles from first responders to military officers, doctors, nurses, and CEOs, wrote letters in support of the VLSC as did many other citizens. At the same time, Beson4 PR team members drafted editorials, wrote press releases, placed stories in print and electronic media, and helped managed social media to help create a tidal wave of public support. Finally, under intense pressure in April 2023, the COJB negotiated a settlement for the VLSC’s return to service. While the ARC ceded the station back to the city (confirming its underlying motivations for many), the VLSC was excited to continue its decades-long tradition of patrolling the shores, saving lives, enhancing the safety of visitors and residents, and serving as a one-of-a-kind model for the incalculable benefits of volunteerism.

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