NEW: Jupiter’s El Sol center leader resigns, going to native Guatemala

Updated Feb 08, 2018
Jocelyn Skolnik

Jocelyn Skolnik, executive director of the El Sol Neighborhood Resource Center that evolved from a job placement service into a thriving neighborhood resource, has resigned and is moving with her family to her native Guatemala in June.

“(Skolnik’s) vision took El Sol beyond what I ever envisioned,” said Andy Lukasik, who was town manager of Jupiter when El Sol was established in 2006. “She put her heart and soul into El Sol. It was part of her.”

Anti-immigration slogans greeted El Sol when it opened as a meeting place for employers seeking workers and those looking for jobs — many who were migrants without American citizenship.

Twelve years later, El Sol provides jobs, holds classes, grows food in its community garden, distributes free meals, operates a food bank with CROS Ministries, hosts medical clinics, teaches job-safety programs and sells colorful artwork hanging on the walls at the center next to Town Hall on Military Trail. AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers work at El Sol.

“(Skolnik) has extraordinary leadership skills,” said El Sol President Ed Ricci. “She is a powerful fundraiser. She has brought many grants. She has delivered eight major programs to El Sol.”

El Sol’s annual budget is about $1.2 million. The nonprofit organization receives funding from in-kind donation of services, private/foundation/nonprofit grants and donations from businesses and individuals. El Sol receives no state or federal funds. There are about 20 full-time and 10 part-time employees, said Ricci.

Labor centers such as El Sol have failed in other communities, including Loxahatchee Groves and Lake Worth in 2011. Both were open about two years.

Skolnik, 32, who is in Guatemala and could not be reached, plans to work for Funsepa, a nonprofit agency in Guatemala City to develop education programs for children. Her resignation is effective in June.

In her resignation letter, Skolnik wrote: “We went from protests to harmony. Our community is now a gold standard, a model to other communities. I could not be more honored to have been a part of this collective effort.”

Facing mounting complaints about workers gathering along Center Street a dozen years ago, Jupiter passed a law making soliciting for jobs — and motorists picking them up — illegal.

Jupiter bought a two-story building next to Town Hall in 2006 from LifeSong Church for $1.9 million. The town leases that building to El Sol for $1 annually. The town pays utilities.

Skolnik came to Florida when she was 18. After graduating from Florida Atlantic University Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College with a liberal arts degree in Latin American studies and political science, she was hired at El Sol in 2007.

She became a U.S. citizen in 2011 and was named executive director in 2010. A West Palm Beach resident, she and her husband, Jeremy, have two daughters. Skolnik went to the White House in 2013 to accept a Champions of Change award.