Make a Difference! Leadership Academy Spring 2017 class graduates

Jul 21, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

Six participants graduated as part of the Spring 2017 Make a Difference! Leadership Academy on June 8, the eighth class to finish the grassroots IMG_3944program, an initiative of the Magnolia Project and the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

The goal of the Leadership Academy is to support the efforts of local residents to make changes in neighborhood factors that contribute to disparities in health and birth outcomes. The Academy trains individuals and assists them in the development of a Community Action Plan that outlines a specific project to move a community to action.

The graduating class participated in and completed several community projects. In April, they hosted an Easter egg hunt for children in a local neighborhood. One of the biggest accomplishments the group celebrated was creating a safe bus stop for children living in the Blodgett Homes apartment complex. The group spent several hours advocating at city official offices to have the unsafe bus stop be moved from a busy intersection to a vacant grassy area. The new location allows kids to play and roam freely away from passing cars. The group also advocated for a crossing guard to be present to ensure that the children were escorted safely to and from the bus. On June 24, the group will participate in their final service project, a neighborhood cleanup for their apartment complex. Members of the community are asked to join.

Devin Coleman, chairman of the Coalition’s Northeast Florida Fatherhood Task Force, delivered the commencement speech and encouraged the graduating class to keep advocating for what is right.

For more information about the Make a Difference! Leadership Academy or to find out how you can get involved in the neighborhood cleanup, please contact LaRonda Howard at

National Health Corps Florida members complete their 2016-17 term

Jul 17, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The 2016-17 class of National Health Corps Florida members completed their service term on July 21 and were recognized for their commitment to service and contributions to the community at a Recognition Ceremony on July 13.IMG_0253

Twenty-one members completed the 46-week, 1,700-hour term, providing direct service in various public health-focused nonprofit and government partners in four counties in Northeast Florida, including Baker, Clay, Duval and Nassau counties.

At the ceremony, mentors took the time to reflect on the service the members provided throughout their term.

The 2016-17 sites were:

Education and support: Key essentials for successful breastfeeding

Jul 12, 2017  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The Healthy Start Coalition has launched new opportunities for mothers and babies to get the support and education they need to successfully breastfeed. Breastfeeding is beneficial for baby and mom, promoting bonding between mother and baby, potentially leading to weight loss for mom and giving baby good IMG_2151 bwnutrients to help build their immune system.

The Coalition hosts weekly community breastfeeding support groups at several locations throughout

Classes will soon be offered at the Highlander Apartments community.

Participants are encouraged to set their own breastfeeding goals and receive help and support to reach them. At the end of the course, the participants reflect on their goals to see how well they did. The participants also discuss new topics weekly from an evidence-based curriculum, are encouraged to share their stories with their peers and are offered one-on-one breastfeeding care.

In addition to offering breastfeeding education and services in the community, the Coalition also host groups at three Duval County Public Schools high schools that now have breastfeeding stations for students, faculty and staff to utilize: Englewood, A. Phillip Randolph and William Raines.

“Students love that they have a comfortable and private place to pump, store their milk and access to breast pads and storage bags” according to Coalition Breastfeeding Outreach Coordinator Denise Mills.

If you are interested in establishing a breastfeeding support group or attending a group, contact Denise at 904.258.4523 or

Guest Post: Are you the best YOU that you want to be?

Jun 28, 2017  •   Written by Erin Addington   •  no comments

Cyndia Estime and her fellow Spring 2016 Make a Difference! Leadership Academy graduates compiled the following information as their final community project. 

We can all agree that we all have a beginning and an end. Overall, everybody wants to live a good life, but how do we do that? It’s complicated yet simple. Our Leadership Academy group would like to share with you four areas we know can shape you to be your best you.

Great Character

These days, people are more open about being into themselves, which is great — it’s perfectly fine to love yourself. As amatter of a fact it’s essential, but remember to spread the love with others. Live a valuable life where people are amazed at your existence, just as you should be of theirs. Make every decision according to your core values:

  • Loyalty
  • Forgiveness
  • Respect
  • Thankfulness
  • Love
  • Serving others

These are just a few common ones. Think about which ones you come to agreement with and do a self-check to see if you’re truly living by them.

Here are a couple of links that may help you strengthen you character.

Make Money a Good Friend

My dad told me as a little girl “everything you can touch costs money,” and to that I say I agree! To move forward in this life, money is needed. Even when something is free, we understand that it is only free to you because someone else paid for it. So how’s your relationship with money? Is money here for you in the good times and bad times? First, let’s make some money because face it, we all need money.

  1. Establish a way to make money. Think about what you are exceptional at doing and there’s your answer to making money. Once you find that out — don’t wait, go for it!
  2. Pay yourself first. When the checks start coming in, pay yourself first. It doesn’t matter the amount you decide to give yourself, you can always increase later on. You should not work just to pay bills. Put yourself first, then the bills.
  3. Save. Once your bills are paid, save, save, save. Again, the amount doesn’t really matter. The point is to start and keep it going. The money saved can be used for wedding that’s coming up or a sudden loss in the family; the new car you want or the flat tire on your current car; the vacation you want to go to; or the moment of unemployment that may come.
  4. Invest. Finally, find a way invest/grow your money. If money is going out, then money should be coming in.

Below are some links that may help you strengthen your relationship with money.

2nd Annual Fatherhood Barbecue Competition

  •   Written by Jerail Fennell   •  no comments

The smell of burned apple-wood began to fill the air at Pearl Plaza as fathers and their children lit their grills to produce some of the best tasting barbecue at the Second Annual Fatherhood Barbecue Competition. Six teams competed in an atmosphere that was filled with smoke, laughter and bonding presented by the Fatherhood PRIDE program, an initiative of the Coalition.

The Fatherhood Barbecue Competition began in 2016, as a way for fathers to bond with their children. Fathers play a critical role in a child’s development. Studies show that children with early father involvement are more likely to be healthy and stay healthy. Men have an innate desire to protect, care and provide for children. The barbecue provided the perfect platform to do so.

The barbecue kicked off at 7:30 a.m. as fathers and their children begin to slow cook their beef brisket, dry rub their ribs and season their chicken.

As fathers and their children grilled, the parking lot filled with over 100 participants and community leaders taking part in the festivities. Children enjoyed crafts and face painting, while partner agencies provided information on their services.

On the heels of Father’s Day, the barbecue competition provided a family-friendly atmosphere that allowed fathers to bond with their children and community members to be exposed to local services while raising awareness about infant mortality.