One City, One Vision: First Annual Community Action Network Partner’s Conference

Representatives from Jacksonville nonprofits and the community gathered together on October 12-13 to discuss ways to better serve the community, provide hope for the families they serve and ultimately improve birth outcomes in the region.

Vanessa Jefferson, director of the Magnolia Project’s Community Action Network (C.A.N.), provided three interactive experiences at the first annual C.A.N. Partner’s Conference for participants to spend time observing where the families they serve live, the obstacles they face and note what can be done to enhance services and solve problems. The three “Walk in My Shoes” experiences included:

  • A JTA bus ride from A. Philip Randolph Blvd. to Rosa Parks Transit Station to Kings Rd., led by Julie Gilson, a travel trainer from MTM
  • 2nd Mile Ministries Van Tour from Springfield to Brentwood
  • An Eastside Neighborhood Walk with follow-up discussion from Eastside Historian Mary Jameson

After taking notes on each experience, the common thread was the disparities and difficulties of Jacksonville’s urban core, such as poor transportation, closed businesses, unkempt community centers like parks, lack of nutritious food and more. With newfound respect and understanding, the providers were challenged to continually make an impact that provides hope for the families in our community.

Faye Johnson, CEO of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition, discussed the social determinants of health as the root causes for infant mortality and poor health outcomes in the urban core. Her call to action was for social service providers to advocate for a change in discriminatory policies.

Three breakout sessions gave insight on working in the social services field:

Commitment cards were given out after a rallying call for One City, One Vision, where participants wrote down what they were going to do to enhance their services to the community and provide hope for families.

Saturday started with a panel discussion, Healing of the H.E.A.R.T. (Hurt, Exhaustion, Anger, Resentment and Tension), where four panelists expressed what they had been through in their past and how they used it to get to where they are now. Each panelist is using their experiences to help others and adding value to their community.

Top (left to right): Vanessa Jefferson, Magnolia Project C.A.N. Coordinator and LeVasiyea Haslem, President & CEO of 1K Nation and Panel Moderator | Bottom Panelists (left to right): Devin Coleman, author and single dad; Kathy Swafford, director of Safe Haven of Northeast Florida; Beverly McClain, CEO & Founder of Families of Slain Children; and Marisol Rodriguez-Parks, community advocate and Make a Difference! Leadership Academy Fall 2017 graduate

After the panel, the breakout sessions targeted different groups:

  • Your Voice Counts (Men Only), led by the men of the Community Action Network
  • Honoring Yourself (Women Only), led by Sheila Upson
  • What Would KeKe Do? (Ages 10-18), led by Sandra Johnson

Another rallying call to action from Theo Graham, director of admissions from Year Up Jacksonville, ended the two-day conference with participants reflecting on everything they had seen and learned – ready to take action and improve the community through collaboration – not as one person from one agency, but as one city with one vision.

Thank you to main sponsor Sunshine Health; to UnitedHealthcare for financial donations, Walmart for donating food and a gift card, Office Depot for donating gift cards, Subway for donating the lunch both days and Sandra’s Massage Therapy for donating two thirty minute massages; and to the Kids Hope Alliance for use of the building.

The Community Action Network is an initiative of the Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition and the Magnolia Project, a federal Healthy Start project. The project works with partners and community residents to implement a common agenda, shared measurement approach and coordinated system of delivery.

View all photos from the two-day conference here.