Giving 'Hope' to Jacksonville's 32209 ZIP code

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - City leaders and community organizers gather Thursday to come up with a plan to help people living in a 3-mile square area of Jacksonville that has the city's highest rate of poverty, child deaths, teen pregnancy and homicides.

It's the 32209 ZIP code, which includes the neighborhoods of New Town and Durkeeville.

The Department of Children and Families is hosting the event called Community of Hope at Edward Waters Collection. The goal is to draw attention to the urgent needs facing children and families in Jacksonville's inner-city areas -- especially in the 32209 ZIP code.

In 32209, there were seven infant deaths just last year. It's also where more than half of the children are living in poverty. The rate of teenage pregnancy is more than twice as high as the rest of Duval County. And although only 4.5 percent of Jacksonville's population lives in this zip code, one in four murders in the city over the past year happened there.

These alarming statistics have prompted DCF to bring together city leaders, residents and organizations like the Magnolia Project.

"What the federal government has done, they have given us money to go out in the targeted ZIP codes because we have so many black babies that are dying in this area," said Alicia King, an women intervention specialist with the Magnolia Project. "So we want to know how can we help them. Do they know what's going on? What programs are available in the community?

To try and improve the health and well-being of women during their childbearing years, and to prevent infant deaths, the federally-funded project already provides a slew of services for women aged 15 to 44 living in 32209, along with others including 32202, 32204, 32206 and 32208, which includes downtown, Riverside, Springfield and Northwest Jacksonville.

"I think just the name alone -- Community of Hope -- you know," said Faye Johnson, director of the Magnolia Project. "That's not to say there's not any hope there, but that lets community know that they're important that they're being viewed as a Community of Hope, and there is hope for the community."

Thursday's event is open to the public. Registration begins at 11 a.m. for people interested in the community outbreak sessions. At 2 p.m., several leaders will give speeches and a presentation about the need for help in the community.

The day will end with a March of Hope around the community.

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