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A tale of two cities

As a native of Jacksonville, Allishia Bauman is City Year Jacksonville’s Chief of Staff and is involved in a number of community initiatives outside of City Year, showing her commitment to service in her hometown. On Saturday, May 4th, she again showed her dedication to the community by attending two important, yet vastly different events — both set on our beautiful, St. John’s River. Read about her Saturday and learn a bit about the divisions between our communities and how we can work to bring them together.

What a “Tale of Two Cities” kind of Saturday May 4th was. During my 13-hour day, I found myself in vastly different neighborhoods, which is not uncommon for my life, but it is uncommon for it to be back-to-back, all in one day. Interestingly enough, both were nestled along the river. Both sites, in my eyes, are beautiful riverfront properties. Yet one is a more highly sought-after area in our community than the other.

I started the day serving on Ken Knight Drive on the Northside of Jacksonville with fellow City Year staff and AmeriCorps members, alongside incredible leaders, friends and organizations like Yellow House Art, Comcast, and Feeding NEFL for the annual Comcast Cares Day. For context, Ken Knight Drive is a neighborhood that experienced major damage during Hurricane Irma in 2017. It is also a neighborhood, like many of our under-resourced communities, that’s been forgotten about for far too long. No need to enter into a history lesson, just know that this community deserves to be seen just like the rest of our Jacksonville communities.

As volunteers for Comcast Cares Day, we were given the opportunity to help continue the good work that community leaders such as Yellow House Art and Feeding NEFL have been providing since Irma. Our tasks included aiding sprucing up a new community center inside and out, food distribution, book give-away, outdoor games, and yard cleanup. A lot was accomplished that morning including a neighborhood birthday celebration of the unofficial Ken Knight “mayor”, Alton. However, much work is still to be done.

After a quick shower and change of clothes, I traveled further down the river to the historic San Marco neighborhood to finish out my day at City Year Jacksonville’s Spring Garden Party. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, delectable food and lovely homes, people gathered in hopes of trying to help one community understand and support the needs of another, all centered around education as a means to break the cycle of poverty. In San Marco, stories of success, struggle, and overcoming barriers by students who, in most cases, reside in the area of town where the first half of my day was spent. As our Executive Director, Dan Foley, eloquently shared, “We work at the intersection of hope, generosity and need.”

On Saturday, I was reminded that I operate smack in the middle of that intersection, more often than I realized. A place that is beautiful, uncomfortable, rewarding and challenging. I am thankful for Comcast Cares Day and our Spring Garden Party for the reminder of who I am, where I am, what I care about and the work that still remains.


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