'Sanctuary on 8th Street' offers hope for Jacksonville's youth | News

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'Sanctuary on 8th Street' offers hope for Jacksonville's youth
'Sanctuary on 8th Street' offers hope for Jacksonville's youth

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There's a safe place in the Springfield community that hopes to save Jacksonville's youth from the dangers of the streets -- one child at a time.

"At first, all of my friends went to the sanctuary and then eventually as we got older some of them starting breaking off. Some of them got influenced by all these dangerous traps in the neighborhoods," said Alonzo Jackson. 

Alonzo Jackson, 21, is now a camp counselor at Sanctuary on 8th Street. He started coming to the Sanctuary when he was in third grade. 

According to Jackson, it was a place where he could play with his friends, get one on one help with his homework, and find the guidance he needed during difficult times.

"I was 13 at the time when it happened and I was going to the hospital every day watching her go through a lot in the hospital suffering with cancer," said Jackson.

Alonzo's mother passed away and as he continued getting older, he says the sanctuary is what kept him from being influenced by the wrong people. 

"They try to peer pressure you into doing it too and you kind of see that they are making a lot of money doing it, but in the end it doesn't really lead anywhere," said Jackson.

He just finished his first year of college in South Carolina on a football scholarship and is planning to transfer to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Executive Director Vicky Watkins said he is an example of how this program helps Jacksonville's youth.

"I've had a teenager 16, 17, 18-years-old say 'Ms. Vicky, I can't get a job. I feel I'm about to go out and rob',"said Watkins.

Watkins said the children learn about life at the sanctuary and even though sometimes it's hit-or-miss, the point is to always aim in the right direction.

"It takes time for things to work out the way you want them to. Nothing is going to happen at the snap of a finger so you just have to try your best to persevere and look for the bigger picture," added Jackson.

Sanctuary on the 8th takes in about 50 kids during the school year. The program is completely free and children who get free or reduced lunch in school qualify. 

They are partnered with the United Way and receive funds through grants, fundraisers and donations. For more information click here.


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