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First Coast Connect

11/10/2017: Media Roundtable; Veterans Surge Results; Petanque; JaxTHRIVE; African Children's Chorus

Florida State University

Friday on First Coast Connect we were joined on our weekly Media Roundtable by Florida Times-Union reporter Andrew Pantazi, WJCT contributor Charles Griggs, Jacksonville News and Daily Record reporter David Cawton and WJCT business analyst John Burr (01:05).  


Changing Homelessness CEO Dawn Gilman told us about the results of this year’s first-ever Veterans Surge (31:31).       

WJCT Morning Edition host Michelle Corum brought us a report on this weekend’s game of Petanque on Amelia Island (37:48).

Local student Chase Magnano of Ponte Vedra High School and winner of $50,000 on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” told us about JaxTHRIVE, the local non-profit he’s starting with his winnings. (41:13).   


We spoke with Midge Smith with San Jose Baptist Church about Friday night’s performance by the African Children’s Choir (46:00).

Media Roundtable

Our panel discussed FSU President John Thrasher’s decision to suspend all fraternities and sororities on campus after a student died last week during a hazing ritual. Florida Blue has decided to no longer cover the use of OxyContin and said hello to IKEA andgoodbye to Hastings.     

Veterans Surge Results

There is good news to report when it comes to longtime efforts on the First Coast to reduce homelessness among our local veteran population. The local nonprofit Changing Homelessness is reporting an 80 percent drop.

In August 2017, Changing Homelessness organized the community’s first-ever Veterans Surge

Approximately 125 volunteers representing member agencies, partners and citizens hit the streets to survey the homeless population and identify homeless veterans in Jacksonville’s Urban Core, the Beaches, and Orange Park.

Each year Changing Homelessness conducts the annual Point-In-Time Count in January, as mandated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Given the results of the Veterans Surge, it is expected that the community will continue this bi-annual count to further evaluate subpopulations such as street (chronic), youth, and families with children.



This weekend, Amelia Island is the setting for a tournament of a popular outdoor game called Pétanque. The game originated more than a hundred years ago in Provence, France.

Morning Edition host Michelle Corum tells us Amelia Island is celebrating its French connection by hosting the international tournament starting on Friday.



He’s a 15-year-old student at Ponte Vedra High School who recently won $50,000 on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” during their Whiz Kids edition that aired back in October. Chase Magnano may be a whiz kid, but he’s more than smart, he’s charitable too.

He’s using the prize to createJaxTHRIVE, a new nonprofit where local teens help refugee students integrate into the community.

JaxTHRIVE will run a program beginning Nov. 11 and run each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. through the rest of the school year. Between 15 and 18 refugee students will receive tutoring from local teen volunteers. They will also have a nutritious lunch and engage in a fun social, activity.

African Children’s Chorus

The African Children’s Choir melts the hearts of audiences with their charming smiles, beautiful voices and lively African songs and dances. The program features well-loved children’s songs, traditional Spirituals and Gospel favorites. Concerts are free and open to all. But donations are taken at shows to fund programs that help Africa’s most vulnerable children.

This internationally renowned choir has performed for heads of state across the globe.  They’ll be performing here in Jacksonville at 7 p.m. Friday night at San Jose Baptist Church in Lakewood. It’s free but donations will be collected for African children in need.  

Kevin Meerschaert can be reached at, 904-358-6334 or on Twitter at @KMeerschaertJax.


Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.