“We’re in this war for our youth”: Jacksonville coffee bus hires impoverished teens, teaches life skills

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — You can buy a cup of coffee in Jacksonville while also helping in the fight against gun violence.

Grounds of GRACE started in October serving up cups of joe in Jacksonville. While most routines start with coffee in the morning, the purpose of the coffee shop is to break a routine of you involved in gun violence.

“Let’s do it different. We give these kids the ability and empower them — that they can make better decision,” Tyler Vincent said.

Local Story: McDonald’s employees locked themselves in building after nearby shooting on the Southside

It’s a unique business model serving coffee in a unique shop.

Grounds of GRACE is in a transformed school bus and rolls to different events.

Since its beginning, the non-profit has hired three teens. You can learn about their stories on their website.

Ron Armstrong is the founder of Sponsored by GRACE, the coffee bus’s parent non-profit, which allows families to sponsor a child living in poverty.

Armstrong said he had the idea after coming back to Jacksonville from a trip to Brazil.

“Coming back and finding the worst, most dangerous zip code — 32209, in Jacksonville. I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” he said.

He added that many times, teens who grow up in poverty will end up in gun violence. In Woodstock Park Tuesday night, there was a shooting that killed a 16- to 18-year-old, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s heartbreaking anytime anyone loses their life. It breaks our heart because it doesn’t have to be that way,” Vincent said.

Next, they are looking to hire more young men and women and eventually add another bus or brick-and-mortar shop.

While they are primarily focused on hiring in the Northside, they are also looking to expand to other zip codes.

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