First ever anti-poverty festival held in Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, NC (WITN) - A Jacksonville-based non-profit is working to reduce poverty statistics in North Carolina by connecting citizens with local job opportunities.

The Eastern Carolina Human Services Agency held its first ever anti-poverty festival on Saturday.

Statistics from the North Carolina Justice Center show our state still has a poverty rate 15% higher than before the Great Recession hit in 2007.

That's why more than 70 businesses, groups and organizations came together for a festival that organizers say took more than two years to plan.

"One of the things that I think is missing in this world today is communication. This gives us the opportunity to communicate with another vendor or someone we didn't even know existed," said Executive Director Daphany Hill.

Hill says the ECHSA has more than 1,000 clients whom they help find affordable housing, build resumes and secure jobs.

She says the organization exists to give people a hand-up, not a handout.

While adults collected job opportunity information, kids were able to play basketball, corn-hole and enjoy face-painting.

Ryan Johnson says he's looking to make a change in his life, so he came out to meet new people in the community and apply for jobs.

"I just shot ball, filled out applications, bought from vendors. Everybody needs that support so I was here to support everybody in every aspect," he said.

Hill hopes to make the festival an annual event to continue showing people some of the different resources available.