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Air Force veteran working on better medical access, education for Jacksonville's Northside

Vermelle Smith met First Coast News Anchor Anthony Austin at Jacksonville's Home and Patio Show and told him her concerns.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First Coast News took "Ask Anthony" on the road to the Jacksonville Home and Patio Show at the Prime Osborn in Downtown Jacksonville.

That's where we met Vermelle Smith.

"I love First Coast News!" Smith exclaimed. 

She's a loyal viewer, but she's also loyal to serving people in the community. 

"When I see people living on the street, the only thing I can say is thank you, Jesus, because that could have been me," Smith said. 

Smith is an Air Force Veteran who moved to Jacksonville in 1999. She is heavily involved with American Legion Post 197 on Jacksonville's Northside.

The post has been around for 75 years and is the largest African American post in the state of Florida. 

"In our post, what we're trying to do is address the health disparities in that underserved area," Smith explained.

Smith says the American Legion post recently became a community health hub for the Mayo Clinic. She says it is important to build a relationship between medical professionals and the black community. 

"A lot of times the doctors don't take you seriously.  They don't want to listen to what your complaints are," Smith added.

Smith hopes that will change with this new initiative that is meant to help people who might not have access to the medical care or technology that they need. 

"Everybody does not have a smartphone where they can use a QR code.  Everybody does not have a computer where they can click on a link. We need to not miss the segment of the population you're trying to help," Smith said. 

The Buddy Bus is visiting American Legion Post 197 in May. 

We have more "Ask Anthony" listening sessions coming up in February.  We will tell you in a few weeks when you can meet Anthony Austin and tell him about your problems in person. 

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