25 years of Back to School with BEAM!

It’s hard to believe we are in our 25th year of Back to School with BEAM. If you talked with community activist and event founder Karen Wolfson, she would tell you that the purpose was always to provide a shopping experience for school-aged children. It was important to her that everyone was treated with dignity and respect, and she would not put out an article of clothing if it was not something she wanted her children to wear.

Back in 1994, Back to School with BEAM looked a little different than it does today. In the first year, she recalled having 30 volunteers and 250 children visit the old fellowship hall at Beach Church (formerly Beach United Methodist Church) to “shop” for clothes in preparation for the upcoming school year.

It wasn’t until a couple years later they received enough donations to include new socks and underwear at the event. A few years after that, school supplies were added into the mix.

For all of the formative years, these items were stored and sorted by volunteers, friends and family members at Karen and Don’s home in Atlantic Beach. Even though Karen chaired the event for 14 years, she still gives praise to her faith and the countless volunteers, donors, church partners and businesses who have supported the event through the years.

It’s not a surprise that her legacy lives on and Back to School with BEAM continues to be a staple for the beaches community.

Last year alone with help from more than 300 volunteers, 700 children were outfitted with grade specific school supplies, a new backpack, three new or gently used outfits, new Scholastic books, accessories and a voucher for a brand new pair of shoes. Another 300 were equipped when we delivered supplies directly to the elementary, middle and high schools within the BEAM service area.

The 25th annual Back to School with BEAM event will take place Saturday, August 4 from 8am to 12pm at Beach Church in Jacksonville Beach. For more information on the event and for volunteer sign-up, please visit: https://www.jaxbeam.org/back-to-school-with-beam/.

Food Pantry Update (Summer 2018)

Since March of 2018, we have opened up our Jacksonville Beach and Mayport food pantries every other Saturday to support our hardworking clients. It’s taken some time for the word to get out, but overall, it’s been very successful and helpful for our neighbors who work multiple jobs and are unable to visit BEAM during the work week.

In addition to our new weekend hours, we are excited to announce we will begin piloting Thursday night hours. Beginning July 19, both food pantries will be open for clients from 4pm to 7pm every week.

Our goal is to better serve our community and we need your help!

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with us to support these new hours, please let us know! We are in need of volunteers for the following slots:

  • 1st and 3rd Saturdays from 10am to 2pm at the Jacksonville Beach location
  • 2nd and 4th Saturdays from 10am to 2pm at the Mayport location
  • Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm at both the Jacksonville Beach and Mayport locations

You may contact volunteer coordinator Colleen Brennan at Colleen@jaxbeam.org or 904-241- 7437 x108 for more information.

Paths to Wellness Program Update (Summer 2018)

In June, we embarked on our second year of partnership with the First Coast YMCA to
provide the community with free diabetes prevention and hypertension management workshops.

The classes are open to the public and facilitated by a Y life coach
and supervised by BEAM’s Registered Dietitian Rachel McCandless.

The class schedules are as follows:

  • Diabetes Prevention Program – every Monday from 10:30am to 11:30am at the Mayport food pantry (1447 Mayport Road, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233).
  • Hypertension Management Program – every Monday from 9am to 10am and 1pm to 2pm at the Mayport food pantry (1447 Mayport Road, Atlantic Beach, FL 32233).

Lunch is provided to attendees, and participants are able to “shop” one on one with BEAM’s Registered Dietitian following class. If you or someone you know is interested in joining us, please reach out to Rachel at 904-624-9566 or Rachel@jaxbeam.org.

Letter from the Executive Director (Summer 2018)

Dear Supporters,

As we participated in the Opening of the Beaches Parade, I was so excited by the many cheers from onlookers shouting, “We love BEAM”! It is easy to recognize that our roots run deep in this community.

Together we celebrate the recent retiring of Rev. Gabe Goodman of Community Presbyterian Church and mourn the loss of Rev. Jack Swann of Palms Presbyterian Church. Both were among the founders of BEAM and exemplary community stewards who have positively changed the beaches area forever.

Much has changed since these two pastors and others in the Beaches Ministerial Association first envisioned BEAM nearly 35 years ago. Our food pantry is expanding hours to better meet the needs of working families. We are exploring additional support to seniors to help them live independently and safely in their homes. In addition, we are thrilled to celebrate our 25th annual Back to School with BEAM this year. Built on this rich history, we continue to channel the generosity of our community in service to others. Your support allows us to meet the most basic needs of our most vulnerable neighbors and seek ways for all to live with dignity.

A growing economy can mask the challenges that many still face. While the needs our neighbors may look different now than when we first began, BEAM continues to serve those at risk of homelessness every single day.

Thank you for entrusting me alongside our board, staff and dedicated volunteers to make this important work possible. It is truly a privilege to provide this care to those in our community who need it most.

Lori Richards
Executive Director
904-241-7437 x1

New "Healthy Choice" Food Pantries

BEAM’s recent partnership with the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida has brought some changes to our Mayport and Jax Beach food pantries!

With the help of one of our UNF nursing students, Rebecca Cheney, and as a part of our “client choice” initiative, we have incorporated a “Healthy Choice” option throughout the pantries that helps clients easily shop for healthier options.

Statistics show that one in three food pantry client households include an individual with diabetes and 58 percent include an individual with high blood pressure. Our new “Healthy Choice” alternatives address these statistics by incorporating labeled shelves with low sodium, low sugar, whole grain or whole wheat foods into each client’s shopping experience.

The “Healthy Choice” categories chosen for our food pantries are approved by our full-time Registered Dietitian and are proven to have health benefits. Our student partner was the winner of an Osprey Community Engagement Medallion for demonstrating exemplary commitment to the community through her project! Congratulations Rebecca and thank you for making it easy for our clients to choose healthier options at our “client choice” food pantries!


 Rebecca Cheney receiving a medallion for her Healthy Choice food labeling system project at the University of North Florida's Osprey Community Engagement Medallion Awards Ceremony.

Rebecca Cheney receiving a medallion for her Healthy Choice food labeling system project at the University of North Florida's Osprey Community Engagement Medallion Awards Ceremony.

Volunteer Spotlight: National Volunteer Month 2018

BEAM would like to thank the volunteers that participated in National Volunteer Month this April! 

 Publix Serves Day volunteers who built two new boxes in the Grace Garden, painted the Jax Beach food pantry and sorted food at our Beaches Community Food Bank.

Publix Serves Day volunteers who built two new boxes in the Grace Garden, painted the Jax Beach food pantry and sorted food at our Beaches Community Food Bank.

BEAM helps make a difference in the lives of those in our community, and we would not be able to do so without the help of our faithful volunteers.

 Beach Church in Jacksonville Beach donated 8,793 pounds of food.

Beach Church in Jacksonville Beach donated 8,793 pounds of food.

One Grandmother's Story

Meet Karen

BEAM’s Food and Financial Assistance Services aim to prevent Beaches residents in emergency situations from going hungry and avoiding eviction or homelessness.

Karen is the grandmother and caretaker of her 12-year-old grandson. She had previously worked with Client Services Manager Kathy Maloney for rent assistance, but most recently came to BEAM for help at the end of last year when she welcomed another newborn grandchild into her home. Kathy was able to identify Karen’s needs and provided her with diapers and other essential baby items from the food pantry. She also reached out to mothers in the community who gathered items together to provide her with a crib, car seat, and other newborn baby supplies.

“They changed a chaotic and troublesome situation into a joyous one,” Karen says. “One of the most important things for me was Ben, my grandson that I’m raising. He could see other people helping other people, and that’s the way the world should work.”

Single Parent Program: Client Success Story

Meet Tammy

We are thrilled to share that Tammy, one of our SPP moms from cohort three, will graduate from Edwards Waters College at the beginning of May with her Bachelors in Business Administration. Tammy was referred to BEAM by a program participant back in 2015 and has made great progress towards building a career and developing a sound financial future for herself and her three children. In partnership with Goodwill’s A-STEP program, Tammy was able to take prerequisite classes at FSCJ and enter into the CLIMB program at Edward Waters where she will obtain her Bachelors in only 18 months’ time. We are also excited to share that she already has two interviews lined up post-graduation!

Single Parent Program

Beginning in April, our case manager began working with nine women enrolled in the fifth cohort of BEAM’s Single Parent Program (SPP) as they started their journey towards achieving their Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely (SMART) goals.

Last year, the program’s services provided 36 single parents from four cohorts with workshops and tools needed to gain self-sufficiency and interrupt the cycle of poverty. Participants meet on a weekly basis for up to three years and receive personalized services and intensive workshops on various topics such as credit repair, home ownership, interview skills and more. Women who complete the program can expect measurable gains toward their set goals, which often incorporate a better understanding of finances, an increased credit score, sufficient income to move out of poverty or developing career and schooling opportunities.

Letter From the Executive Director

Dear Supporters,

As my six month mark approaches (which is hard to believe!), I reflect on my time here and am still in awe of the incredible community support we receive. BEAM is truly something special and it is because of each of you.

As you may know, our mission is to provide emergency assistance and a path to economic stability.

In addition to our rent and utility financial assistance work, for the past several years our BEAM offices have served as a free tax preparation site. Becoming a tax site each year has saved many of our hardworking beaches families several hundred dollars in preparation fees. It has also provided
them a trusted place to work closely with an IRS-certified volunteer who is trained to maximize their return.

I am proud to report that this year, RealSense volunteers completed more than 260 returns at BEAM saving taxpayers over $50,000 in preparation fees. In addition, the tax refunds from those returns totaled over $300,000 (with $115,000 as a result of Earned Income Tax Credit credits)! What an incredible way to provide financial relief to families living paycheck to paycheck.

I am also excited to share that in an effort to be more accessible to our hungry neighbors, we are beginning to pilot Saturday food pantry hours at both our Mayport and Jacksonville Beach locations. We will be open the first and third Saturdays in Mayport from 10 am – 2 pm and the second and fourth Saturdays from 10 am – 2 pm. Should you have an interest in volunteering on a Saturday, please let us know!

Thank you for the many ways you support BEAM and our beaches community.

Lori Richards, Executive Director

Grace Garden Celebrates its 5th Birthday!

2 (1).jpg

This April marks five years since the inception of our beloved Grace Garden. What was once an overgrown and untamed backyard to BEAM’s headquarters, is now a serene and peaceful neighborhood gem providing thousands of pounds of produce to families in the beaches area.

Grace Garden exists for three main reasons:
• To provide fresh produce to BEAM’s two client-choice food pantries (Jacksonville Beach and Mayport)
• To create a peaceful place for clients to visit
• To add beauty to the neighborhood
Since 2013, Grace Garden has produce more than 27,500 pounds of produce for hardworking families in our beaches community.

Getting the garden to where it is today was no easy task. It took vision, persistence and lots of community help. Integral partners from idea to execution include the City of Jacksonville Beach, UF/IFAS Duval County Extension Office, Home Depot-Jacksonville Beach, landscape architect Kelly Elmore and numerous skilled volunteers and financial supporters.

Food Pantry and Garden Manager Mary Ellen Waugh shared, “I am most proud that it is a place of its own. The garden is something unique that this community didn’t have before, and our neighborhood and our clients are better because of it.”

People from all walks of life have touched Grace Garden and been affected by its beauty and character. We welcome our regular weekly volunteers (including two retired master gardeners), church life groups and their children, community and corporate groups. All have had a hand in creating a lively and sustainable garden year-round.


Aside from the nutritious food that fills our pantries, the garden also provides a learning opportunity for clients and their children. BEAM’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Rachel McCandless uses produce from the garden to prepare food tastings and cooking demonstrations for clients. She also works closely with those who have been diagnosed with Diabetes or Hypertension to teach them how to incorporate positive lifestyle changes in an effort to manage and relief their chronic disease symptoms.

Lastly, Grace Garden serves as a peaceful space for clients and beaches residents alike to relax, decompress and enjoy nature’s beauty.

How can you help? Please consider sponsoring a Grace Garden raised bed for $250 a year or aeroponic tower for $350 a year, which provides BEAM’s pantries four seasons of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a perfect gift for Mother’s Day!

Paths to Wellness Program


Beginning in 2014, we incorporated a full-time Registered Dietitian on staff to work alongside our clients and to provide nutrition education to the community. The Paths to Wellness program has three main goals: to provide prescriptive guidance to those with nutrition-related diseases (such as diabetes or hypertension), to provide preventative education to those who are at risk and to facilitate direct outreach to the community through mobile food pantries and community events.

2017 highlights include:

  • Biweekly one on one case management support with 61 individual clients and our Registered Dietitian to learn how to incorporate dietary changes resulting in better health outcomes.
  • A new partnership with the YMCA to spearhead a yearlong Diabetes Prevention Program.
  • Food tastings and nutrition education at BEAM’s new mobile food pantry at Mayport Elementary School each early release school day.
  • 20 University of North Florida Department of Nutrition and Dietetics students worked closely with our dietitian to provide evidence-based education to food pantry clients.

Single Parent Program


Started in 2014, the Single Parent Program was a strategy designed to assist one of BEAM’s largest demographics, single mothers. By providing one on one case management and wraparound services, BEAM developed this program to intentionally work with single mothers in the beaches community to lead them to a life of self sufficiency.

Program participants agree to meet on a weekly basis for intensive workshops to provide them with the  tools they need to increase credit scores, manage debt, develop career goals and work towards advanced schooling opportunities.

In 2017, we celebrated a milestone for the SingleParent Program and more importantly for Nekia, a three year program participant who graduated with a Surgical Technology Workforce Certificate from Florida State College at Jacksonville. She was one of the first in her class to land a job working for a local healthcare system increasing her salary 60%.

To date, we have had 36 single parents and 113 children participate in the program to gain self sufficiency.

Financial Assistance Program


A large part of BEAM’s work in our community is to assist hardworking families by providing rent and utility assistance when times are tough and budgets are strained. In 2017, we were able to assist more than 800 families by keeping them in their homes and their children safe.

In addition, one of our busiest times during the year was post Hurricane Irma and the devastation it caused for many. With support from the First Coast Relief Fund and our donors, we were able to provide additional financial resources to those who were impacted by the storm.

We aided 92 families affected by the storm with rent or utility help for reasons such as lost wages, damage to their homes, or unplanned evacuation expenses.

Below is just one story of a client we helped this year:
Eddie, a father of two, came to BEAM looking for assistance. It had been an emotional few months for his family as he and his wife found out their second child was diagnosed with a rare cardiac condition requiring open heart surgery at just 4 weeks old. Eddie was forced to take a leave of absence from his civilian position with the Navy to focus on his family. Before he knew it, bills piled up and he was three months behind on his rent, his car insurance had lapsed and his phone had been cut off. BEAM was able to provide Eddie with rent assistance and a few referrals to local partners that helped meet his other financial needs. Eddie was able to catch up on his bills, go back at work, and we hear his baby boy is doing great!

Food Assistance Program


Our efforts to feed the hungry are ever expanding, and one way we are providing nutrition to our neighbors in need is through our Beaches Community Food Bank. Established in 2016 in partnership with Feeding Northeast Florida, the food bank functions as a grocery recovery distribution center located behind our 7north thrift store in Jacksonville Beach. It is the only one of its kind within a 30 miles radius of our beaches area, which is significant for food recovery with a very short shelf life.

Last year alone we collected, inspected and redistributed more than 749,000 pounds of food from grocery stores and food drives to our clients’ dinner tables. Over 400,000 pounds alone went to our two client-choice food pantries, which served more than 2,600 beaches residents last year. The remaining went to agencies such as Alimancani Elementary School’s PTA weekend backpack program, senior housing sites, the Rhoda Martin Headstart program and numerous mobile food pantry sites.

In 2017 we introduced “mobile pantry sites” to get food into the hands of individuals who need it most. This approach requires staff and volunteers to bundle, transport and drop off pallets of food at partner locations on a regular basis, including Pablo Towers, Pablo Hamlet, St John the Baptist Catholic Church and Mayport Elementary School.

Last August, media outlet CNN.com filmed BEAM staff and our 7,200 square foot Grace Garden for a video featuring our unique “garden to food pantry” approach. They highlighted our ability to grow and to provide healthy food to people on a limited income, which both gratified and reinforced the important work we are doing to assist our food insecure neighbors.

Letter from the Board Chair

Dear Supporters,

Thank you for partnering with BEAM to help our most vulnerable community members avoid homelessness, provide food in their homes, and find assistance in so many significant ways!

Over the last several years, BEAM has been in a constant state of evolution and growth, and in 2017 experienced some significant changes. I would like to extend sincere appreciation to past Executive Director Susan King and longtime Board Chair Paul Lambert for their years of unwavering vision and leadership, which has taken BEAM to its new heights.

It is my distinct pleasure to work with our new Executive Director Lori Richards, who brings impressive nonprofit management tenure and is offering expert guidance to BEAM. She is committed to our mission and is focused on maintaining and refining the meaningful work performed every day by our talented staff and dedicated volunteers.

BEAM strives to contribute to the strength and well being of our community. We have much to be proud of in our efforts to provide hope and help to our beaches neighbors and I invite you to celebrate our many accomplishments. On behalf of our Board of Directors, thank you to our generous donors and dedicated volunteers for making our success possible.

Most sincerely,
Janice Kiernan
2018 Board of Directors Chair

New Year’s Resolutions



From the Dietitian:

It’s January again, where did the time go?  After all of the excesses of the holidays, a new calendar is like a clean slate, a “do-over” to fix our previous mistakes.  About half of us make New Year’s resolutions; we want to lose weight, quit smoking, spend less or get fit or organized in the new year.  One thing these goals have in common is that they are all related to our habits, the small actions we repeatedly do or don’t do that add up over time.  For example, one can of soda is only 150 calories, you probably don’t even think about it.  But, one soda every day can add up to an extra 15 pounds of body fat at the end of the year. 

Changing your habits seems easy on January 1st, but by February or March, not so much.  Life gets in the way and we abandon our goals for our old familiar patterns.  It doesn’t have to be that way, however.  With a little patience and planning, you can be your own success story.

Here are six tips to help you to succeed with whatever your New Year’s resolution:

  1. Make a specific plan for the journey, not just the destination. How can you get to where you want to go if you don’t have a map of how to get there?  “I’m going to go to the gym 4 hours every week” is a lot easier to achieve than “I’m going to get fit”.
  2. Relying on willpower alone doesn’t work; stress or bad days will happen and you’ll be tempted to resume your comforting old habits.  Keep a list of actions that you enjoy doing to replace the one you used to perform automatically.  For example, when your boss stresses you out, walk around the building or call a friend rather than go out for a cigarette or to the break room for a donut.
  3. Don’t try to do everything at once.  Break it down into small, achievable chunks to keep from getting discouraged.  “I’m going to clean and organize everything” seems overwhelming compared to “This week, I’m going to clean out the bedroom closet”.
  4. Trying to be perfect 100% of the time is one of the main reasons we abandon our goals come February.  Instead, try the 80/20 approach.  If you’ve made good choices 80% of the time, pat yourself on the back, then work to gradually increase to 90%, then more.   Knowing you have a treat planned for a bedtime snack can help you to avoid the cake on the buffet line at lunch.
  5. Keep your motivation going by making a list of why you are changing your habits.  “I want to eat healthier so that my daughter won’t learn bad habits and have to struggle with her weight like I have.”  “I want to save money so that I can travel in the future.”  Keep this list handy to remind yourself often.
  6. Keep track of your small victories and reward yourself regularly.  Small rewards can have great effects: a hot bath after going to the gym, a pedicure for 5 pounds lost, or a new video game for not smoking for two weeks.  You’ll look forward to the prize when tempted to backslide.  Just remember, you only get the reward for doing the action!  If you don’t do it, you don’t get it!

Quotable Quotes

"Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time."  ~Mark Twain

We hope that these tips will take you a long way in your journey to become your own “after” picture and ditch the “before” picture for good.

Here’s to your success!