Mobile Food Pantries Meet Client Needs

When the food bank was first built in 2016 behind our 7north thrift store, it was created to serve as the only beaches food distribution center responsible for the collection, inspection and organization of food from our local grocery store partners. Once established, we were able to receive a steadily flow of goods for our two client-choice food pantries as well as provide food to neighboring agencies in a “business to business” approach.

With a small food bank staff of two and 44 weekly volunteers, we also added another our approach to meet the needs of our food insecure beaches community: mobile food pantry operations.

A mobile food pantry is a food distribution strategy that removes the barriers preventing access to under-served areas. It allows for the delivery of rescued food and grocery products including protein, produce and other goods to meet the needs of the public right where they are in a “business to consumer” approach.

Our current mobile food pantry sites include:

  • An average of 2,800 pounds of food to Mayport Market, a food distribution site in the cafeteria of Mayport Elementary School every Duval County Public School early release day. Our successful Mayport Market initiative is in partnership with Palms Presbyterian Church.

  • An average of 6,000 pounds a month of meat, bread and other items to St John the Baptist Catholic Church for their mobile food pantry on the third Saturday of every month. This poundage is in addition to the food we provide to them to help stock their food pantry.

  • An average of 1,800 pounds every other week to Pablo Hamlet, one of Jacksonville Beach’s subsidized senior living facilities. This gives us an opportunity to provide food to seniors who live independently, but who are not able to visit one of our brick and mortar pantries.

  • An average of 1,800 pounds every week to Pablo Towers, which has a similar demographic of Pablo Hamlet. These two senior living facility mobile food pantries are in partnership with Elderly Housing Management Corporation.

We would not be able to do this important work without the organizations behind the scenes that provide these food and grocery donations. Our admirable partners include Feeding Northeast Florida, Lucky’s Market, NS Mayport Commissary, Publix Super Markets, PVS Studios, Target, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie.

While we continue to operate our Jacksonville Beach and Mayport food pantries (including expanded weeknight and weekend hours), our mobile food pantry outreach has given us an opportunity to meet a different demographic—those who face transportation and/or time constraint hardships while providing for themselves and their families on a limited income.

Last year alone, we distributed more than 114,000 pounds of food through our mobile food pantry operations.

Blessing of the Fleet

In late September, we held an intimate event for our food bank donors and volunteers to celebrate the purchase of a new truck! With this addition, we are now able to better serve the supply needs of our Jacksonville Beach and Mayport pantries, our mobile food pantry sites and partner agencies.

We’d like to thank Ullmann Brown Wealth Advisors and the Ponte Vedra Women’s Civic Alliance for their generous investments to make this new truck possible. These donations for food operations capital improvements have a significant impact on our ability to combat food insecurity in our beaches area.

At the event, BEAM co-founder Father William Kelly led a “blessing of the fleet” and shared how far the organization has come since 1985 when BEAM was first formed.

In addition, we recognized our stellar volunteer Glenn Schneider for working tirelessly to make sure we purchased a truck that met our specific needs, and was within our budget.

Thank you to our food bank partners and supporters for your generosity!

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BEAM of Light Beach Ball 2018 Recap

At the end of August we held our annual fundraiser, the BEAM of Light Beach Ball, at TPC Sawgrass welcoming more than 210 attendees to celebrate the important work we are doing in the beaches area.

Our master of ceremonies was WJXT Channel 4 news anchor Jennifer Waugh who shared about the food insecurity challenges that face our community and how BEAM’s comprehensive basic needs services assist thousands of families every year. Senator Aaron Bean led a very entertaining live auction, and we enjoyed music from the RadioLove Band.

We also heard remarks from our current Board Chair Janice Kiernan who shared that because of generous donors and partners, we’ve been able to increase our footprint in the beaches area to reach more individuals and families in times of need.

At the end of the program, we were moved to hear personal testimony from a BEAM client who lost his job in the recession, forcing him and his daughter to lose their home. Through perseverance, and a hand up from BEAM, Dan was able to secure an apartment and his daughter is now in her freshman year at the University of Tampa on a full ride scholarship.

Dan’s story is just one example of the many lives impacted by the services we provide.

All money contributed through sponsorships, donations, ticket sales and auction earnings support BEAM’s work to provide emergency assistance and a path to economic stability. Thanks to generous community support, we raised more than $107,000 through this year’s BEAM of Light Beach Ball!

Back to School with BEAM 2018 Recap

We celebrated 25 years of Back to School with BEAM this year. On August 5th, we assisted more than 725 children and their families with clothing needs and school supplies in preparation for the next academic year. The book room in partnership with READUSA and the Beaches Community Fund continues to be a hit, and we were thrilled to welcome first-time Back to School volunteers Katie and Tommy Bohanon (#40), Megan and Josh Lambo (#4) from the Jacksonville Jaguars!

Providing Hope and Help

In September, our partners at 2-1-1 connected us with Stephen who was in need of financial assistance. Stephen is a beaches resident and has worked in the construction industry for more than 20 years, but because of a heart condition, he is no longer able to work. He is required to wear a LifeVest Defibrillator every day and at a recent checkup appointment, he found out he also has a tumor in his liver.

As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly stressful and emotional time for him. He lives by himself and has been working hard to keep up with his medical bills, but last month he needed assistance. BEAM was there to help relieve some of his financial stress by covering his rent and utility bills. In addition, he “shopped” with a volunteer in our Jacksonville Beach client-choice food pantry and she shared that he was the most gracious client she has worked with. We know that there is a slow road to recovery ahead for Stephen, but we are optimistic and continue to check in with him frequently to provide additional support.

Letter from the Executive Director (Fall 2018)

Dear Supporters,

This summer was a very busy time for us! We hosted both our 25th annual Back to School with BEAM and our BEAM of Light Beach Ball fundraiser in August. It was my first time attending both and I have to say, we have some incredible volunteers and supporters!

Last issue I shared with you we were expanding our pantry hours to include Thursday weeknights from 4- 7 pm. I’m pleased to say we have trained a group of dedicated volunteers to work this later shift, and we are now in the process of getting the word out about our extended hours to our partners and clients.

In addition, we have officially begun outreach to the local business community highlighting our “live-work” program where individuals who work in our six zip code service area can now schedule food pantry appointments. This service expansion is part of our 2016 strategic plan in an effort to help families supporting our local businesses who do not or can no longer afford to live east of the Intracoastal. We anticipate that once the word gets out, we will be able to provide food for many more hardworking families in need.

Your ongoing support is critical to the work we are doing to provide emergency assistance and a path to economic stability. Thank you for allowing us to continue to provide help and hope to those who need it most!

Gratefully,

Lori Richards
Lori@jaxbeam.org
904-241-7437 x1

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.

Sincerely,
Lori Richards
Executive Director
Lori@jaxbeam.org
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.


Sincerely,
Lori Richards, Executive Director

Grace Garden Celebrates its 5th Birthday!

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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.

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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

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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

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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.