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/.