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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
2018 Board of Directors Chair