News

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!

fleet.jpg

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!

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

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!

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.

3.jpg

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

DSC_0021.JPG

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

DSC_0044.JPG

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

C06A9435.jpg

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!

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

Meet our new Executive Director: Lori Richards

 Lori Richards has more than two decades of nonprofit management experience in Northeast Florida, She was the executive director at PACE Center for Girls Volusia-Flagler Counties since 2013. Previously she had a 20-year career with Girl Scouts of Gateway Council in Jacksonville, the last dozen years as its chief operating officer. She has a bachelor’s degree from Salem College and a master’s degree in non-profit management from the University of Central Florida. Lori and her husband live on a sailboat, which they expect to dock at an Intracoastal marina nearby. In its recommendation to the board, the Transition Committee said, “Lori puts commitment to the organization’s mission and its clients at the center of her priorities. She has a broad understanding of and experience in non-profit work, including strategic planning and implementation, program development and evaluation, budgeting and operations, volunteer management and resource development. From a large field of well-qualified candidates, we felt she was exactly the right person to lead BEAM next.”

Lori Richards has more than two decades of nonprofit management experience in Northeast Florida, She was the executive director at PACE Center for Girls Volusia-Flagler Counties since 2013. Previously she had a 20-year career with Girl Scouts of Gateway Council in Jacksonville, the last dozen years as its chief operating officer. She has a bachelor’s degree from Salem College and a master’s degree in non-profit management from the University of Central Florida.
Lori and her husband live on a sailboat, which they expect to dock at an Intracoastal marina nearby.
In its recommendation to the board, the Transition Committee said, “Lori puts commitment to the organization’s mission and its clients at the center of her priorities.
She has a broad understanding of and experience in non-profit work, including strategic planning and implementation, program development and evaluation, budgeting and operations, volunteer management and resource development. From a large field of well-qualified candidates, we felt she was exactly the right person to lead BEAM next.”

Letter from the Executive Director

Dear friends of BEAM,

As I arrived at the BEAM offices on a recent morning, I found our Garden Manager, Mary Ellen pulling weeds and checking on the progress in the vegetable beds. The plants were glistening in the early morning sun, and the space was full of new beginnings and possibilities. It was a wonderful sight to behold at the start of the day, and reminded me of how fortunate I feel to be joining this amazing organization! With just a few weeks in, I continue to learn the scope and breadth of all that happens and am hearing about all the people who are touched by the programs and opportunities that make up BEAM. I am truly in awe of the dedicated and hardworking volunteers I’ve had the opportunity to meet so far. They bring such obvious joy to the day to day work that is our mission. I feel very blessed to be here at BEAM! I’ve been introduced to some exciting accomplishments in my first few days. Mayport Market is an exciting new adventure for BEAM, made possible by a wonderful partnership with the staff at Mayport Elementary, Palms Presbyterian Church and Publix Supermarket Charities.

Each Wednesday afternoon during early release time, BEAM staff and Palms volunteers create a mini farmers market where the elementary students and their families choose healthy foods to supplement their grocery expenses. The Mayport Market is important to the healthy choice options available to families living in a “food desert”.

Last week, the second group of women in our Single Parent Program celebrated all the goals they achieved during their first 16 weeks in the program. One parent participant, Keshonna, shared how she was able to stay employed in her current job through a collaborative effort with BEAM and Prodigy Child Care Center that allowed her to have reliable child care when her unstable child care fell through. This program is fairly new to BEAM, and is a wonderful example of how the organization has matured to be focused not only on meeting emergency needs but assisting families on building a more self-sufficient future. Everyone who helps assure that the resources are available to make this new program happen shares in her success.

If you have not already heard, BEAM is fortunate to be a part of the Tour de Farm event on November 19th. It is an honor for our Grace Garden to be invited to participate in this Slow Food First Coast event. This is the second time BEAM has been invited to open our garden and facilities to “foodies” from all over Duval, St. Johns and Nassau counties. Join us for a fun-filled morning of beautiful vegetables, taste tastings and seed starting! For more information, watch our Facebook page. We hope to see you there.

With gratitude,
Lori

Back to School with BEAM 2017

At this year’s Back to School with BEAM event, we were able to provide clothes, underwear, school supplies and backpacks, and new books to nearly 700 children. We also delivered more than 300 backpacks full of school supplies and some clothes to clients, schools and other social service agencies that requested them for their children. Special thank you to all donors and volunteers who helped make this possible!

Introducing Mayport Market

More than 40% of children who attend Mayport Elementary receive free or reduced lunch, which is also located in a USDA defined food desert, a neighborhood that lacks healthy and affordable food sources. With the goal of helping to alleviate food insecurity for low income children in a vulnerable community, we forged a new partnership with Publix Super Market Charities, Palms Presbyterian Church and Mayport Elementary School/Duval County Public Schools to create an innovative mobile food pantry called Mayport Market. Each Duval County early release day, Mayport Market is open to any family of current students. Nearly twice a month, these children and families are provided with fresh produce from BEAM’s Grace Garden and pantry staples from our grocery recovery program coupled with nutrition education led by BEAM’s full time Registered Dietitian. Publix Super Market Charities has generously donated to this pilot program to improve the long-term health of low-income children, and our partners at Palms Presbyterian volunteer their time to help with set-up and distribution.

Our first market day was very successful as we had more than 250 families attend and distributed more than 1,800 pounds of groceries. Our Registered Dietitian Rachel McCandless made Helushi, a Polish cabbage and noodle dish, to entice the kids to try the cabbage, which was a surplus vegetable received from Feeding Northeast Florida that week.  Similar food tastings and recipe cards will be provided at each market.

Rachel’s future nutrition lessons will include ways to “eat the rainbow” (i.e. fruits and vegetables), the nutritional cost of drinking sodas and juices and how to engage picky eaters to try new foods.

In addition, we’d like to acknowledge Principal Amy Cline for her ongoing support and for giving us the opportunity to provide food assistance to children who often go without adequate nutrition.