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.


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!

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,

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.


Charles is a single father of a 3 year old son who is attending the new Early Headstart Program in Jacksonville Beach. When we first met him, he and his son were residing in a downtown shelter. His son’s mother had suddenly abandoned the child in New York, and Charles lost his job due to the time he took off to bring his son back to Florida.

He was referred to BEAM through the Early Headstart Program. We were able to assist him with clothes and shoes appropriate for interviewing and connected him to a local business looking for help. Charles got the job and is on his way to providing a stable home for his son.

It is thanks to you that we are able to give people like Charles a helping hand when they are going through emergencies. Through our programs and by connecting clients to other resources, we are able to work as a safety net on their journey towards self-sufficiency.


As we begin our Spring & Summer season, please keep BEAM Thrift in mind as begin your spring cleaning. We are in the most need of:

  • Women’s summer clothing (tops, shorts, and shoes in particular)
  • Men’s shorts & shirts
  • Children’s shorts & tops

We accept donations at the 7North location Monday – Saturday from 9AM – 5PM. Our trucks are available for pick-up of large donations such as furniture. To schedule a pick-up, please call Judy at 904-853-6246.


Shoppers came out in great numbers to help celebrate our 1st Anniversary Tent Event at the 7North location and enjoyed all the beautiful weather, hot dogs and great deals. Thank you for making 2016 a great year for BEAM Thrift!


Trey is a father of two young children and takes time out once a week to come volunteer at BEAM helping clients with food stamp and Medicaid applications.

"I am relatively new to the BEAM family. I am honored to be the volunteer spotlight. Between balancing family life and pursuing a Master’s degree in social work in a distant learning program at FSU I would say I am a busy individual. BEAM makes it a point to put the volunteer first, which allows people with busy schedules to give back to their community. When you think life is too busy, think again because BEAM has a spot for you on their team and you won’t regret it. BEAM has given me the opportunity to jumpstart my “helping” profession by giving back to my local community. I am excited to grow with BEAM and to continue serving my community.”

– Trey


The winter growing season has been prolific! The cold nights and sunny days have given us a bug and disease free growing season. We have had a steady crop of kale, collard greens, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, peas and lots of fragrant winter herbs.

Over the past few months we have been working on a new project, partnering with the City of Atlantic Beach, The Clinton Foundation Health Matters Initiative, Jacksonville University, and Atlantic Beach Urban Farms to bring a weekly farmers market to Mayport residents. Mayport has been identified as a “food desert” by the USDA; indicating a low-income area with limited access to healthy food due to the absence of grocery stores and limited access to transportation. The Atlantic Beach City Market opened February 17 and BEAM participated with a wonderful selection of Grace Garden produce available for sale. We are proud to be able to offer fresh, healthy food to our Mayport clients. In addition, shoppers who use SNAP or EBT will be able to double their benefits to purchase up to $20 of locally grown produce each week. We envision the new market, located at the southwest corner of Mayport Road and Dutton Island Road, as a gathering place for the entire community. Please come by and check it out!

With a new spring growing season approaching we are busy starting our tomato and pepper seeds in the greenhouse, as well as planting potatoes outside. Next we will start squash and cucumber followed by eggplant and okra. Remember, volunteering in Grace Garden is a great way to hone (or develop) your gardening skills. Please consider volunteering. You’ll learn a lot and have a great time!


In recent years, donors have informed us of their intention to include a gift to BEAM in their wills. These gifts provide an estate tax deduction and have a tremendous impact on our ability to plan for the future and serve those in need in our community. If you would like information on how to include BEAM in your will or estate plan, please contact:

Susan King, Executive Director
(904) 241-7437 x 1


Dear Friends of BEAM,

Spring is the season of new beginnings. Our gardeners plant seeds in Grace Garden, fresh buds bloom and the earth seems to come to life again. The timing of these changes varies depending upon location, and lucky for us, winter ended early because we have a busy 2017 ahead!

2016 was a year of adding facilities, staff and volunteers to better serve the community. With the expansion of our thrift operations to the new location at 7north, we are creating a sustainable revenue stream to help fund our programs. The addition of The Beaches Community Food Bank has significantly improved our ability to provide additional, fresher food to our own pantries and to other local agencies with food assistance programs. An impact summary of BEAM’s services in 2016 can be seen on the front page.

Also during 2016, our Board of Directors embarked on an ambitious strategic planning initiative. Over a period of months we evaluated our current service offerings and imagined how we could be better and more effective at meeting community need. The result is a significant shift in how we look at assistance.

The reality is that people come to us hungry. But hunger is often a symptom of other things; poverty, underemployment, illness that prevents working and a host of other issues. People come to us unable to pay their rent or utility bill when previously they managed. The “emergency” is often a symptom; legal issues, a significant car repair, or a simple lack of financial skills. Beginning in 2017, BEAM will begin to move away from solely providing “emergency” financial assistance to a model that includes evaluation and case management for those who may benefit. This is a fundamental shift in approach and engages the client in creating their own solutions with our help. We will also require a basic financial management course for anyone seeking assistance for a second time. We believe that these enhancements to our current programs will help us to affect real change in people’s lives and not just a “band-aid” approach to emergency assistance.

But, to be sure, none of the accomplishments of the past or the successes of the future would be possible without the extraordinary support of this community. Whether through financial support, volunteer support, or donations to our food pantries and thrift stores, BEAM is able to serve those in need because of YOU. Please know that every day I feel the blessings of your generosity and am truly grateful.

Susan King


October 2016 marks my 5 year anniversary of joining BEAM as its Executive Director. To say that these years have been full of change is a great understatement! From our expanded pantry operations and the addition of Grace Garden, to the opening of three BEAM Thrift stores, and to our most recent addition of the Beaches Community Food Bank, each year has been marked by growth.  It is a blessing and a gift to work for an organization that is nimble and responsive to the needs of the community and the people it serves.  When we saw that increasingly the food we receive from grocery stores was perishable and not the dented cans and damaged boxes of the past, we responded by adding cold storage facilities and refrigerated trucks.  When we saw that government and foundation funding for assistance programs such as ours were being cut, we opened the thrift stores to help create sustainable funding streams so that we could continue to help our neighbors in times of financial crisis.

Our objective always is to meet community need but not to duplicate great work that is already going on.  To that end, we will be discontinuing our Christmas Toy program this year.  For many years we have been providing toys to children in the community who might otherwise do without.  But over the last few years we have seen an enormous increase in the number of churches and organizations providing the same service. Rather than continue to duplicate services that are already available, we are focusing our efforts on our core programs.  Hunger is a problem every day for 1 in 7 adults and 1 in 4 children. And families living paycheck to paycheck, often lose their housing or have their lights turned off during a financial crisis. We are in a unique position to address these very significant needs in our community and hope that you will support our efforts.

This year we will be assisting our local St Vincent de Paul Society as they expand their very successful Christmas program to ensure that no child goes without a visit from Santa. We will work with them to sign up the families who come to BEAM for services and share any donated toys with them.  We will also be providing information to connect families who need help to the many organizations that provide toys during the holidays.

Although we are discontinuing this program, our recent completion by our Board of Directors of a Strategic Planning initiative will bring future expansion of services to our community.  We are excited about the future of the organization and the opportunity to serve in an efficient and impactful way.  Thank you for your generous support with your time, talent and treasure.  Our entire community is lifted up when we care for those in need.

Susan King


The people who seek services at BEAM are our neighbors and often become our friends. In our March 2015 newsletter, we introduced you to Paul, a 91-year-old gentleman who occasionally relies on BEAM for food and sometimes for financial assistance when his very limited income may be stretched too thin.

A couple of years ago, while shopping at Walmart, Paul met Cecelia, a 58 year old woman who was newly homeless and undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was very ill and needed a place to stay so Paul offered to have her move into his very small apartment. As the cancer spread and Cecilia decided to discontinue treatment, Paul was always there for her. During this time, Paul and Cecelia frequented BEAM for food assistance and help in dealing with Cecelia’s illness. He never left her, and often they visited just for a sympathetic ear.

Sadly, Cecilia lost her battle with cancer on September 26, 2016. We share Paul’s sadness at her passing and will miss her beautiful smile.