From its humble beginnings in 1985, The Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry (BEAM) has been helping families get through tough times they might not be able to navigate on their own. BEAM’s mission is to prevent homelessness when families hit a financial speed bump. They offer food assistance, as well as rent & utility help when families are having a hard time paying their bills due to an unforeseen circumstance. BEAM services families living in the 32082, 32224, 32233, 32250 and 32266 zip codes, encompassing Ponte Vedra Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Mayport.
The way BEAM works is simple. Occasionally families come upon hard times. This could be because of loss of a job, unexpected medical bill, serious illness or some other unforeseen circumstance. Clients can receive food assistance once every 30 days, housing assistance once every 18 months and Beaches Energy assistance once every 12 months.
In 2015 BEAM helped 18,580 adults and children. They distributed 533,196 pounds or $906,433 worth of food to BEAM families: the equivalent of 444,330 meals. BEAM helped 855 Children with school supplies, clothing, shoes and supplies at Back to School with BEAM. They prepared 256 tax returns prepared for $422,212 in refunds along with $58,478 in saved tax preparation fees for a total of $480,690 returned to the local economy. BEAM also distributed $232,936 in rent and utility and other assistance to qualified families at the beaches.
So how can you get involved?
BEAM is always looking for donations to their thrift stores. Donations can be made at their location at 318 7th Avenue N, Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm. All the money raised through thrift store sales goes directly to fund BEAM programs for families in need. In addition to thrift store donations, you can also donate to the BEAM food pantry at their main office.
One of BEAM’s biggest events of the year and a great way to get your kids involved in giving back is by donating items for their Back to School with BEAM program. This event helps Beaches families get their children ready for school by providing clothing, new backpacks, school supplies, shoes, underwear and socks to children in their service area.
My favorite way for families to get involved with BEAM is through their Grace Garden. 2 years ago, BEAM started their garden project as a way to supplement their food pantry with fresh fruit and vegetables. The Grace Garden is a 6,000 sq. ft. production farm with forty-five 4’ X 12’ raised beds, eight fruit trees, a fence full of raspberries on the north and blueberries on the south, and an herb and butterfly garden. Operating almost exclusively with volunteers, The Grace Garden at BEAM provided more than 7,500 pounds of fresh produce and fruits to our pantry clients in the last year. Volunteers (and this includes kids) are welcome to come work in the garden pulling weeds and planting crops.