Coast Guard families turn to food pantry as shutdown drags on

BEAM, Greater Jacksonville Area USO assisting with rent, food, more

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Tiffany Lyford has never been in a position to have to ask for donations for her family.

But the partial federal government shutdown has put her -- and many other families -- in that position.

Lyford's husband, Joe, has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for more than 16 years. Because the Coast Guard is under the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense, Coast Guard service members are not being paid during the shutdown.

“We have three kids at home, and we don’t know when we are going to get our next paycheck. We don’t know how we’re going to pay our mortgage. We don’t know how we’re going to pay our bills. We just don't know,” Tiffany Lyford said. “It’s disheartening. … He joined the military for a guaranteed paycheck. He joined the military for stability, and we don’t have that right now.”

Local organizations are stepping in to help families of federal workers and Coast Guard service members affected by the shutdown.

The Greater Jacksonville Area United Service Organizations and the Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry are offering assistance that includes helping with mortgages and rent, and providing food and other items needed.

Nearly 600 active Coast Guard members and their families have visited the Mayport Road USO to pick up items, such as diapers, toothpaste and canned goods, at a food pantry hosted by the USO and the Chief Petty Officers Association.

“The longer this goes -- the government shutdown -- the more difficult, the more challenging it is for Coast Guard families and all of those not receiving a paycheck,” said Mike O'Brien, executive director of the local USO.

BEAM dropped off nearly 5,000 pounds of food to the USO on Friday.

“We have to rely on our community -- sadly -- to feed our families,” Lyford said. “A lot of us feel forgotten about, but thanks to the USO today, we know that we're remembered.”

Both BEAM and the USO are looking for donations of food, baby items and pet supplies.

Check BEAM's social media pages for updates. To donate for individuals or groups, you can contact BEAM’s executive director, Lori Richards, at 902-241-7437. Food donations can be dropped off behind the BEAM thrift store at 318 7th Ave. North in Jacksonville Beach.

The USO asks people to donate on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2560 Mayport Road in Jacksonville or call 904-246-3481. 

For more information on how to help, go to or

More help from BEAM

Federal workers impacted by the shutdown who work or live at the beach can receive financial assistance and food from BEAM. It can help residents pay rent, mortgage and utility bills, as well as provide food for families. It also has a pantry with fresh vegetables grown in its garden.

The organization serves low-income residents in Jacksonville’s beach communities and relies heavily on community support to assist residents in a time of need. Richards hopes the continued support from the community will bring relief to those struggling to make ends meet.

"We are confident that the community will support these increased efforts and ask that our friends and supporters continue to monitor our social media and website for specific opportunities to contribute and volunteer. We are grateful for the past support that allows us to respond to this emergency," Richards said.

The services are only available to those who either work or live in one of the beach communities -- Atlantic, Neptune, Ponte Vedra or Jacksonville beaches. This covers those living or working in the following ZIP codes:


"Here at the beach particularly, but really Jacksonville, we’re neighbors and we want to help each other," Richards said. "So this isn’t really any different than borrowing a cup of sugar from your neighbor if you’re making something and you don’t have it that day. We want to be there to help people."

BEAM is also helping families apply for food stamps. 

There is a pantry in Mayport that is convenient for anyone stationed at the Coast Guard base and another pantry in Jacksonville Beach at 850 Sixth Ave. South. For more information, call 904-241-2326 or visit the website Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry.

United Way

Those impacted by the shutdown are encouraged to call the United Way by dialing 211. 

According to United Way, almost 128,000 Duval County households struggle to make ends meet and that’s not factoring in the furloughed employees.

A United Way spokesperson told News4Jax  there are local resources available to furloughed employees. Those include family foundations, which help with mental health and certified financial counselors, and free legal assistance at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and Three Rivers Legal Services. 

More resources for furloughed employees can be found on the United Way's website.

Free lunch for federal workers

The Chestnut Law Firm will be providing a free lunch to federal workers affected by the shutdown from noon until 2 p.m. Saturday at the Potter's House Soul Food Bistro at 5310 Lenox Ave. The free lunch will be offered to furloughed employees with a valid government ID and their families. 

Christ United Methodist Church 

The community can drop off supplies for Coast Guard employees and their families affected by the shutdown. Christ United Methodist Church will be collecting donations Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 400 Penman Road in Neptune Beach. The items needed include:

  • Diapers - all sizes
  • Baby wipes
  • Pull-ups - all sizes
  • Paper Towels
  • Toilet Paper
  • Trash bags
  • Zip lock bags
  • Dish Soap
  • Dishwasher soap / Tablets
  • Laundry Detergent
  • Fabric Softener
  • Dryer Sheets
  • Disinfecting Wipes
  • Cat / Dog Food
  • Cat Litter
  • Generic (Visa/MasterCard) Gift Cards 
  • Toiletries, including: shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, toothpaste, female hygiene produce, deodorant, etc.

Monetary donations can also be made through the church's website: Christ United Methodist Church.

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Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.