BEAM hopes to shine light for families in need during pandemic

Tens of thousands of pounds of food distributed to those struggling during COVID-19 quarantine

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry also known as BEAM is providing thousands of dollars in rent assistance and tens of thousands of pounds of food to people who are struggling during the pandemic.

They've managed to do this even though they've had to reduce their volunteer staff from 200 people to just 20.

That tiny army of people is working during a pandemic to help people desperately in need.

Volunteers stock the pantry at BEAM.
Volunteers stock the pantry at BEAM. (WJXT)

Recently, many lined up outside Finegan Elementary School for food, and others patiently waited to receive groceries at a mobile pantry near Oak Harbor Church in Mayport.

While they could probably use a hug, those aren't allowed right now.

Instead, compassion from the BEAM volunteers comes in the form of fresh produce, eggs and bread carried away in baskets or the trunks of cars.

Gracie Simendinger, director of development for BEAM, said it's another day in the life of the organization that offers not just food, but also financial assistance to help anyone who lives or works at the beach pay rent or utility bills.“We're not sure how long this is going to last, so we're trying our best to keep up with the needs. It's always important to continue to have access to families in need,” Simendinger said. “It's incredible that 60% of the clients that we have helped to date have never been a BEAM client (before the pandemic).”

Nearly half of their new clients are bartenders and restaurant workers. For perspective, before the pandemic, BEAM typically helped 70 households with emergency rent each month. Just nine days into April, they had already helped 85 households.

They've distributed more than 16,000 pounds of food each week since the pandemic started.

The BEAM pantry is looking bare with donations from grocery stores lacking during the pandemic.
The BEAM pantry is looking bare with donations from grocery stores lacking during the pandemic. (WJXT)

With that kind of new demand comes a cost. Extra food once donated from grocery stores has dried up and it's not safe to accept food donations from the public. But monetary donations can still make a difference.

If you would like to help, you can donate by going to jaxbeam.org.

BEAM launches new program to combat homelessness

BEAM announced Tuesday the launch of a new program called the Help Beaches Neighbors Keep Their Homes Campaign.

The “Keep Their Homes” Campaign is BEAM’s most recent initiative to help combat homelessness in Jacksonville’s beaches communities, in partnership with Jacksonville City Councilman Rory Diamond, St. Johns County Commissioner Jeremiah Blocker, and several other beaches elected officialsl

The campaign goal is to raise $50,000 to fund rent for 150 beaches residents by Friday, May 15.

The first $20,000 donated will be matched dollar for dollar.

More information about the Keep “Their Homes” Campaign can be found at www.jaxbeam.org/homes.

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