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Businesses, volunteers keep Beacon Bites strong

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Sep 29, 2021


According to Beacon of Hope Program Director Nancy Buthman, the Beacon Bites program, which started in 2017, began because it became too difficult to continue utilizing the Meals on Wheels program on the island.

When the program began, there were only eight recipients, and currently there are 22 to 25 on average, delivered six days a week, with two meals on Saturday, Buthman said.

Island Grill, Low Key Tiki, and Froggy’s are among the businesses which provide food to islanders in need.

“One day a month, Froggy’s makes the food for free, which is wonderful,” Buthman said.

The Beacon also collects milk from Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Catholic Church, as well as snacks from Fishers of Men Lutheran Church and St. Johns Episcopal Church.

The volunteers who deliver the meals, Buthman said, are made up of varying people and groups, including a group from Pine Island Cove, The Matlacha Hookers, Pine Island Cares and several individuals.

Isolation for the recipients of the Beacon Bites Program seems to be a huge problem, said Buthman, resulting in developing relationships between volunteers and recipients. This, she said, is a common outcome.

“Volunteers get to know these people and they really help a lot with depression and isolation,” she said. “There have been times they’ve had to call 9-1-1, and they also bring to light any problems the client may be having.”

Buthman is a nurse practitioner and Caryle Regan, who is president of the Beacon Board and a nurse is also there, Buthman explained. Together the two of them often assess medical issues a client may be having and try to take care of it. The program, although mostly made up of seniors and the disabled, is available for those in need. Administrative assistant Holly Kaman, who does much of the shopping and logistics for the program, said Beacon Bites, although seemingly about food distribution, is much more than that.

“It’s really not about the food. It’s about the wellness visit each day. You put your eyes on these people and make sure they’re OK. We’ve walked in and found people who have fallen. If one of the drivers comes back and says someone didn’t answer the door, we tell Nancy and she goes and does a wellness check.

“The food is minimal in response to what our goal is,” said Kaman.

The Beacon of Hope is located at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle in St. James City. For additional information about the Beacon or the Beacon Bites program, call 239-283-5123.