Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
November 20 2017 1:38 p.m.

It’s easy to have misconceptions about Barnabas and its role in our community. It’s easy to believe the only crisis people face is one they brought on themselves. Life doesn’t work that way. A crisis can present itself to any of us without our having any part in causing it.

Hurricane Irma was an example of such a crisis. For many of us, it was an inconvenience that was addressed by hiring someone to clear away tree limbs or fix a few roof tiles. For too many others, it presented a tipping point. They did not have the extra funds to cope with a crisis such as Irma presented.

We may not think there is poverty on the Island because we don’t see much physical evidence of it. The truth is there are people who are getting through day by day but often with little resources for unexpected events. Barnabas exists to help people in those circumstances. They provide transition support: not a handout but a hand up to get people who have suffered setbacks back on their feet. The setbacks may be a lost job, an illness, a divorce or anything that tips people into crisis because it’s an added expense. Barnabas has been fulfilling this role in Nassau County for three decades.

As an example, Barnabas estimates there are about 600 homeless kids in our area. By homeless, they mean that these kids have no fixed address. Barnabas tries to help by assembling food packs that they deliver to the schools every Friday to help these children get through the weekend.

Barnabas also runs a Food Pantry. Donations from stores such as Publix Charities, coupled with funds from donations provide food for several hundred people in need. It’s estimated that $1 donated will buy $7 to $8 of food. There’s “Cooking Matters,” a cooking class held 3 times this year and moving to 5 times next year. It is designed to help people learn how to shop and cook healthier food. A growing epidemic of obesity in our country is partly the result of eating inexpensive, quick food. This program offers an alternative that will help people eat better.

Barnabas is a careful steward of its resources, funds, volunteers, etc. Charity Navigator, a service that rates charities across the U.S., has placed Barnabas in the top 1% nationally for the past 11 years. Charity Navigator rates organizations on transparency, control of administrative expenses, and impact on their communities among other factors.

“This is a generous community, with time and funding,” Jeff McDowell, Barnabas Communications Manager says. About 200 volunteers assist the thirty or so staff members in the Food Pantry, New To You Resale Store, and in other areas. Donations and special events bring in nearly $900,000. Medical and dental professionals assist with health services. Companies large and small help out with whatever they can. The Ritz Carlton catered the soup for the Empty Bowls luncheon. Baptist Health provides health services that Barnabas can’t provide. Buy Go assists the cooking class with tips on smart shopping in grocery stores.

The 4th Annual Empty Bowls luncheon last Friday was a sell-out again this year. Thanks to all of the volunteers, donors, and supporters who sustain Barnabas in this valuable service to our community.

Evelyn McDonald moved to Fernandina Beach from the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. in 2006. Evelyn is vice-chair on the Amelia Center for Lifelong Learning and is on the Dean’s Council for the Carpenter Library at the UNF. Ms. McDonald has MS in Technology Management from the University of Maryland’s University College and a BA in Spanish from the University of Michigan.

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