Island couple Buzzy Phillips and Carol Cassell have made a $10,000 donation to the Beacon of H.O.P.E. Community Learning Center. Following an initial donation of $1,000, future donations will be made in monthly increments of $1,000 over the next nine months.
"This couldn't come at a better time," Elsie Stearns said. "Earlier this year an anonymous Beacon of H.O.P.E supporter agreed to provide the organization with up to $30,000 in matching funds for the Beacon's Community Learning Center. For every dollar raised (up to $30,000), the donor will contribute a matching amount. With earlier donations, this $10,000 brings us to within a third of the final amount."
The Learning Center, to be located in the central portion of the Beacon of H.O.P.E.'s new building at 5090 Doug Taylor Circle in St. James City, will require a total of nearly $100,000 in renovations. By "matching" the $30,000 donation, islanders will have paid for more than half of the total needed to complete the Learning Center.
The Beacon of H.O.P.E. building in St. James City.
Some of the Learning Center programs include after-school and summer programs for young people, senior citizens' learning and socializing opportunities, job counseling, Pine Island Playhouse and GED. Until the center section of the building is completed, these services are spread out in temporary spaces.
"I remember what it was like before the Beacon," Phillips said. "The Beacon of H.O.P.E. was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Charley to assist islanders with their immediate needs: food, water, clothing, etc. And since that time the Beacon has grown to offer services to every age group on the island from children to seniors.
"I initially got involved with the Beacon with the SAS (Students Achieving Success) program," Phillips said. "Then over the years I started to realize how much they do for every group on the island.
Phillips continued, "There is a Bible verse that I think says it all. It's Matthew 25:35. 'For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in.'
"For me that sums up what the Beacon of H.O.P.E. is," Phillips said. "They serve everybody from children to seniors and they don't just give money away they "empower" people.