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Jim McLaughlin retires as food director at the Beacon of H.O.P.E.

By Staff | Jun 2, 2015

Jim McLaughlin, a Beacon of H.O.P.E. board member and Pine Island resident, has officially retired as food director for the group.

“I just thought it was time for a break,” McLaughlin said. “I have lots of things to do and no time to do them.

“When we searched for someone to take my place,’ he continued, “Christine McElewaine was the likely candidate. She helped us with last year’s summer camp and once she agreed to take over, I made my announcement. The timing is right during the break and before the summer session begins.”

“I have mixed feelings, of course,” Beacon director Betsy Haesemeyer said. “Jim has served with the Beacon of H.O.P.E. for a long time. It’s interesting that Jim becoming our food director happened by accident. About a year and a half ago I sat down with Jim and during an innocent conversation at Holiday House Jim mentioned he had a food blog and maybe the Beacon would like to be on it. Then he came out to help with the Christmas dinner and he asked about chicken carcases. I asked him what he wanted them for and his response was ‘to make soup,’ I said OK but only if I get some back. Jim asked ‘why do you need soup?’ And that’s where this started.”

She went on to explain hour McLaughlin changed the food service.

“When I started making lunches for the kids it was something I needed to fit in to my schedule. But when Jim took it over he did so much more he nourished these kids,” Haesemeyer said. “He didn’t just fill a plate with food. What Jim brings to this is from his heart. And, he even reduced the costs involved making the most of every dollar.”

Diane Higgins emceed the event.

“We have a couple of presentations to make tonight,” Higgins said. “But before we do I think I can speak for the kitchen volunteers. I know I can say we enjoyed working with you so much and you will sorely be missed. First the children have a presentation to make.”

Some of the children presented McLaughlin with a gift bag of letters of appreciation for everything he did for the lunch program.

“As all of you know Jim has worked hard to make this program work,” BEacon president Elsie Stearns said. “The groundwork that Jim has laid will ensure that this program continues. Jim is also a board member and has agreed to stay on the board. We have a plaque I would like Rev. Kellum to read.”

“Jim said the other day that I always have a scripture verse like you have an ‘App’ for that,” Kellum said. “The plaque reads “Presented to Jim McLaughlin, (my friend) who lived out Matthew 25:35, ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me food… With deepest respect and thanks from the Beacon of H.O.P.E. and the Pine Island Methodist Church, May 27, 2015.”

“First I want to thank every single person in this room,” McLaughlin said after accepting the plaque. “Whether you are 5 years old or 85 years old that comes to help out in the kitchen or help out with mentoring the kids, every person has a role. All I do is rattle some pots and pans and without you this wouldn’t work. And once Edward opened the doors to this church this program went off the charts. We had no idea then that we would be where we are today.

“I started out feeding 20 kids a day at the school and once we moved everything here and started using this kitchen at the Methodist Church last year it really took off. We are feeding about 125 kids a day. I hope to do some traveling and some work around the house. This was a big decision and a difficult one. I’ve been lucky. As a news anchorman there were ‘rewards’ in doing my job but this is by far the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I thank you all very much.”