College students around the country know that South Padre Island is the place to go for a good time during spring break. Between the sand, sun and fun that is had by thousands, it is a one of the busiest weeks of the year. One night, 1,500 new guest checked into a local hotel, which is about half of the population of the entire island.
As college students, with a sprinkling of families and a few “winter Texans,” provide a substantial boost to the economy, the influx also requires a substantial increase in police officers and city workers to help maintain safety in the community.
Since 1980, Christian students from Baptist Student Ministries around Texas have traveled to South Padre Island to minister to their peers. Most notably, they provide free (and safe) rides during the day, into the wee hours of the morning, and pancakes for hungry spring breakers. Both services provide opportunities to engage in Gospel conversations with thousands.
During the slower hours on the island, Beach Reachers spend time cleaning the beach, helping process paperwork in the local jail, and even planting grass. This year, a new opportunity was provided for Beach Reach to prepare meals for city employees continuing work into the night. Susan Young, affectionately known as “Mrs. Beach Reach,” coordinated meals with the local city offices for approximately 120-150 workers each night. Beach Reachers packed the meals and wrote notes of encouragement to first responders including police officers, firefighters, EMS, life guards and city officials. Tarrant Disaster Relief Unit lead, by John Hooser, cooked the meals for the workers in addition to the meals they cooked for the 800+ Beach Reachers and the thousands of pancakes for Spring Breakers.
Nikki Soto, the city manager's assistant, worked with Young to coordinate the delivery of meals. She expressed extreme appreciation to Beach Reach for the new service.
“It means everything to them,” Soto said. “Our officers work longer than normal shifts. By providing a meal we are ensuring they can keep on keeping the city safe.”
The notes of encouragement were met with extreme gratitude. One day, the police chief stopped by to personally express his thanks to Young and others.
“I am so humbled that these guys sought me out to thank me for serving the police, EMTs and beach patrol dinner while we are here,” said Young in a Facebook post on March 14. “The students have been writing thank you notes, words of encouragement and verses on each to-go box. He came to meet the student that wrote the note on his box. How awesome is that!! I love Beach Reach!”
“We just wanted to write you to tell you how much we appreciate everything you do for this beautiful island,” one anonymous note on a dinner package stated. “Your hard work does not go unnoticed! You are incredibly valued and loved. Praying for you!”
Officers throughout the week would stop Beach Reachers and thank them for their kind words. The local fire station hung the notes around their building as a visible reminder that their work was valued.