The best part of the holidays is the way we spend our time. We tend to be a little stressed about making everything perfect but we are more deliberate with how we spend our time. The holidays also remind us of giving. We’ve put together a short holiday guide for ways you/ your group can give your time (or money) to organizations that serve Central Florida.
Area Community organizations
The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is a private, non-profit organization that gave over 63,000,000 meals to those in need within our community. There are many ways to get involved with Second Harvest, including group volunteering options, learn more here.
The Coalition for the Homeless is a great effort to help those who are suffering from homelessness or a housing crisis in their time of need. The circumstances surrounding homelessness are often stressful and traumatic for children. This can be worsened during the holidays. Coalition for the Homeless does it’s best to meet kids’ needs and more, by hosting a toy/supply drive. You can learn about the Holiday Wish List here. The drive runs from now until December 18th. You can also donate some of the much needed supplies for the Center for Women and Families such as: Walmart gift cards, Diapers (sizes 4, 5, 6), Baby wipes, Bar Soap, Razors, Cleaning Supplies and Lynx Bus Passes.
Seniors First is an organization that “helps seniors stay at home”. Opportunities to volunteer and connect with the elders of our community are plenty. The Meals on Wheels program is offered in addition to a Guardianship program, In-Home Care and Medical Equipment. Thanksgiving Day will kick off the 30th Seniors First Turkey Trot 5k at Lake Eola. There is still time, register here!
An organization near and dear to our hearts is the Ronald McDonald House. This non-profit hotel of sorts, provides free housing for the families of children who are undergoing extensive stays at the hospital. There are always opportunities to provide meals for the families in residence and donation of needed supplies. Consider the joy you could bring to a family by providing holiday meals, treats or gifts during such a difficult time. There are three Ronald McDonald Houses in the Central Florida region and plenty of ways to help!
While there aren’t any holiday specific fundraisers or drives this time of year, Habitat for Humanity- Winter Park will continue to have weekly builds throughout the holidays. Interested volunteers should be over the age of 13 for light duties. Participants over the age of 16 are able to help with all projects. Individuals under 13 are not allowed on the job sites for safety reasons but volunteers 13 and over can participate with parental consent. You can directly email firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate volunteer times and opportunities. What a great opportunity to help local neighbors in need!
Florida loves our military! The USO offers many services to servicemembers and their families: airport centers, area-wide morale boosting activities, and even a suite at the Buccanneers’ Stadium for nominated individuals. The airport centers are always in need of volunteers and in-kind donations of food, beverages and travel toiletry items. Can you imagine being the friendly face at a center or providing a warm meal for a service member (or family) having to travel during the holidays?
Another notable organization is Southeastern Guide Dogs. They train “extraordinary dogs” and “transform” the lives of individuals living with disabilities, including blindness and PTSD. In addition, they also train emotional support animals for children of Gold Star Families. In addition to donations, you can get involved with this organization in many different ways. You can support a puppy monthly, host breeder dogs, or even volunteer on campus. Youth volunteers are also welcome so this could be a great opportunity to get involved as a family!
Did you know that Volunteers for Community Impact runs a program called Foster Grandparents? Volunteers work with students to develop reading and socialization skills. Getting involved with or donating to this cause could be a very rewarding opportunity in our community!
Prisonfellowship.org hosts a program annually called Angel Tree. Usually a group works together to participate in this program. Group members provide Christmas gifts for the children of incarcerated parents. Right now, your monetary donations to the program will be doubled up to $40,000! In addition to the Angel Tree program, Prison Fellowship has many different ways to volunteer your time. You can learn more about participating here.
Toys For Tots is a familiar giving opportunity for most! Providing unwrapped, new toys during the annual toy drive will help underprivileged children to have a special Christmas gift. You can find out where to drop a toy off in your local area on the website.
See above for info on toy/supply drive: Coalition for the Homeless
These are just a few of the many ways that you can be involved with local organizations that benefit the members of our Central Florida community. Of course schedules can be tight in this busy season, your donations are always appreciated if you can’t give your time. In any case, we always encourage our community to come together!
Have an another idea for getting involved this holiday season? Let us know!