Though the philanthropic spirit is strong year-round in Southwest Florida, there’s an extra helping of feel good you get when you volunteer or make a donation during the holiday season. Our Guide: Where to Volunteer is a useful resource, compiling several worthy local nonprofit organizations that, in particular, are well-supported by the area’s young professional demographic. It’s also sortable by location and cause to help you find the ideal group to dedicate your time to.
If you’re considering spending time helping those less fortunate this Thanksgiving and holiday season, here are a few opportunities in Naples, Fort Myers and the surrounding areas:
Feeding the 5000: Thanksgiving Outreach
In the last five years, this Fort Myers-based community of local volunteers and business partners has prepared and delivered more than 35,000 meals—turkeys and all the fixings—to families in need across five counties from Port Charlotte to Immokalee. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities available during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, including drivers, runners, kitchen help, servers, bread and dessert packers, phone staff and more. Additional information and volunteer registration is available online.
This early childhood education center in Immokalee hosts Thanksgiving in the Park each year, during which more than 2,000 Immokalee residents receive a hot meal. During the week before Thanksgiving, volunteers are needed to assist with loading materials into vans, preparing food and securing food donations. On Thanksgiving Day, volunteers unload vans, set up, serve food, prepare takeout containers and clean up. Shifts are typically two to three hours. To apply or request more information, contact Kelly Hammer, director of donor relations at the Guadalupe Center, at (239) 657-7158 or [email protected].
St. Matthew’s House
St. Matthew’s House is committed to providing food to those living in poverty year-round. During the holidays, the cause is just as important. Volunteers here offer administrative support, assist in the kitchen, pack groceries and organize shelves in the food pantry, and serve meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Non-perishable food donations are also welcomed. Volunteer spots on Thanksgiving and Christmas fill up quickly; to sign up, call (239) 298-5033 or email [email protected].
You often see Salvation Army volunteers ringing their red bells around town, but there are far more opportunities to volunteer than that. The Toys for Tots Toy Drive relies on volunteers who help collect, sort and distribute a warehouse full of toys to families in need. Donations of children’s clothing items and stocking stuffers for children and seniors are welcome, as well. Volunteer applications are available online. For more information, call the local chapter’s Director of Volunteer Services, Maria Ramos, at (239) 210-3076.