Dear Partners and Friends,
I think you will agree with me – summer is certainly for service! It was a busy spring, so I encourage you to read on for those highlights this past quarter, and keep scrolling to get the scoop on what the Volunteer Florida Team has in store for the rest of this summer.
2021 Suits for Session Service Project
Volunteer Florida‘s 6th annual Suits for Session service project in March, co-sponsored by Simply Healthcare, resulted in the collection of 670 pounds of professional attire at the day-long, outdoor event. The clothing was donated to CareerSource Capital Region and the FSU Center for Academic Retention and Enhancement (CARE)’s Unconquered Scholars Program – organizations supporting job-seekers in Florida striving to enter or re-enter the workforce. For more info and photos, click HERE!
Spring Tours and Awards
I had the honor of presenting a number of awards, pitching in with a few national service programs, and getting up to speed on COVID response efforts this spring. Here are some of the highlights:
Presented the 2020-2021 AmeriCorps Member of the Year Award to Jeremy Devin Guansing Freeman, a national service member turned full-time team member with Metropolitan Ministries in Hillsborough County, during our virtual AmeriCorps Spring Training this year!
Toured one of FEMA’s Jacksonville COVID-19 emergency response vaccination sites in April to get a sense of their experience, as well as relay Volunteer Florida‘s, throughout the pandemic and their efforts moving forward.
Joined the volunteers and AmeriCorps members serving at the Northwest Florida State College to learn about their program’s focus on STEM education and efforts to restore Florida’s coastal dune lakes and endangered species’ habitats.
Black History Month’s 2021 Award Winners
First Lady Casey DeSantis announced this year’s Black History Month student contest winners and Excellence in Education Award recipients in April. This year’s contest theme was “Community Champions – Celebrating the Contributions of African Americans in Florida’s Communities,” and while all winners received a prize, students who won the essay contest earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship from the Florida Prepaid College Foundation!
Student Essay Contest Winners
The following student essay contest winners – one elementary, one middle and one high school student – earned a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
Brynley Ashraf, High Springs Community School, Alachua County
Brynley featured her school resource officer, Officer Adam Joy, who serves their community not only through his profession, but by giving back through his involvement with numerous organizations.
Harper Schuknecht, Sebring Middle School, Highlands County
Harper highlighted Joseph E. Lee, one of the first Black Floridians to practice law in our state who served as a judge as well as in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate.
Valeria Alfonzo Molina, Belleview High School, Marion County
Valeria wrote about James Weldon Johnson, a Florida-born educator, poet, novelist, journalist, anthologist, diplomat, lyricist, lawyer and civil rights activist.
Student Art Contest Winners
Hector Almendares Garcia, Driftwood Elementary School, Broward County
Hector is a first grader who drew a picture titled “My Community Champion – Coach Mack” depicting his Physical Education instructor, Coach Mack, who Hector says teaches him and his fellow students how to be healthy.
Immanuel Howard, W. A. Metcalfe Elementary, Alachua County
Immanuel is a second grader who drew a picture titled “My Hero, Mr. Henderson.” Immanuel describes Mr. Henderson as his hero because of his work as a custodian at his school, keeping it clean and safe so students can learn.
Excellence in Education Award Winners
First Lady Casey DeSantis also honored three outstanding educators with Excellence in Education Awards. The recipients were nominated by students and peers.
Frances McEachern, Beverly Shores Elementary School, Lake County
An exceptional student education instructor at Beverly Shores Elementary School, Frances McEachern is known for always being upbeat and having high expectations for her students. As a teacher for students with disabilities, McEachern is encouraging and excels at motivating those in her classroom.
Leslie Cooper, Richmond Heights Middle School, Miami-Dade County
Leslie Cooper, a music teacher at Richmond Heights Middle School, developed Black History Month segments presented twice a week to highlight legendary poets, musicians, writers, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance period. The students have been enriched through their music and arts education thanks to Cooper’s efforts.
Delmar Wilson, Miami Springs Senior High School, Miami-Dade County
Several years ago, Delmar Wilson came to the realization that there were not enough minorities in computer science courses at Miami Springs Senior High School. He worked to develop a new course and recruited students to enroll. The class has now become a popular one to take with the student body during the subject selection process.
For more information about Black History Month in Florida, please visit www.floridablackhistory.com.
Volunteer Florida‘s Team in Action
Last month, members of the Volunteer Florida Team carved out time to package hundreds of bags of fresh produce with Second Harvest of the Big Bend for local families in need. I’m incredibly proud to lead this team of dedicated individuals who practice what they preach and team-build in service.
Volunteer Florida Commission and Foundation Quarterly Meeting
Not only were our Commission and Foundation Board Members able to attend Volunteer Florida‘s meeting in-person this past month, but we were also able to take a tour of Metropolitan Ministries’ campus in Tampa and experience their impact first-hand. It was truly awe-inspiring to personally hear from AmeriCorps members serving in their mobile outreach BrigAIDe.
Volunteer Generation Fund: Request for Proposals
We’ve recently announced the availability of up to $568,000 in grant funding to assist Florida’s nonprofit organizations in the recruitment and retention of skills-based volunteers through the national Volunteer Generation Fund.
We expect that this year’s Volunteer Generation Fund programs will help local nonprofits manage and support approximately 10,800 skills-based volunteers who will collectively contribute up to 81,000 hours of service throughout the state of Florida – a value of $2,131,920! Organizations interested in applying for one of the 27 possible grants should respond to the request for proposals by 5pm (EST) Friday, August 13th.
Join the Volunteer Florida Team!
We’re currently hiring for two different positions: Emergency Management Coordinator and AmeriCorps Program Manager. Salary will be commensurate with experience. Click HERE to learn more about these exciting opportunities to work with our dynamic team and #ServeFL.
Coming Up: 2021 Hispanic Heritage Month’s Contests and Awards
Since 2001, the Volunteer Florida Foundation has supported Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated in the United States from September 15 to October 15. Florida students in grades K-3 are invited to participate in an art contest, while students in grades 4-12 are invited to participate in an essay contest, celebrating notable Hispanic educators and leaders. Additionally, full-time educators of all student grades are nominated for the Hispanic Heritage Month Excellence in Education Award. Art contest winners receive prizes, essay contest winners are awarded 4-year Florida College and University scholarships, and Excellence in Education Award winners receive cash prizes.
Last year’s theme was “Celebrating Untold Stories and Contributions of Hispanic Americans in Florida.” We’ll be announcing this year’s contest theme next month, so stay tuned!
Thank you for your support of Volunteer Florida. We look forward to working with each and every one of you as we continue to #ServeFL!
Yours in Service,
Chief Executive Officer