Dear Partners and Friends,

We’re wrapping up a successful year of national service and volunteerism here in the Sunshine State. I’m proud to report that cumulatively, Volunteer Florida and their partners channeled over $47 million into Florida’s communities through national service and disaster relief grants in 2021!Read on to learn about our efforts this past quarter and what can be expected down the pike.

2021 Hispanic Heritage Month Award WinnersOn November 12th, First Lady Casey DeSantis announced the Hispanic Heritage Month student contest winners and Excellence in Education Award recipients. Hispanic Heritage Month is recognized and celebrated every year in Florida from September 15 through October 15 and this year’s theme was “Celebrating Hispanic-American Community Leaders and Champions.” Read the official announcement here!

“I was amazed by the entries we received this year from students across our state who submitted moving stories of community, family and leadership from Hispanic-Americans in Florida,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Among the many community leaders honored this year were law enforcement and first responders, public servants and school officials. The high quality of this year’s entries made it difficult to select a winner, but I am honored to recognize some truly outstanding students and educators. The Governor and I thank all who participated in this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month contests and congratulate our deserving winners.”Award recipients are as follows:

Student Art Contest Winners

Eziel Juarez, Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School, Okeechobee County

Eziel is a kindergartener who drew a picture titled “My Mom is a Community Leader.” The art features Eziel’s mom and family.

Julian Alexander Ruiz, Coral Reef Elementary School, Miami-Dade County

Julian is a second-grader who drew a picture titled “Mi Abuelo, My Leader.” The artwork features Julian’s grandfather who is a rado show host.

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.

Stella Jurkovic, Orange Grove Elementary School, Pinellas County

Stella is a fourth-grader who wrote her essay about Myriam Irizarry, Pinellas County’s first Hispanic judge.

Diana Cho, Tequesta Trace Middle School, Broward County

Diana is an eighth-grader who wrote her essay about Carmen Franco, a bilingual drug abuse and addiction recovery counselor.

Giacomo Mutti, Booker High School, Sarasota County

Giacomo is a twelfth-grader who wrote his essay about Father Celestino Gutiérrez, a priest who supports the Sarasota County community through his volunteerism.

Excellence in Education Award Winners

Recipients of the Excellence in Education Award receive a $1,500 prize from Volunteer Florida.

Estela Gonzalez, West Glades Elementary, Glades County

Estela Gonzalez is a third grade teacher who goes above and beyond to help her students who are struggling at school or at home.

Gabriel Ortiz, Oasis Middle School, Manatee County

Gabriel Ortiz is a middle school teacher, reading coach and theater instructor. Mr. Ortiz holds his students to a high standard and has helped many of his students learn to read at grade level – something that will have a profound impact on the rest of their lives.

Raquel Medina, Doral Academy Preparatory School, Miami-Dade County

Raquel Medina is a high-school Spanish teacher who helps her students understand the impact Hispanic-Americans have had, especially in South Florida.

Volunteer Florida is proud to facilitate Florida’s Hispanic Heritage Month contests and awards each year on behalf of the Governor and First Lady in collaboration with our sponsors and partners.


Suits For Session – Save the Date!Our seventh annual Suits for Session service project will take place at the Florida Capitol on Wednesday, February 23, 2022. Legislators, state employees and other local professionals can bring new or gently worn business attire, and then we’ll distribute it to nonprofit organizations that are helping job-seekers find employment in Florida. More information will be announced soon, but for now, start cleaning out your closets!

Service Enterprise CertificationVolunteer Florida has partnered with Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, to offer you access to Service Enterprise certification. This national change management program helps organizations gain a greater return on volunteer investment to better achieve their mission. Through Service Enterprise certification, organizations are equipped to use volunteers as part of their human capital strategies to expand programing, generate more operational efficiencies, and better achieve their missions.

Service Enterprise Informational WebinarThursday, January 20, 2022 | 1:00 P.M. – 2:00 P.M. EST

Service Enterprise certification benefits include:

  • A diagnostic evaluation of your current volunteer engagement practices and tailored recommendations for improvement.
  • Sixteen hours of training focused on change management and volunteer engagement strategies.
  • Individualized coaching and the support of a community of peers to guide your organization through your Service Enterprise transformation.


Volunteer Generation Fund: 2021-2022 Grant Funding for Florida NonprofitsVolunteer Florida recently announced a total of $508,000 in Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding awarded to 24 nonprofit organizations throughout Florida. In total, this VGF funding will enable 9,600 skills-based volunteers to serve 72,000 hours, generating a value of $1,895,040 to Florida’s communities.

“Volunteer organizations are vital to our communities – whether they are distributing supplies after a hurricane, supporting our award-winning state parks, mentoring students or providing services to seniors,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I’m proud to announce another $500,000 today to support nonprofits that are focused on elevating their communities and delivering a tremendous return on investment for the people of Florida.”Volunteer Florida’s VGF program, funded by AmeriCorps, helps organizations recruit skills-based volunteers to serve Florida students, families and communities in need. Since 2014, our VGF program has been able to empower 113,037 skills-based volunteers to contribute more than 1,636,226 hours of service, generating a remarkable $43,065,468 in value to the State of Florida.Interested in learning more or applying for next year’s cycle? Check out our VGF Resources Page!

Success! 2021 Volunteer Leadership Engagement Series Every Monday in October, Volunteer Florida proudly hosted national experts providing essential insights for developing and positioning volunteer engagement. We received a tremendous response and our featured speakers provided excellent, industry-leading perspectives, timely strategies and useful tools for volunteer engagement leaders across every sector. Did you miss one of these free, virtual webinars? Session recordings and resources are available here!

CEO’s Leadership Tour HighlightsThis has been my first year privileged to serve as Volunteer Florida’s CEO. As I continue meeting AmeriCorps members and local leaders across the state, I am gathering their ideas, listening to their challenges, and learning their hearts to #ServeFL.

      CEO Simon meets with City of Orlando officials, October 2021.      CEO Simon participates in a roundtable discussion with AmeriCorps membersserving with the City of Orlando, October 2021.

 CEO Simon presents Volunteer Florida’s Champion of Service Award, alongside Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer,to Jacob Dikenson serving with Keep Orlando Beautiful, October 2021. CEO Simon participates in a roundtable discussion with AmeriCorps membersserving with City Year in Orlando, October 2021.

Thank you for your continued support of Volunteer Florida and our mission to #ServeFL. None of our efforts would be possible without YOU. If there is anything we can do for you, or your organization, please reach out to me or my team.

Yours in Service,

Corey SimonChief Executive OfficerVolunteer Florida