During this week’s meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Governor Rick Scott and Volunteer Florida presented the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award to HandsOn Jacksonville in recognition of the organization’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” program.

Now in its tenth year, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is one of HandsOn Jacksonville’s largest community events. On a special day each December, children arrive to their schools to discover the hallways decorated with gold tinsel and a gift of a backpack filled with books and toys on their desks. Since 2003, the program has reached more than 89,000 First Coast students, infusing more than four million dollars of goods and services into Jacksonville’s most challenged schools.

Governor Scott said, “I am proud to present HandsOn Jacksonville with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award in recognition of their efforts to provide our students with the tools they need to succeed. The hard work and generosity of the HandsOn Jacksonville staff and volunteers will make a difference in the lives of our students long after the holiday season. I applaud the thousands of volunteers across our state who dedicate their time to making the season bright for Florida families.”

This year’s event, which took place on December 6, provided nearly 7,000 kids in 14 challenged (Title 1) Jacksonville schools with backpacks containing 35,000 toys and 24,500 books. Over 800 volunteers dedicated their time and energy to make the event a success.

“Our board, staff, and volunteers are delighted and deeply honored that HandsOn Jacksonville and “A Visit from St. Nicholas” have been recognized by Governor Scott and Volunteer Florida from the many deserving people and organizations across Florida,” said Dr. Judith Smith, President and CEO of HandsOn Jacksonville, who received the award on behalf of the organization. “In addition to the backpacks stuffed with books and toys, every classroom is visited by volunteers who read stories of kindness, and the students are also thrilled to have a visit from St. Nick himself dressed in green and gold. Of all the terrific things we do at HandsOn Jacksonville to make our community a better place, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” is the very best thing we do!”

“Managing a project of this magnitude is not an easy task, and I applaud Dr. Smith and her staff at HandsOn Jacksonville for making this special event a memorable experience for volunteers and students alike,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman. “I hope this story inspires potential volunteers to be a part of the more than 3.4 million Floridians who volunteer every year.”

HandsOn Jacksonville is a volunteer center that inspires, equips and mobilizes volunteers to meet needs in the Jacksonville community. In the past year, HandsOn Jacksonville managed 1,377 community projects, mobilizing 7,230 volunteers in 25,304 hours of service to the Jacksonville community.