Look at New Year’s resolutions with fresh eyes, open heart

Look at New Year’s resolutions with fresh eyes, open heart

Self-improvement goals are high on the list of common New Year’s resolutions, but joining a gym, reading self-help books or taking up a new hobby aren’t the only ways to improve your outlook on the year ahead. 

Volunteering not only addresses many resolutions but also makes the community a better place for everyone. Sharing your time, skills and interests to help others is good for your mind, body and soul. The right match can help reduce stress, find friends, learn new skills and even advance your career. Giving to and serving others can also help improve your emotional well-being. 

Jacksonville has many great nonprofit organizations eager to put your skills and interests to work improving the lives of others, and there’s so much more to volunteering than serving at a soup kitchen. From A to Z – the arts to the zoo – here’s a sampling of things you can do this year to turn on your volunteer spirit.


Calling all chefs

Gabriel House of Care volunteers create a “community of healing” in affordable, temporary lodging for adult organ transplant and cancer patients and their caregivers who come to Jacksonville for medical treatment. Chef’s Night volunteer groups give guests and caregivers and evening off from cooking following long days of tests, medical treatments and appointments. They plan their own menu, purchase the food, cook and serve the meal. Visit gabrielhouseofcare.org and click on Get Involved.

City Rescue Mission Supper Club volunteers serve the homeless and needy by choosing from the mission’s menu, paying for the meal, preparing, cooking and serving the meal, having fellowship with CRM’s guests; and cleaning up following the meal. Visit crmjax.org/volunteers/groups/. 

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Jacksonville volunteer Meal Makers plan a meal then come to the House to prepare and serve the meal to families staying in the House so they can be close to a hospital. Visit rmhcjacksonville.org and click on How You Can Help. 


Good with tools?

HabiJax Habitat for Humanity volunteers help both on the construction site or at the ReStore to provide affordable homeownership, enhanced neighborhoods and a better quality of life for those in the Urban Core of Jacksonville. Volunteers serve as construction team leaders and construction workers in building HaibJax homes (contact Anya Denbow, [email protected], 904.208.6676). Those with merchandising experience help supervise volunteers in HabiJax ReStores, home improvement retail outlets open to the public (contact Gabrielle Bellamy,
[email protected], 904.208.6645
). Experienced DIYers and crafters volunteer to share their skills in DIY seminars at HabiJax ReStores (contact Candace Johnson, [email protected], 904.208.6674).

Presbyterian Social Ministries needs volunteer seamstresses who can mend or hem donated clothing. Plumbers and electricians are welcome as well. Volunteer cooks feed volunteer groups living in the agency’s dorms while they do storm recovery work. Volunteer painters can help brighten up dorm walls. Visit Presbyterian Social Ministries’ Facebook page or contact Teri Ketchum, [email protected], 904.338.0920.

Rethreaded, a social entrepreneurship agency that is breaking the cycle of the sex trade by offering viable and creative work to those affected by the sex trade, received a donation of 27 pallets of leather seat covers. They need volunteers who can strip leather from the seats so the agency can up-cycle the leather into a unique jewelry line. They also need help with T-shirt sorting. Find out more at rethreaded.com/pages/contact.


Smell the roses

Bouquets of Kindness volunteers pick up donated flowers from events, stores and wholesalers, disassemble them, recreate bouquets and then deliver the prepared bouquets to seniors living in assisted living, memory care and HUD-funded long-term care facilities. To volunteer, email [email protected]

Since 1975, Greenscape has planted more than 350,000 trees in Jacksonville. Volunteers who like to get their hands dirty are welcome to join the fun, in particular, those with horticultural backgrounds, science teachers, master gardeners and landscape designers. Visit greenscapeofjacksonville.com and click on Get Involved.

Caring for the medically underserved

Volunteers in Medicine depends upon medical as well as lay volunteers from all walks of life. Student volunteers pursuing a health-related career will experience a working clinic and interact with patients as well as health professionals and volunteers. Other volunteers include primary care physicians and specialists, nurse practitioners, nurses, and front office and patient intake help. Visit vim-jax.org/medical-volunteers/become-a-volunteer/.

We Care Jacksonville is a volunteer coalition of healthcare professionals, clerical personnel and local church groups that provide primary and specialty care to uninsured, homeless and medically underserved people in Duval County. It works with a network of volunteer physicians and hospital networks to find donated care. Call (904) 674-6450 to help.


Can’t get enough of the outdoors?

St. Johns Riverkeeper volunteers work to protect and restore the St. Johns River by being the eyes and ears on the water from a boat, kayak or on land by submitting observation reports, reporting algal bloom outbreaks on the St. Johns and tributaries, cleaning up the waterways of the St. Johns River, and researching important and timely topics facing the St. Johns River. 

Those with a heart for educating can help with the Riverkeeper’s monthly school boat excursions, registering passengers, passing out boat trip guides and snacks, and providing staff assistance during the 2-hour trips; or help with kids crafts and games at festivals, classroom programs, science fairs and summer camps. Visit stjohnsriverkeeper.org/how-to-help/volunteer/

Groundwork Jacksonville volunteers clean and redevelop the Emerald Necklace and convert contaminated land into parks, playgrounds, trails and other public greenspace by cleaning up creeks, maintaining S-Line biodiversity corridor, and volunteering for the Green Team program. Visit groundworkjacksonville.org/support/volunteer/.

Friends of Parks’ groups work to improve and enhance many of the county’s more than 400 parks. They connect people to the natural places in Jacksonville while enhancing the role of parks in local communities.

Friends of Hemming Park volunteer at Jacksonville’s first and most historic public park located in the center of downtown and adjacent to City Hall. Volunteers help with event programming and other initiatives vital to the park’s revitalization. Visit hemmingpark.org/volunteer/

Friends of Boone Park South on St. Johns Avenue is dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of the park and its playground. Visit Friends of Boone Park South on Facebook to message the group.

Memorial Park Association protects and preserves Memorial Park at 1620 Riverside Avenue between Margaret Street and Memorial Park Drive. The all-volunteer board welcomes master gardeners, historians and scrapbookers to create an archive, website designers, writers and event planners. Visit memparkjax.org/contact-us/

Riverside Avondale Community Garden at the corner of Azalea Place and Park Street across from Willowbranch Library invites the community to help the garden thrive. Volunteer master gardeners and weekend gardeners alike are welcome. Artists, storytellers and musicians may express themselves and inspire others in the garden. Visit riversideavondale.org/get-digging-at-raps-community-garden/.


Are you a legal eagle?

Guardian ad Litem volunteer advocates gather facts surrounding a child’s case, review reports, visit a child’s home, school or placement and provide the court with an unbiased recommendation on what is required to serve the best interests of the child. Visit galfirstcoast.org/volunteer/

Jacksonville Area Legal Aid pro bono area attorneys provides free civil legal assistance to those who could not otherwise afford it. Visit www.jaxlegalaid.org/pro-bono/


Be an animal whisperer

Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) volunteers assist in the handling and care of adoption animals including exercising, bathing and grooming animals, providing food and water and maintaining kennel facilities. They register and take care of pets in emergency shelters during a time of disaster. Visit coj.net and enter ACPS in the search box.

Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) volunteer foster families care for the animals admitted to the facility by providing temporary, in-home care to JHS animals. Children visit the shelter to read to the animals. Youth volunteers age 16-18 and still enrolled in a high school program can complete community service hours for school or scholarship requirements. The Dog Day Out program pairs visitors with adoptable dogs for a day of adventure. Email [email protected] for more information.

Therapy Animal Coalition serves to increase the number of therapy animal teams volunteering in therapeutic, educational and other special environments. If you have a well-trained animal that can do all the basic commands reliably, get registered to become a therapy animal team. Visit therapyanimalcoalition.org to get help finding a local therapy animal program in which you can become involved. Or, you can start your own therapy animal program. Email [email protected] to request assistance in developing a program.

Animal lovers with a heart for wounded warriors can volunteer with K9s For Warriors to raise a puppy from 8-12 weeks old and ready it for training. Foster volunteers take care of a dog-in-training in the comfort of their own home from one month to three or four months. Other volunteers help out in the organization’s kennels. Visit k9sforwarriors.org/get-involved

It’s not just domestic animals who need care. Join the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens volunteer roster to work alongside zookeepers and in other capacities. Visit jacksonvillezoo.org and click on Volunteer.


Share the knowledge

Communities In Schools of Jacksonville volunteers help keep kids in school and on the path to graduation and beyond by providing academic support, helping with activities, serving as positive role models, advising about college and career preparation and sharing about their work. Visit cisjax.org/get-involved/volunteer/

All I Know Inc. equips limited-resource families and youth who are at risk for not meeting basic human needs with the tools and skills they need to lead positive, productive, and contributing lives. Volunteers lead workshops and tutor families and youth, in addition to helping with marketing, event planning and social networking. Visit alliknowjax.org and click on Volunteer.

Learn to Read provides free instruction to adults who function within the lowest levels of literacy. Volunteers start off as aides in one of Learn to Read’s weekly computer learning labs, where they assist students working on various computer-based instructional programs. The majority lead one-on-one tutoring sessions with students who have demonstrated or expressed the need for more individualized and personalized instruction. Veteran tutors and teachers lead small groups of three to five students who are all working on the same level of curriculum content. Visit learntoreadjax.org


A heart for the elderly

Aging True volunteers help with arts and crafts, deliver gifts or donated items, relieve caregivers, check on seniors by telephone, deliver Meals on Wheels for seniors and their pets and serve lunch at Cathedral Café. Visit agingtrue.org/senior-care-volunteers

ElderSource volunteers assist seniors with completing Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) applications online, advocating for the benefits of the SNAP program, as well as educating the community against stigmas that prevent older adults from utilizing this program. Contact Sherrie Keshner at 904.391.6688.

Hart Felt Ministries volunteers build relationships, enhance environments, and preserve the independence of frail seniors. Volunteers make friendly visits; do grocery shopping and light housekeeping, advocacy; assist client in organizing, understanding and responding to bills and correspondence; make minor home repairs; provide respite; construct wheelchair ramps; transport seniors to medical appointments; and do yard mowing and cleanup projects. Visit hartfelt.org/be-a-volunteer/


Stirring the soul with the arts

Art With a Heart in Healthcare volunteers provide personalized fine art experiences that enhance the healing process for patients and their families in support of the artist-in-residence. They also create art to be distributed to hospital patients as door signs and room décor and provide visiting artist sessions. Visit artwithaheart.info.

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens volunteers assist with exhibitions and special events. Arts4All volunteers help staff Art Stops and guide groups of students as part of the Arts4All Festival. Teen volunteers help with Camp Cummer, Weaver First Saturday Free for All, Florida Blue Free Tuesday and educational preparation. Docents lead tours of the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. Visit cummermuseum.org/volunteer

The Jacksonville Symphony all-volunteer chorus has made great music with the Jacksonville Symphony for three decades singing for many landmark Symphony events. Visit jaxsymphony.org/symphony-chorus/. 


Serving the vulnerable

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Florida volunteers spend a few hours each month befriending children facing adversity to change their lives for the better. For more information, visit bbbsnefl.org/beabig

Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Florida volunteers provide tutoring, mentoring, coaching, homework assistance, teen director assistance and fitness activities assistance. Visit bgcnf.org/volunteer/

Daniel Kids volunteers help children who are at risk to harm themselves or others or at risk to enter the juvenile justice system by providing one-on-one support, tutoring or helping with fund-raising events. Visit danielkids.org and click on Get Involved.

Young Life Jacksonville volunteer leaders help with activities that enable them to build significant relationships with kids. Contact Zac West, 904.303.0188, [email protected]


Patriotism in diverse forms

Honoring deceased military can be done in several ways. If you enjoy motorcycling, consider joining the Patriot Guard Riders to help shield mourners from interruptions by protesters. Visit patriotguard.org and navigate to state and regional leadership for the Florida chapter.

The Jacksonville Ladies also have a sincere desire to pay final tribute to veterans. A volunteer is there to attend every service, not to intrude but to stand as a silent witness and give honor to the veteran and condolences to their families. Visit jacksonvilleladies.org for more information.


Building young lives through sports

The First Tee of North Florida volunteers and coaches impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf. Visit thefirstteenorthflorida.org/ways-to-help/volunteer/

Girls on The Run of Northeast Florida volunteer coaches work with a team of 8-20 girls over the course of 10 weeks to develop essential skills and an appreciation for health and fitness. They serve as role models and mentors for girls ages 8 to 14 years old. Visit gotrnefl.org/Coach


Helping those who are differently-abled

Offering a summer camp experience for children, teenagers and adults who are challenged by physical, emotional and mental disabilities, Camp I Am Special seeks volunteers to cook/assemble and serve lunch and dinner to hungry campers. Volunteers trained in safety and security (person-first language, seizure and swimming protocol, adaptive environments, lifting and transferring, positioning, food safety, CPR, First Aid and AEDs) help provide a safe camp experience. Registered nurses care for special medical needs of campers, administer medications and respond to any emergencies, while volunteer high school buddies are assigned one-on-one to campers. Visit campiamspecial.com/buddies/ or contact Cheryl Estevez, [email protected], 904.354.4846, ext. 269. 

Change the lives of adults with intellectual and other differences at Pine Castle by serving as ambassadors, helping to beautify the campus, spending time with clients in life enrichment activities, getting involved in weekly and daily activities, helping with holiday/seasonal festivals and planning special events. Visit pinecastle.org/get-involved/volunteer/

Volunteers at The Arc Jacksonville serve people with intellectual and developmental differences by teaching, directing recreational activities and helping with social events. Visit arcjacksonville.org/get-involved/volunteer/


Helping others to help themselves

Jewish Family & Community Services provides family and individual social services in the Jewish tradition of “helping people help themselves.” Volunteers help seniors living independently by visiting a senior once a month for six months. They participate in the Holocaust Survivor Food Delivery Service. Volunteers also tutor and mentor middle school students at risk of dropping out of school, and they participate in gift giving to low-income individuals for all faith holidays. Visit jfcsjax.org/howtohelp/

Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida seeks volunteers in all aspects of living.  Teach cooking techniques to refugees and help with menu planning. Counsel clients on quality affordable apartments, housing subsidies, buying a first home, etc. Help with money management, budget planning and credit counseling. Licensed medical professionals check vitals like blood pressure and blood sugar. Technology/web professionals help improve the agency’s website SEO and/or social media. Refugee youth program volunteers present after-school workshops to refugee teens and tutor in math, sciences and English as a second language. Visit lssjax.org/get_involved/ or contact Natalie Holland, [email protected], 904.730.8271.


By Karen J. Rieley
Resident Community News

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