Getting away can offer rewarding, life-changing and humbling experiences—especially if you take some time to give back on your vacation. The concept of voluntourism has grown rapidly over the past decade, offering families a way to alleviate stress, increase happiness and expose kids to something beyond the typical resort vacation where a whole new world awaits. Above all, giving back to a community, the environment or a special family is a meaningful way to spend a day—or even just a few hours—and has been shown to improve health, extend life and lower the risk of depression. Because it’s so good for your heart and soul, we’ve gathered seven different volunteer activities that you and your family can do during your St. Pete vacation.
Florida Dream Center’s Adopt-a-Block
The Florida Dream Center is committed to reaching far into communities throughout Pinellas County and helping them achieve tangible improvement. The Adopt-a-Block program adopts specific communities in need of assistance and provides nearly anything they’re in need of, including street clean-up, home repairs, lawn maintenance and a host of other services. Over 200 volunteers are now part of the program with dozens entering the community every week. Help make long-term, life-changing improvements to the communities that need it most by calling the Florida Dream Center at 727-851-9074 or emailing Zelda O’Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers meet every Saturday from 8:40 am-12 pm at three different locations. Be sure to wear enclosed shoes and comfortable outside working clothes.
Tampa Bay Watch
Tampa Bay Watch is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Tampa Bay estuary through scientific and educational programs. They couldn’t accomplish any of their restoration or education goals without the help of their active volunteer base. Volunteers of all ages from children to retirees help in habitat restoration projects, lend a hand at their annual fundraisers and represent their organization at community events to increase awareness. Due to COVID-19, fall restoration projects will not be open to the public for volunteering but they’re hopeful to return to a normal volunteer project schedule in the spring. Contact Rachel Arndt with any questions at email@example.com or call (727)867-8166, x233.
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm was established in 1995 as a nonprofit community-supported urban organic farm and environmental education center in Tampa. As a non-profit, educational farm, Sweetwater relies on the help of volunteers to assist with the day-to-day operations of the community farm. Volunteers can work on a variety of farm tasks, such as planting, harvesting and weeding. There are also site projects for those with carpentry and electrical skills. The farm is open for volunteers Sunday from 9 am-12 pm. You must be at least 12 years old to volunteer but younger kids can come out from 10-10:30 am and wash veggies that are harvested from the fields. Kids love helping with this and even getting the chance to run around a bit or dig in the dirt. Go to sweetwater-organic.com to fill out a volunteer form.
A botanical paradise in the midst of a bustling city, the Sunken Gardens is St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum. Help preserve and enhance this 100-year-old garden and provide opportunities for the community to enjoy this educational and cultural center by becoming a volunteer. Make new friends, participate in unique projects and gain knowledge from your efforts. Whether you assist with their animals, special events, gift shop, garden care, as a docent or become a member of their speaker’s bureau, you’re sure to grow as much as the Gardens does. Simply complete and return the Volunteer Application on https://www.stpete.org/attractions/sunken_gardens/volunteer.php and their volunteer coordinator will respond with next steps.
Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger
The Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger is committed to ending hunger in Tampa Bay by bringing people together to find solutions that eliminate barriers, increase access and knowledge and expand the amount of nutritious food available. Meals on Wheels for Kids (MOW4Kids) and Meals on Wheels St. Petersburg (MOWSP) change lives by delivering one meal at a time. Volunteers are essential in providing care and compassion to kids, seniors and homebound residents in need of nutrition assistance. MOWSP is looking for drivers to help pack and deliver meals Monday through Saturday from 9 am-2 pm and MOWSP is looking for drivers to assist with delivering meals Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am-2 pm. A route takes an hour to complete. Go to networktoendhunger.volunteerhub.com to sign up.
Society of St. Andrew
Since 1995, the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) has operated a statewide, volunteer-driven Gleaning Network in Florida that coordinates with local farmers, thousands of volunteers and food providing agencies. Their Florida Gleaning Network is going strong—saving three to four million pounds of fresh produce for the hungry each year. Each year, they coordinator thousands of volunteers of all ages to glean one to two million pounds of a wide variety of produce in Florida. If you’re interested in joining this exciting hands-on ministry, contact SoSA at (407)650-1956 or (800)806-0756. Most gleaning events take place on weekends where you’ll arrive in the fields at 8 am and be on your way by noon. SoSA makes all the arrangements with farmers, produce containers and food distribution. All you need to do is show up.
360 Eats is a newly formed non-profit mobile food service providing an innovative solution to bridge the gaps between food waste, food insecurity and sustainability. 30-40% of quality food produced in the United States goes to waste each year and yet one in eight Americans are considered food-insecure. Their goal is to eradicate hunger and food waste as we know it by providing upwards of 500,000 nutritious and gourmet meals to those in need and rescue over 1 million pounds of good food in the US each year. Volunteers are the backbone of 360 Eats. They offer plenty of opportunities for everyone to get involved—from volunteer food recovery drivers to volunteer chefs and servers. Go to 360eats.org/volunteer to sign-up and help make a difference in the community.
Here at the Alden, it’s our honor to serve our local community. We invite you to read about some of the ways we give back. And we hope you will join us in finding ways to share your time and talents while enjoying your vacation in St. Pete Beach!