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In the Spirit of Giving

A look at some of our region’s nonprofits and the causes they champion.

As holiday celebrations begin, many of us will reflect on all that we have in life, from family to health. But we also recognize those who are less fortunate and the personal battles they face throughout the year, and whether it’s putting food on the table or watching a child fight a disease, their struggles continue. They are not alone, however. There are people out there doing good, doing their best to lift others up, and they are all around us. This month Orlando Family Magazine is showcasing some of the organizations that open their arms to the Central Florida community and bring light to the darkness.

Building Pathways Foundation

For teens and adults with special abilities there is often a gap in access to the job, life and social skills they’ll need to live an independent life. Building Pathways acts as a bridge, providing structure and support in a safe environment through social skills classes, camps and day programs. Through activities such as basketball, swimming, crafts and cooking, teens and adults develop healthy friendships while practicing essential skills.
Winter Garden, (407) 654-9711,

Camaraderie Foundation
When veterans return from war, their wounds are not always visible. The Camaraderie Foundation does its part in repaying them for their service and sacrifices by providing free mental health counseling services to military service members, post 9/11 veterans and their families. Counseling addresses issues such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, substance or spousal abuse and more. It also provides a mentor leadership program, partnering local business leaders with veterans who are preparing for a career outside of the military. Since 2009, the foundation has helped over 6,000 veterans and their families in 35 states as they transition back into society.
Orlando, (407) 841-0071,

Central Florida Community Arts
Founded in 2011, CFCArts features themed choirs, a 155-member symphony orchestra and theater programs comprised of people of all ages, ranging from amateurs to professionals, all from within the Central Florida community. Their goal is to give every artist a platform. Affordable lessons and workshops are available to budding musicians and performers at the CFCArts School for Performing Arts, and the organization now offers a Musical Minds Choir exclusively for adults experiencing the early stages of memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s. In 2018, CFCArts launched a dance company for beginners to advanced skill levels.
Orlando, (407) 937-1800,

Community Hope Center
The organization focuses on low-income and poverty-level families and individuals living around Osceola County, primarily assisting the homeless or those living in motels and hotels along the 192 corridor. Services are tailored to restore dignity in a person’s life, providing them with a plan toward self-sufficiency. Programs include provision of personal hygiene items, professional clothing for job interviews, career services, housing programs, food assistance and more, ultimately empowering the individual to make a positive change in his or her life.
Kissimmee, (321) 677-0245,

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Foster Care & Adoption Services
One of the greatest gifts a person can give is the gift of family. As part of its range of wellness services, Devereux provides support services for children with special needs, emotional trauma and those who are survivors of sexual exploitation, helping them find safe home environments. Families who are interested in becoming foster or adoptive parents can be matched with a child in need and receive ongoing training from the specialists at Devereux.
Orlando, (800) 338-3738,

Elevate Orlando
This civic nonprofit is focused on empowering underserved youth in the community by providing a plan for the future. Elevate Orlando serves many children and teens who come from broken homes and high-risk neighborhoods. Rooted in character education and leadership development, its model offers in-school instruction with full-time teachers/mentors working within the Orange County Public Schools, 24/7 mentoring outside of the classroom and post-secondary preparation that develops a post-graduation plan for college, military or vocational training.
Maitland, (321) 203-4403,

Give Kids the World Village
When a child is facing a devastating illness, the whole family carries the burden. Give Kids The World Village is a nonprofit resort situated on 84 acres in Central Florida, offering children with critical illnesses and their families a vacation they’ll never forget. During their weeklong, cost-free vacation, these families stay in fully furnished villas with transportation, theme park tickets, meals and daily entertainment all provided. In more than 20 years of operation, the whimsical village has fulfilled the dreams of 165,000 children and their families.
Kissimmee, (407) 396-1114,

The Hope & Help Center
This organization’s mission is to provide education, support and care for those living with HIV/AIDS in Central Florida. It offers medical services for children, adults and seniors, including a mobile wellness unit that travels to the community. Free and confidential rapid HIV screenings are available, with results in as little as 15 minutes, and those living with the disease can access a wealth of education and support through the organization. A food pantry is also available for those in need, feeding more than 7,000 people a year. Hope & Help organizes a team for the annual AIDS Walk Orlando, and hosts its own fundraising gala each year.
Orlando, (407) 645-2577,

The Hope CommUnity Center
In the early ’70s, three Catholic nuns came to Apopka to provide resources to the underserved immigrant and working poor population. Over the decades, they worked within communities to address social problems through education, advocacy and spiritual growth. Some of the programs offered by the Hope CommUnity Center include after-school homework help and education enrichment for elementary students, classes to help immigrants complete their citizenship test and a kids’ summer camp, among others.
Apopka, (407) 880-4673,

The Hope Tiara Initiative
After losing their nephew Angelo Ballestero Jr. to cancer at age 15, the owners of Gianni Vincent Jewellers—Jim and Virginia Ann Vincent—wanted to find a way to honor his memory. From that, The Hope Tiara Fundraising Initiative was born. Designed by Virginia Ann, The Hope Tiara— consisting of a 5-carat heart-shaped solitaire diamond, 2-carat marquise solitaire and over 60 additional carats of rubies, melee diamonds and cultured pearls—can be rented for special events or available at a “selfie station” at the jeweler’s store, with proceeds benefitting a different local charity each year. This year’s chosen charity is Runway to Hope.
Windermere, (407) 217-7625,

In Harmony With Nature Animal Haven
What began as a refuge for birds and reptiles is now a 2 ½-acre property providing care and shelter for wolves, dogs, cats, parrots, pigs and reptiles, many of which have been neglected or abused. Led by a team that includes volunteers, this no-kill shelter/rescue carefully looks after these wild animals with their mental and physical well-being in mind, often for the animal’s remaining lifetime, in a serene and secluded sanctuary.
Orlando, (407) 495-8954,

Noah’s Ark of Central Florida
Founded by families who were raising their own intellectually and developmentally disabled children, Noah’s Ark of Central Florida aims to ease the mind of parents whose children will be aging out of school and eventually their care. This organization hosts community activities to encourage socialization, including a bowling league and golf, and has three residential locations where a loved one with intellectual or developmental disabilities can grow toward independent living. Noah’s Ark is an advocate for all who have these disabilities across the state, thousands of whom are on a waiting list for services, and actively engages in furthering the government’s support of this population.
Lakeland, (863) 687-0804,

On Course Foundation USA
John Simpson, who suffered from polio as a child and has only one fully functioning leg, found success in a golf career. After visiting a military hospital in England, he was inspired by the similarities he shared with the amputees there, which resulted in the creation of the On Course Foundation in 2010. The UK-based charity launched in the U.S. in 2013, bringing the model of helping service men and women, many of whom have lost limbs in war, recover both mentally and physically through the game of golf. While not only a means for building confidence and fostering camaraderie, OCF also hopes to provide work experience that translates into employment within the golf industry.
Orlando, (407) 529-2674,

One Heart for Women and Children
Founder Stephanie Bowman and her children were homeless 20 years ago, and after receiving gifts from a stranger, she felt hope for the community. One Heart is her way of paying it forward to others who are dealing with hardships in their lives. From providing daily necessities such as clothing, food, school supplies and personal hygiene items to a full spectrum of education and prevention services that include drug and alcohol prevention, life skills and parenting classes, One Heart for Women and Children gives hope to men, women and children. Aside from offering a food pantry five days a week, the organization also collects holiday presents for over 1,000 children in need.
Orlando, (321) 299-4594,

Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando
More than 7,500 homeless dogs and cats will seek love and shelter through the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando this year. One of the state’s oldest and largest animal welfare agencies, this organization provides rescue and foster care, affordable veterinary services, community education and outreach, as well as meals on wheels for low-income seniors’ pets and disaster response efforts for animals affected by natural events.
Orlando, (407) 351-7722; Sanford, (407) 323-8685,

Two Spirit Health Services
Derived from Native American culture, the name “Two Spirit” is in honor of LGBTQ people. This community health organization provides all-inclusive medical services under one roof, not limited to behavioral health, transgender-specific health care, aesthetic services and guidance for singles or couples seeking adoption. The staff is comprised of LGBTQ professionals and allies, creating a unique environment where everyone can feel comfortable and accepted for who they are.
Orlando, (321) 800-2874,

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s December 2018 issue.

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