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Difference Makers

These local nonprofit organizations are making a big impact across Central Florida.

Nonprofits are truly the heart of a community. They help the less fortunate, provide support and resources to those who need it, and strive to make the lives better of every individual they are connected with—ultimately making their community stronger and bringing everyone together to make a difference. Orlando Family Magazine is recognizing these organizations for going above and beyond for the greater good.

Hearts, Hands and Hope
Hearts, Hands and Hope feeds thousands of hungry children in their community every week. The organization has distributed more than 200,000 meals this year to disadvantaged children and families and will hit more than a quarter of a million meals distributed by year’s end. They distribute more than 8,000 meals a week and plan to increase that to 10,000 meals a week. The organization brings their meal distribution to food “deserts” within the community, which are areas with limited or no access to regular food resources. By coming to the need, Hearts, Hands and Hope helps the “forgotten” areas. Sanford, (407) 878-4124,

The Bridges of Light Foundation
The Bridges of Light Foundation is a nonprofit that builds bridges to a brighter future by nurturing, mentoring and tutoring under-served Central Florida youth. The organization, founded by Stacey Papp in 2004, helps a wide range of children in the community, including low-income students, underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities, and children who are first-generation college bound. The organization currently runs a virtual tutoring program at the Great Oaks Village foster home, which provides one-on-one tutoring services and individualized plans for success for every student living at the home. Orlando, (407) 490-3290,

Lighthouse Central Florida
Changing the lives of children and adults who are blind and visually impaired, Lighthouse Central Florida is the only nationally accredited comprehensive provider of vision rehabilitation services in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. Participants acquire skills, devices and resources that facilitate safe, independent and confident adjustment to their vision impairment with direction from specially trained professionals. From early intervention for infants and toddlers to meet the same developmental milestones as their sighted peers to ensuring that seniors may comfortably age in place, Lighthouse offers support for the unique needs and goals of every individual served at every stage of life. Orlando,

Orange County Regional History Center
The Orange County Regional History Center serves as a gateway for community engagement, education and inspiration, offering exhibits that explore 12,000 years of Central Florida’s heritage and a wide range of interactive experiences and programs for people of all ages, including STEAM integration. The center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institute and accredited by American Alliance of Museums, the highest honor achievable for a U.S. museum. Orlando, (407) 836-8500,

Come Out With Pride
Come Out With Pride is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization that inspires to make an impact on Orlando’s LGBTQ+ community. Every October around National Coming Out Day, the organization produces an annual pride event that fosters a sense of community, encourages LGBTQ+ individuals and families to live openly with pride, and educates the general public of the shared cultural heritage. It’s the largest single-day parade and festival in Central Florida. They are dedicated to supporting the community through outreach programs, scholarship opportunities and financial support to other local LGBTQ+ centered nonprofits through grants. Come Out With Pride won the 2020 Golden Brick Award for events celebrating diversity from the Downtown Orlando Partnership. Orlando,

Rebuilding Together of Central Florida
At Rebuilding Together of Central Florida, homes are repaired at no cost to neighbors in need. With support from volunteers and construction partners, the team eliminates health and safety hazards so that no parents must choose between replacing the leaking roof over their head or putting food on the table. In 2021, Rebuilding Together of Central Florida will replace roofs, help seniors age in place, improve accessibility for people with disabilities and address environmental hazards for 40 households in Central Florida. Altamonte Springs, (407) 898-3777,

Paddle With a Purpose
Paddle with a Purpose started with Robert Figueroa and his desire to remove trash from waterways and the organization is on a mission to inspire others to get involved in the conservation and cleanup of waterways. To date, Paddle With a Purpose has collected over 14,000 pounds of trash from or near waterways between Key West, South and Central Florida and have had hundreds of volunteers participate. Its goal is to raise funds to purchase a zero emissions vehicle and their own kayaks so they can complete a nationwide tour of cleanups and get students out on the water during this time of isolations and crisis. (954) 998-7618,

Inside Out Jail Ministries
Inside Out Jail Ministries mission is to assist and prepare incarcerated men and women, no matter their religious beliefs, have a successful transition back into society. They help in many ways, including providing a six-week educational experience inside the jail with the participants drafting plans designed to keep them on track and focused once they are released, and providing continuing education and spiritual development focused on recovery and transition. Its goal is to reduce recidivism by rebuilding families, strengthening communities and encouraging individual spiritual growth. Greater Orlando area, (407) 620-9514,

An accredited nonprofit of the United Nations, IDEAS For Us develops ideas, funds action and scales environmental solutions within the five pillars of sustainability: energy, water, food, waste and ecology. Every project and program aim to help people, heal the planet and grow prosperity with a vision to contribute to a future where humanity thrives in harmony with nature and peace with one another. Orlando,

Jewsh Federation of Greater Orlando (JFGO)
The JFGO funds and supports organizations that focus on caring for people in need in Florida, Israel and around the world, and nurturing and sustaining the Jewish community today and for future generations. JFGO offers a wide range of educational opportunities, empowers local Jewish people by giving them a voice on important issues, offers financial support for other Jewish causes and organizations and helps build meaningful relationships rooted in Jewish values. Orlando, (407) 645-5933,

100 Black Men of Greater Orlando, Inc.
This organization is dedicated to the advancement of youth in the community, offering programs that address critical areas affecting youth, families and communities, such as mentoring and education, health and wellness and leadership development—preparing young adults to become the next generation of global leaders. Its membership represents a range of professions including business, construction law, higher education, medicine, communications, government, architecture and engineering. Their vision has reached more than 125,000 underserved, underrepresented minority youth annually. Orlando,

City Year Orlando
City Year Orlando is dedicated to helping students and schools succeed, partnering with educators while supporting and mentoring students, helping develop the next generation of leaders to bring a stronger democracy and a competitive workforce. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members serve full-time in high-poverty urban schools, providing high-impact student, classroom and school-wide support to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school ready for college and career success. Orlando, (407) 581-7570,

Poodle and Pooch Rescue
The mission of Poodle and Pooch Rescue—a 100% volunteer and foster-based organization—is to save as many “leftover” dogs as possible from animal control, dogs that have been passed over by adopters and other rescue groups because they are older, have a medical need or suffer from neglect and/or abuse. They are provided with the veterinary care they need, a foster family they love and when they’re ready, they are adopted to a family who cherishes them. The group has saved over 4,000 dogs since 2008. Orlando,

YMCA of Central Florida
The Y is a cause-driven organization that promotes youth development, healthy living and social responsibility in order to help strengthen the community, with four core values: caring, respect, honesty and responsibility. The YMCA of Central Florida serves more than 225,000 members at 27 centers with locations in six counties. The purpose of this association is to improve the lives of all in Central Florida by connecting individuals, families and communities with opportunities based on Christian values that strengthen spirit, mind and body.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s December 2020 issue.