Looking to make your Thanksgiving extra memorable? Try volunteering!

There are many things to be thankful for this holiday season, and a great way to show our appreciation is by giving back to those in our community.  There are many wonderful organizations that count on volunteers to help bring joy and happiness to others.  On September 26th of this year, Sherri Dennis of the Charlotte Sun compiled this excellent list of volunteer opportunities:

The Charlotte County area has a wide range of volunteer opportunities. Contact one of the following organizations to see how you can get involved and give back to the community.

• AARP Foundation: Looking to expand its team of volunteers for the upcoming tax season. To learn about all the various volunteer opportunities and to sign up to be a Tax-Aide volunteer, visit aarpfoundation.org/taxaide or call 1-888-687-2277. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in coordination with the IRS.

• Animal Welfare League: Volunteers needed as dog walkers, cat cuddlers, kennel (dog/cat) cleaners, laundry help, gardening, clerical, assisting at adoption and fundraising events, outreach program, pet therapy and fostering an animal until they are ready to return to the shelter for adoption. All volunteer opportunities and requirements are listed at www.awlshelter.org. For more information, call 941-625-6720.

• Boys & Girls Clubs: Volunteers to assist staff in all programming areas both in Port Charlotte and Englewood. Specific areas of opportunity are homework, academic tutoring, cooking, mentoring, arts, computer technology and fitness. For more information, contact Jessica Anderson at 941-235-2472 or [email protected].

• Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies: Volunteers are an essential part of C.A.R.E., assisting victims of crimes, answering hotline calls, conducting hospital responses, and in fundraising endeavors. If interested in becoming a volunteer, please contact 941-639-5499 for more information.

• Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce: Looking for volunteers in the Port Charlotte Office, located at 2702 Tamiami Trail. Our volunteers help with mailing, answer the phones, and greet newcomers and visitors to the area. Interested, but want to learn more? Or maybe just give it a trial run for a couple of hours? Call Janet at 941-627-2222.

• Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity: Volunteers needed in a variety of areas. For more information on any volunteer opportunities, call Pamela at 941-639-3162 ext. 114.

• Charlotte County Historical Center and Society: Volunteers to help “bring history to life” in the community. Discover local and state history; living history presentations; educational programs for all ages; archive assistants; research; office administration and historical geocaching and questing. For more information, call 941-629-7278, or email [email protected].

• Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center: Volunteers to perform tasks such as office desk coverage, narrating boat trips, guiding exhibits (example: Clyde Butcher photography), representation at local events and festivals, youth education, wading trip assistance and many other exciting duties. Contact the volunteer coordinator at 941-575-5435.

• Charlotte Local Education Foundation (CLEF): Volunteers are needed a few afternoons each week at the Teacher Supply Depot “store” and office assistance for light clerical work. All work is light duty, flexible hours. Background check required. If interested, contact Sara Wierhake, executive director, at 941-255-7500 ext. 294 or email [email protected].

Civil Air Patrol: The auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization needs volunteers. No prior experience is needed, and everyone is welcome. For more information, call 941-639-1711.

• Coast Guard Auxiliary: The auxiliary is the volunteer arm of the U.S. Coast Guard, and is a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The operational unit of the auxiliary is the “Flotilla,” where Coast Guard policies and programs are transformed into action. For more information, visit www.coastguardenglewood.com, call Rich Markwitz at 941-266-0002 or attend a monthly meeting held on the second Tuesday of each month at 1949 Englewood Road.

• Community Cats of Charlotte: An all volunteer nonprofit that operates a trap, neuter and return program once a month for all the stray, abandoned, feral cats in Charlotte County. Volunteers are needed once a month on from noon to 1 p.m. on Saturday to set up the MASH Unit and from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. the following day for the feral clinic. Some experience with animals is encouraged. For more information, call Michelle at 941-875-3293.

• Crossroads Hope Academy: Volunteers needed for young men ages 13 to 17 years old with great potential to become their mentor or tutor. Many of these youths have experienced life in its worst form and missed a lot of school. They need role models who can help them with their studies and self-esteem and get them on the right track to becoming successful adults with someone to care about them outside the staff of Crossroads Hope Academy. Call 941-627-9352.

• Englewood Sailing Assn.: ESA is an all-volunteer, nonprofit, teaching organization operating out of Indian Mound Park and sailing on Lemon Bay. ESA offers youth summer camps; year-round basic, intermediate and advanced programs for youth; and introduction to sailing classes for adults. ESA depends on volunteers to perform all necessary functions, such as program support staff, instructors, committee members, maintenance staff, board members, etc. You do not have to be a sailor. Visit EnglewoodSailing.org, email [email protected], or call 941-681-8190.

• F.I.S.H. (Friends In Service Here): Volunteers to provide free transportation for residents in Englewood and Rotonda West. Volunteers provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, dialysis, oncology treatments, physical therapy, stores, banks and other locations in Englewood, North Port, and South Venice. For more information, call 941-475-2533, or 941-475-4494.

The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program: Volunteers are needed who, after training, are appointed by the court to advocate for the neglected, abused and abandoned children in our community. When you volunteer with the Guardian ad Litem Program you become the voice for a child in court and out of court. Volunteers are needed to represent these children and ensure that decisions made are in the child’s best interest. If you are interested in being a champion for the children in our community, email [email protected] or call at 941-613-3233. Go to www.guardianadlitem.org to learn more about the program.

Friends of Mid-County Library: Volunteers are needed to work in the book store of the library, 2050 Forrest Nelson Blvd., Port Charlotte. Two or three hour shifts available Monday through Friday. For more information, contact Helene at [email protected] or call 941-613-3160.

Homeless Coalition: Retail help at Fabulous Finds Re-Sale Shop (Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m.); Volunteers are needed for meal prep (Mondays and Wednesdays 1 p.m.-4 p.m.); Front desk help needed in the office of the shelter (Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9 a.m. noon and Monday-Friday 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m.); Food donation pick-up driver once a week; Groups to serve in the dining room; Bakers needed for the Need Bountiful Bakery Program. For more information and other opportunities, call or email Darcy Woods, Volunteer Coordinator, at 941-627-4313, ext. 134, [email protected].

Jesus Loves You Ministry: Mobile outreach program for the homeless; volunteers needed in various areas: shower ministry, mobile lunch ministry, thrift store, vehicle maintenance, office work and many others. For more information, call 941-661-8117 or email [email protected].

Learn to Sail Inc.: Learn to Sail is a nonprofit group teaching youths and adults to sail on Charlotte Harbor. Volunteer vacancies to fill, in summer and year-round, include instructors, teaching aides, boat repairs, social networking, boat donations, sales and marketing. For more information, visit www.learntosailswf.com, email [email protected] or call 941-999-1102.

Lemon Bay Playhouse: Nearly every task at the theatre is performed by a volunteer. The most visible ones are the actors but there is another entire ‘cast’ working backstage, with a stage manager, for every production, collectively known as “the crew.” Others help perform activities such as the ticket sales, house managing, set construction, lights, administrative tasks, publicity, and computer-related projects to name a few. If you are interested, signup online at lemonbayplayhouse.com, fill out a volunteer brochure, or call the box office at 941-475-6756.

Meals on Wheels: volunteers in the following areas: kitchen, to assist in preparing and packaging meals and drivers to deliver meals to clients. For more information, call 941-625-4343 between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Parrot Outreach Society: Volunteers of all ages to donate three hours a week to change paper and clean birdcages, sweep or mop up, and fix breakfast for the flock. For more information, call 941-347-8876 or stop by at 1205 Elizabeth St., Unit I (in the Sunstate Commerce Center), Punta Gorda.

New Operation Cooper Street: Volunteers to tutor kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The volunteers will help the students with their daily school assignments including math, spelling, reading and sentence writing. These volunteers are needed Monday through Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Volunteers are also needed daily from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. to drive 10-passenger vans to pick up the students at their schools. Drivers must watch two hours of driving safety videos to be certified by the county to drive the vans. For more information or to complete an application, contact Margaret Forde at 941-639-3034, or stop by at 650 Mary St., Punta Gorda.

North Port Meals on Wheels: Seeking drivers or kitchen assistants willing to volunteer a few hours mid-day once a week to prepare and deliver meals to people in need. If interested, please call Teddy Repose 941-685-6969 or [email protected].

Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens: Volunteers are needed for garden planting and maintenance, plant parenting, community outreach, social media, fundraising and more. All volunteer opportunities and forms can be found at www.peacerivergardens.org. For more information, email [email protected] or call 941-286-0333.

Peace River Wildlife Center: The Peace River Wildlife Center, 3400 Ponce de Leon Parkway, (at the end of West Marion Avenue) Punta Gorda, is in need of volunteers to help with daily morning cleaning and general maintenance of habitats, tour guides, and hospital cage cleaners. Also in need of grapes, kale, paper towels, and unscented laundry soap. For more information, call 941-637-3830 or visit www.peaceriverwildlifecenter.org.

Peace River Search and Rescue: is a 501©(3) formed by Mike Hadsell who has 40 years of experience in Search and Rescue. The teams deploy across the country at no charge to the requesting agency. PRSAR Teams are trained and certified for FEMA and law- enforcement searches. The members are self-funded and donations are used to buy search and rescue equipment. PRSAR welcomes new members. There are search positions available to everyone. They also have several positions that don’t require you to have a dog. The group meets for training twice each week at various locations in Charlotte County. If you would like to volunteer, donate, or just learn more about Peace River Search and Rescue, visit their website at www.PRSAR.org.

Port Charlotte SCORE: Volunteers provide confidential business mentoring services, both in person and online. As a volunteer your real-world expertise, your skills, talents, and business savvy are valuable resources for today’s entrepreneurs. An Orientation and Mentoring Certification program will provide everything you need to volunteer. For more information, contact [email protected] or call 941-249-4440.

Pregnancy Careline Center: 1685 Tamiami Trail, Suite 4, Port Charlotte, seeks both female and male volunteers to assist Charlotte County citizens who have an unexpected or otherwise stressed pregnancy. Volunteers are needed in a variety of areas. For more information, call 941-625-5576 or email [email protected].

Project Linus: volunteers to crochet, knit, and quilt blankets to give to Charlotte County kids who are in need of comfort and security. Meeting are held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Wednesdays at New Day Church, 20212 Peachland Blvd., Port Charlotte and from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Fridays at Florida Gulf Coast Building, Herald Court Punta Gorda. For more information, call 941-627-4364.

Tax Aide: volunteers needed in United Way office to set up appointments for our very popular free income tax prep program. Whether a few hours or a few days, set your own schedule while making a positive difference helping others in our community. Call Jen at 941-627-3539 for more details.

The SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) Program: recruiting volunteers to help Medicare beneficiaries in Charlotte County. SHINE is a free, unbiased Medicare and health insurance information, counseling, and assistance program whose specially trained volunteers assist seniors in making informed health care decisions. For more information, call the Elder Helpline at 1-866-413-5337 or 1-800-963-5337, or visit www.floridashine.org.

Special Olympics seeks volunteers: looking for coaches for swimming, golf, power lifting, softball and bowling. This does not have to be full time; any time you can volunteer would be greatly appreciated. Call 941-391-6906 or email [email protected].

St. Vincent de Paul’s: The Food Pantry is in need of interviewers, filing, computer entry, answering the telephone, stocking shelves, making up grocery bags, and helping clients to their cars. Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Volunteers needed in the Resale Shop, summer hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Other areas: drivers for picking up furniture, bookkeeping, cutting of the lawn, and assistance in picking up furniture. For more information, call Richard Peters at 941-786-5951 or Judy Foster at 973-652-4569.

St. Vincent de Paul, Sacred Heart Conference: needs physically able men and women to work as volunteers on its truck delivering and picking up donated furniture. Workdays are Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings generally for 3 to 4 hours. Delivery drivers/helpers usually work one morning a week or as often as they can. If you can volunteer or need more information, call 941-769-4764.

Suncoast Humane Society: volunteers needed including visitor assistant, cat cuddlers, dog walkers, laundry assistant, foster parent, thrift store and pet therapy. All volunteer opportunities and requirements can be found at www.humane.org, or for more information, call 941-474-7884.

TEAM Punta Gorda: Volunteers needed for leadership positions, administrative support, project focused committees and special events. Leadership positions: Volunteer coordinator, communications and marketing coordinator. Explore the possibilities online at www.TEAMpuntagorda.org or call TEAM at 941-637-8326.

Tidewell Hospice: welcomes volunteers to visit with patients in the patient’s own home, assisted living facilities, nursing homes or actual Hospice House; assist in the office; help at community events and provide pet therapy with approved cat or dog. Application process, background checks and training required. For more information, call 941-979-4304 or 941-979-4324 for details.

— Compiled by Sherri Dennis, [email protected]

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