The holiday season is a busy time of the year for many people. Their to-do lists include putting up Christmas trees and decorations, shopping for friends and relatives, wrapping presents, sending Christmas cards and much more.
For one Clearwater couple, it’s time to don their special outfits as they help Ol’ Saint Nick by taking on a new life - that of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
This is the fourth year Loren ”Skip” Blesi and his wife Terrie have been volunteering as the famous couple at the Florida Botanical Gardens annual holiday lights display in Largo. They’ve always enjoyed Christmas and first became interested in becoming Santa and Mrs. Claus more than 20 years ago.
But it wasn’t until a friend of theirs, who had been Santa at the gardens, suggested they take over that they actually took the idea seriously. Now they can’t think of a better thing they’d like to do during the holidays.
Terrie says they love it, especially interacting with all the visitors and seeing their faces light up at the sight of them.
“It makes your heart just so warm inside,” she said, adding that they do it for the kids, both young and old.
“Volunteers are not paid -- not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.” This quote from an unknown author reveals the importance of volunteering. No matter where one chooses to volunteer, that presence and assistance is invaluable.
There is always strength in numbers, so a cause becomes stronger by the sheer number of volunteers dedicated to it. Since 1992 Pinellas County has relied on thousands of volunteers through its VIP (Volunteers in Pinellas) program. Director of Human Resources for Pinellas County Peggy Rowe notes that VIPs are not meant to replace employees but instead support and help expand services to the residents and visitors of the county that might not otherwise be possible.
LARGO - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay has joined #GivingTuesday Tuesday, Dec. 2, a first-of-its-kind effort to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season.
Coinciding with the Thanksgiving Holiday and the kickoff of the holiday shopping season, #GivingTuesday will inspire people to take collaborative action to improve their local communities, give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes they support and help create a better world. The day is scheduled the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay will use the power of social media to partake in a national moment dedicated to giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are, today, synonymous with holiday shopping.
CLEARWATER - Chapel-by-the-Sea, located at 54 Bay-Esplanade on Clearwater Beach, will welcome volunteers Saturday, Nov. 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., to assist the chapel in supporting the Stop Hunger Now organization.
On Nov. 1, all volunteers from the chapel, their family and friends, and volunteers from the community, will come to the chapel to help pack and provide 15,000 meals to help feed poor people in struggling countries, mostly in Central and South America or Africa.
The chapel has already raised the necessary funds of $4,350 from the congregational members to cover the expense of shipping out all 15,000 meals. The chapel hopes to transport the meals this year through the Stop Hunger Now organization.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Resource volunteers are needed to commit to volunteering two hours a week assisting 2-1-1 Tampa Bay staff stay connected with more than 1,400 health and human service agencies and programs.
Once trained, volunteers will assist staff in the 2-1-1 resource department by scanning local newspapers and other media outlets for new agency and program information; adding and updating agency program information in the 2-1-1 database; creating specialized guides for the community in response to special needs such as disaster guides, parent resource guides, and more; and assist in marketing efforts to the community about 2-1-1 services.
LARGO - Adult volunteers are needed to serve Pinellas County youth, ages 8 to 12, involved in 4-H Afterschool at Extension.
The program involves giving one hour a week to lead the kids through fun learning experiences. Training, material and support are provided. Days, times and locations are tailored to each volunteer's needs.
PINELLAS COUNTY - The Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross needs volunteers to serve on Disaster Action Teams, that provide relief to victims of fires, floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters in the Tampa Bay area.
Specialized training in preparedness and response will be provided at no cost to volunteers. Volunteers also are needed to work in shelters to provide relief to victims of hurricanes, fires, floods and other natural disasters Specialized training in shelter management, CPR and First Aid is provided at no cost to volunteers.
CLEARWATER - The American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter needs volunteer drivers and dispatchers to operate its Transportation Program in Clearwater.
Drivers and dispatchers are needed to fill assignments from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the Red Cross Clearwater Branch, 2481 Sunset Point Road. The Red Cross community service provides free transportation to those who have no other means of getting to critical medical and dental appointments, rehabilitation or therapy sessions.
The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas Inc. needs Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders - SHINE - volunteers to help individuals understand Medicare and provide free unbiased information and counseling. SHINE is called SHIP in most of the other 50 states in the United States.
Specially trained SHINE volunteer counselors provide free information and assistance. Consumers can speak to a volunteer by phone or meet with a person for an appointment at our community outreach sites. Call the Elder Helpline toll-free at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337) and ask to be connected with a SHINE counselor.
GULF BEACHES - Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach, is seeking "beach monitors" to keep watch on the coastline. Dr. Beach needs volunteers to measure beach erosion, test for red tide and rip currents.
Volunteers will get training and equipment and will be asked to volunteer 10 to 15 minutes twice a week.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pinellas County is seeking volunteers to become friends and mentors to children in their site-based mentoring programs.
Children are individually matched with a quality adult volunteer to provide them with a positive and caring friendship. Often from single-parent households, Little Brothers and Little Sisters benefit from the consistency and friendship of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters. One hour a week can make a difference in the life of a child.
TARPON SPRINGS - Be a part of history by volunteering at Pinellas County’s newest preserve.
Volunteers are needed to fill positions at the Brooker Creek Preserve’s Environmental Education Center. Volunteer opportunities include being a Education Center receptionist, roaming naturalist, exhibit or theater assistant and more, to name a few.
ST. PETERSBURG - Advocates are needed for survivors of domestic violence and their children. Volunteers (age 16 and up) are needed to help in the CASA Collection Thrift Shoppe to accept donations, greet customers, price and display merchandise.
Volunteers are asked to commit to one four hour shift a week (10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.).
PINELLAS COUNTY - The Center for Victim’s Rights is in need of volunteers to make calls or send e-mails to let residents know that a speaker is available to them and to organize the accumulated articles, literature and other operating materials. Computer knowledge is helpful but not a must.
Volunteer time can be done from home. Other needs include financial contributions, small desk, chair, file cabinets, any office supplies, business cards, a place to make free copies and businesses that will allow us to leave information for their patrons. Help with computer use would also be helpful.
CLEARWATER - The city of Clearwater is looking for volunteer groups to participate in its parks and recreation department’s Adopt-A-Trail program.
The Ream Wilson Clearwater Trail Adopt-A-Trail program is a cooperative partnership between Clearwater businesses, churches, schools, neighborhood associations, civic groups, clubs and other service-related organizations and the parks and recreation department.
PINELLAS COUNTY - The Children’s Home Society of Florida has started a Model Mentoring Program, designed to provide mentors for youth, ages 4 to 15, who have an incarcerated parent. Mentors are needed in the Tampa Bay area where more than 11,000 children have an incarcerated parent.
The mentoring services will be provided in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties. Mentors must be 21 years of age or older, reside in the same county as the youth, complete eight hours of training a year and commit to an hour meeting weekly for one year.
CLEARWATER - Volunteers are needed for the Friends Book and Gift Store at the Clearwater Main Library. A short training session is required.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday; and noon to 4 p.m., Friday and Saturday. The work hours are variable, but generally are two to three hours a week to fit your schedule. To volunteer, call Nancy McCue at 536-3141.
CLEARWATER - Clearwater Parks and Recreation is looking for volunteers to help with, among other things, its tutoring programs in the recreation centers, the nature park, special events and festivals, community beautification projects and an adopt-a-park program.
The city has about 125 individual volunteers and 75 groups that work in various areas. They also work with local Boy Scouts on their Eagle Scout projects.
DUNEDIN - Faith in Action of Upper Pinellas needs volunteers willing to serve as members of its board of directors or on one of its committees - personnel and planning; budget and finance; volunteer training; public relations; grant writing; fundraising; and outreach.
Faith Action is a not-for-profit, non-sectarian organization that exists through the efforts of volunteers to enhance the quality of life and promote the health and well-being of the frail elderly and persons with disabilities to enable them to remain independent in their own homes.
TARPON SPRINGS - The auxiliary and volunteer program at Florida Hospital North Pinellas is seeking individuals interested in making a difference in the lives of patients, visitors and hospital team members.
Volunteers have the opportunity to work in all areas of the hospital - interacting with patients and visitors while distributing reading materials from the hospital’s comfort cart, assisting with guiding visitors around the hospital, working in the hospital gift shop, serving food in the volunteer-run grill and driving a golf cart to shuttle patients and visitors from the main parking lot.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Volunteers are sought for the Sixth Judicial Circuit's Guardian ad Litem Program that provides advocates for county children caught between an overburdened welfare system and an abusive or otherwise dysfunctional home.
GAL volunteers provide a voice for these children and speak out in court on what is in the best interest of a child who has been a victim of abuse, neglect or abandonment.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services is committed to helping refugee and asylum children to succeed in school, reduce dropout and successfully transition from school to work place as well as improving the families overall adjustment life in the United States.
Volunteers are needed to be tutors, mentors, cultural guilds, and administrative assistants.
CLEARWATER - Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County seeks volunteers to assist on home construction sites. No experience is necessary. All tools, safety equipment and daily training are provided on-site.
Volunteers are needed Tuesdays through Fridays for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. shifts. Volunteers also are needed for the home improvement outlet, Habitat ReStore at 13355 49th St. N. in Clearwater. One-day projects and weekly or monthly projects also are available.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Help a Child Inc. is seeking parent aide volunteers. While providing friendship and emotional support, the volunteers will share life skills with parents facing the unique challenges of raising children in today’s society.
Volunteers should be able to share information on discipline techniques, being consistent, stress reduction, nutrition, budgeting, how to access community resources and more. Volunteers also will help parents understand what their children can do for their age.
PINELLAS COUNTY - The Neighborly Care Network provides life-sustaining services to county seniors in need. The network's services include meals-on-wheels, home and day care and transportation assistance. There are volunteer opportunities for all age groups.
Volunteering for the Neighborly Meals on Wheels program is a hands-on, front-line experience. People with one to two hours to spare around midday are needed to help in their neighborhood. Volunteers help improve the life of others and make a real difference in this critical area of need.
LARGO - Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program needs volunteers to join its corps of dedicated advocates who protect the rights of elders residing in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes.
The program’s local councils are seeking additional volunteers to identify, investigate and resolve residents’ concerns. Special training and certification is provided.
PALM HARBOR - Teen volunteers are needed at the Palm Harbor Library in several areas. The volunteer hours can help teens meet their Bright Futures Scholarship and other volunteer requirements as well as helping society.
ST. PETERSBURG - Palms of Pasadena Hospital is offering volunteers something fun and rewarding to do with spare time, new skills and an opportunity to develop new interests and make new friends.
The rewards and benefits of volunteering at Palms range from greeting and providing information to patients and their families at the information desk, radiation oncology, new emergency room, new surgical waiting area, outpatient diagnostic center, health information services, admitting as well as other office positions, and of course, helping out on the inpatient floors by delivering magazines, newspapers, blankets, refreshing water pitchers and generally assisting the nurses in helping make a hospital stay more comfortable.
PINELLAS COUNTY - The Parent Aide Program is asking for help from volunteers to share wisdom and life skills with a parent and volunteer as a visiting role model to give the gift of friendship, encouragement and emotional support as a parent faces the unique challenges raising young children in today's society.
- Help a parent understand what their children can realistically do for their age - help the parent begin to have fun with their child.
Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program needs volunteers to join its corps of dedicated advocates who protect the rights of elders who live in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes.
The Pasco and North Pinellas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council is a part of Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. The council is made up of local ombudsmen whose goal is to improve the quality of life and care of residents of long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family-care homes. An ombudsman is a specially trained and certified volunteer who has been given authority under federal and state law to identify, investigate and resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, long-term care facility residents. The Pasco and North Pinellas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Council serves Pasco and North Pinellas counties.
ST. PETERSBURG - Pet Pal Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter that recently opened in St. Petersburg, is seeking dedicated volunteers. Volunteer positions are available seven days a week, mornings and afternoons, to perform jobs that range from cleaning kennels and exercising dogs to answering phones.
Volunteers meet monthly at the shelter on second Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. New volunteers are encouraged to attend.
CLEARWATER - The Pinellas Talking Book Library needs volunteers to assist in providing library services to the blind, low vision, physically and reading-handicapped eligible Pinellas County patrons.
The volunteers also send and receive audio cassettes, which we call "books" to and from patrons. Current volunteer opportunities including processing of incoming books, book inspections, and book shelving.
CLEARWATER - The Rape Crisis Program of Family Service Centers needs volunteer rape crisis counselors.
Volunteers are on call two shifts a month during nighttime, weekend and holiday hours to provide victims of sexual assault with crisis counseling and support. Commitment and follow-through are key requirements for this worthwhile activity. Family Service Centers provide training and pagers. Classes for new volunteers will be in November.
CLEARWATER - RCS needs volunteers to help in its administrative office. Current opportunities include the following.
- Volunteer to assist with fundraising and event planning Available Hours: Flexible - depending on date of events In this position, volunteers would work closely with staff and board members in planning and coordinating fundraising events.
CLEARWATER - The RCS Food Bank is seeking volunteers. Current opportunities include the following.
- Receiving Assistant Available Hours: Monday - Friday, 8 a.m.- 4p.m., Thursdays 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. In this position, volunteers would assist with receiving food donations and completing appropriate documentation of the donation.
CLEARWATER - RCS Grace House is looking for volunteers. Current opportunities include the following.
- Receptionist (bi-lingual (English/Spanish) especially needed). Available Hours: Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In this position, volunteers would serve as the receptionist as well as screening callers to ensure they are eligible for services at RCS Grace House.
CLEARWATER - The Refugee Youth and Family Program at Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services is seeking volunteers to serve as tutors, mentors and community guides to refugee children ages 5 to 18.
The program is designed to help refugee children succeed in school and improve acculturation as well as preserve the refugee family. Volunteers can help a child with their homework, read a book or practice conversational English. Others can help teach English to more recent arrivals. Learn about a new culture while helping a child succeed in a new life. Tutoring and mentoring may be conducted in-home or in a public setting such as a library. No experience necessary. English is the only language requirement.
SAFETY HARBOR - The Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce is in need of dependable volunteers to help out during business hours.
Volunteers would be responsible for greeting and assisting visitors, answering phones and minor clerical tasks. The chamber is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
SAFETY HARBOR - The Safety Harbor Neighborhood Family Center has been serving residents of Safety Harbor since 1997.
The center provides a variety of children and early childhood development programs. Although Center staff is partially funded by the Juvenile Welfare Board and the city of Safety Harbor, community need is now outpacing the capacity of the small Center staff. The Center is seeking a regular group of volunteers who enjoy working with elementary and middle school children.
SAFETY HARBOR - The Safety Harbor Public Library seeks volunteers to help with the preservation of local history. Positions include scanning pictures and documents, researching and documenting items, cataloguing, uploading and other duties.
Volunteers must have attention to detail, computer skills and a willingness to learn. Metadata cataloging skills are requested or will train. A Masters in Library Science or attending Library School is preferred, but the library will train interested, committed volunteers. A minimum of four hours per week is requested.
The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas Inc. needs SHINE volunteers to help individuals understand Medicare and provide free, unbiased information and counseling. If you want to join an award-winning team and assist seniors, consider becoming a volunteer with SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders).
SHINE volunteers are both active and retired individuals from diverse career and cultural backgrounds. SHINE volunteers enjoy a position that is truly fulfilling and mentally stimulating. As a volunteer, you will receive initial training, continuing education and a supportive environment with dedicated colleagues.
SAFETY HARBOR - SPOT, Stop Pet Overpopulation Together, an all volunteer, nonprofit organization, whose mission is dedicated to ending pet overpopulation by educating the public about the importance of spay/neuter and adoption has volunteer opportunities are available in a variety of areas.
For more than 35 years, volunteers have been central to the mission at Suncoast Hospice and its family of programs. Volunteers are needed for a variety of roles and there are opportunities available weekdays, weekends and nighttime.
Suncoast's volunteers offer patient and family support in many ways. Volunteers make visits in patients' homes and healthcare facilities, as well as Suncoast Hospice care centers. They provide much comfort, joy and assistance such as:
PINELLAS COUNTY - The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary Foundation Inc. needs volunteers in all areas of the sanctuary to help with animal care, cleaning, office work, gardening work, maintenance on building and equipment, fundraising, animal food prep and staffing the guest relations table at the front gate.
To volunteer, visit www.suncoastprimates.org, call 943-5897 or come to the volunteer meeting the second Saturday of each month at 9 a.m.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Suncoast Search and Rescue is in need of new volunteers. The not-for-profit organization provides manpower to municipalities throughout Pinellas County when mass disasters occur. They operate primarily as a mass triage team, providing on-site patient assessment and stabilization while awaiting transport to nearby hospitals.
Additionally, Suncoast Search and Rescue provides assistance to the American Red Cross, American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and local Emergency Operation Centers with communications, search coordination, shelter operations and emergency medical assistance. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older, pass a drug and physical exam, pass a homeland security background check and have a professional attitude. A medical background is not needed. Training will be provided.
TARPON SPRINGS - The Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society is looking for additional volunteers to serve as docents and receptionists at its Historical Society Depot Museum in downtown Tarpon Springs.
Docent and receptionists greet visitors, guide visitors through the Depot Museum, and answer questions about the Museum's activities and other activities in the community.
ST. PETERSBURG - The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary needs administrative and operational volunteers.
The organization serves as a civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard, promoting safe boating in the classroom and on the water, assisting in search and rescue and monitoring safety and security zones.
PINELLAS COUNTY - Volunteers are needed for the Veterans Liaison Council of Pinellas County Honor Guard. Male and female veterans are needed.
Volunteers must be sufficiently physically fit to handle an M-1 or M-14 rifle, and march for short distances. For those without weapons experience, or who are just rusty, training is available. Currently conducting more than 100 funerals a year, the Honor Guard's primary purpose is to provide final honors for departed comrades.
CLEARWATER - The Victory House Ministry, a youth-oriented organization, is looking for a female volunteer to assume chaplain duties in the evenings through its program at the Pinellas Regional Juvenile Detention Center at 5255 140th Ave. N.
The individual will have oversight responsibilities; she should have a strong willingness to work with youths.