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By Kendra Gemma

We live in a generous area. It seems there’s always a big fundraising event or two happening every weekend, especially during season. But how can you give back (without necessarily spending a lot of money) year ’round? Discover hands-on volunteer opportunities – from playing with pets to delivering meals – that will make you feel good while doing good.


Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Sun Coast: Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister can change two
lives – the child’s and yours! You’ll be a role model, companion and friend to your Little, a local child who
needs support and guidance. Interested? Fill out a volunteer form at

If you can’t make a long-term commitment, the organization needs assistance with special events, clerical
work and a back-to-school drive. Email Gina Taylor at to get additional information.

Early Learning Coalition (ELC) of Manatee County: If you have a passion for literacy and one hour to
spare per week, sign up as a ReadingPals volunteer. You’ll receive training and easy-to-follow lesson plans
and you’ll help 4- and 5-year-olds gain the building blocks of reading. For people with less time to devote,
ELC needs help labeling the 40,000 books they distribute every year. Teens are welcome to participate.

Learn more about ReadingPals at Contact about book labeling.

HOPE Family Services: Established in 1979, this organization serves Manatee County domestic violence
victims and their children. Volunteers can work directly with HOPE’s clients after becoming certified by
the Florida Department of Children and Families. Indirect Service volunteer opportunities don’t require
certification and include working in the thrift store, fundraising, doing light repair work and creating
welcome baskets for HOPE’s new clients. Learn more at

The Twig Cares: Originally founded in 2016, The Twig serves foster children and their families. One of
their main initiatives is their clothing store, where foster kids can shop with dignity. At the Bradenton
store, which opened in 2021, volunteers can sort donations and help prepare the store for customers. The
organization is also looking for people to work directly with Twig families. Email KristenF@TheTwigCares.
com for more details.


Pets bring smiles and companionship to many of us. You can return the favor to local homeless animals by volunteering with a local organization.

Humane Society of Manatee County: Cuddle cats, train dogs on a leash, help out at community events and even foster animals awaiting adoption. Volunteers must go through an orientation program and pay a $30 onboarding fee, which covers the cost of a T-shirt, name badge and any training. Regular volunteers earn perks at the shelter and veterinary clinic, ranging from a discount in the on-site pet boutique to
lower-priced vaccination and adoption services. Middle schoolers and high schoolers are welcome to take part in the Humane Society’s Teen Volunteer Program in the spring and fall. Read more at www.

Manatee County Animal Welfare: Take care of dogs and cats who are in the custody of Manatee County. After successfully completing a two-part orientation, volunteers will perform support tasks, including washing dishes and doing laundry, before having the opportunity to socialize cats, walk dogs and do other activities. More administrative duties, such as bio-writing and photography, will be added soon. Junior volunteers (16 to 17 years old) can sign up to help out if they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian while volunteering. For more information, visit


Whether you want to assist homebound neighbors or maintain a county park, our whole community could use your time and efforts.

The Friends of the East Manatee Library at Lakewood Ranch: A fully volunteer-run organization, it’s made up of a board, committee chairs and committee members. Board president Dr. Sue Ann Miller says, “we find our volunteers make new friends and have fun working together. It’s been gratifying for everyone to see the construction underway for our new library!” The library will be located at 16410 Rangeland Parkway.

The Friends are seeking volunteers to serve as their bookstore manager and assistant manager, as well as many others to work at the bookstore. If interested, contact Dr. Miller at

Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee: For 50 years, Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee has been serving “those who are isolated, hungry, alone, and in need of hope.” As a volunteer, you can deliver meals to people who can’t leave their homes, sort and pack food through the Food Bank of Manatee, spend time
with seniors at the Daybreak Adult Day Center in Lakewood Ranch or do at-home projects like knitting lap robes and hosting food drives. Learn more at

United Way Suncoast: United Way Suncoast has hundreds of ways to contribute to our community. During the school year, tutor students on weekday afternoons. Have a green thumb? Spend a Saturday morning each month on Sugg Middle School’s farm weeding, planting and building. For those who love the water, the Fish United fishing tournament involves greeting and assisting teams at registration and weigh-in, parking their vehicles or launching their boats. There are also ongoing needs for financial stability programs and making kits at home for anything from back-to-school to hygiene.

Kids and families are encouraged to volunteer together, when possible. Learn
more here For general information about volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.

Manatee County Government: If you’re not sure how you want to give back, check out Manatee County Government. Besides working at a library or with animal services, you can also help preserve a park, conduct plant clinics as a Master Gardener or coach youth basketball, among other fun and rewarding

Go to
for details. Regardless of your talents or availability, you can give of yourself in Manatee County. And you just might learn a new skill, make friends and discover things you never knew about yourself all while helping to improve your community!

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