This is our second year of singling out 12 local organizations that could use your financial support, and things have changed. Many of 2020's groups were COVID-related, and although the pandemic continues, some of those crisis-responsive support systems are no longer in operation. Orlando seems to have returned to the tried-and-true organizations helping those in need, but we've expanded "needs" to once again include reproductive justice, climate reform, voting rights, mental and emotional health, and even pets.
We've highlighted a (baker's) dozen organizations doing essential work that's worthy of a few dollars. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage you to make your own "12 Ways" lists — and share them with us.
So, if you're able, please try to give something this year and restore a tiny bit of magic to another very strange holiday season.
The Bros in Convo Initiativebrosinconvo.org
Lil Nas X showed the rest of the world what Orlandoans already knew when he included the Bros in Convo in the "baby registry" list of worthy nonprofits and activist groups from around the county that was part of his new album campaign earlier this year. This is an organization worthy of that national spotlight. Bros in Convo works to better the lives of Black gay, bisexual and queer men in the Central Florida area and beyond through providing programs and services including mentorship, STI testing and treatment, financial assistance, life skills workshops and mental health initiatives.
Clean the Worldcleantheworldfoundation.org
Orlando-based Clean the World operates many charitable initiatives, from emergency relief aid to microloans for women to water stewardship, but it all started here in one of the world's largest hospitality-industry hubs with an idea to recycle unused hotel soaps and shampoos. However, for all their global involvements, it's a new focus that we find the freshest: addressing the hygiene needs of the unhoused. Through their WASH program, fixed-location public toilets and mobile shower trucks offer dignity and improved health to all. Because it's hard to combat a pandemic when not everyone can wash their hands, it's hard to get a job if you can't take a shower, and it's hard to deny that then simplest needs can be the most difficult to fulfill. Learn how to donate or volunteer at their website.
Formed in the immediate aftermath of 2016's Pulse nightclub massacre, the Contigo Fund ("With you" in Spanish) is a philanthropic body that provides financial resources to LGBTQ+ people of color in Central Florida, particularly Latinx communities. Contigo gives funding and support to nonprofits, social justice efforts and grass-roots groups engaged in direct action to support and uplift "LGBTQ and Latinx individuals, immigrants and people of color in Central Florida." Contigo honors those 49 who died with meaningful work towards change and fostering community.
Florida Access Networkflaccessnetwork.org
This reproductive justice organization and abortion fund has been doing important work since 1996 as the Central Florida Women's Emergency Fund and — sadly — here we are in late 2021 and that work is poised to become more vital and urgent than ever. A change in name was accompanied by a change in leadership and focus and now this is an organization driven by queer women of color. The nonprofit FAN funds abortion care and provides resources and support to those needing an abortion as part of wider goals of radical self-love and collective liberation.
Florida Rights Restoration Coalitionfloridarrc.com
In 2018, Florida citizens overwhelmingly voted yes on Amendment 4, the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, a state constitutional amendment to restore the voting rights of Florida residents who were charged with a felony and had served out their prison sentences. FRRC is a grass-roots organization of returning citizens (formerly convicted persons) that has been at the forefront of the effort to see that this amendment is recognized and implemented by Florida's state leadership. Executive Director Desmond Meade was in September awarded the MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" in recognition of his efforts and was finally granted long-awaited clemency by the state. There's so much more work to be done — and FRRC is doing it.
Florida Rising is a fierce and committed collective of organizers fighting for justice. They work tirelessly for legislative change in the areas of climate, housing, gender, voting and criminal system reform. A current issue much on their minds is ensuring the fairness of the redistricting process taking place in the Florida Legislature. These humans work literally at ground level, from walking neighborhoods knocking on doors to walking the halls of the Capitol to protect the marginalized. Your support will expand democracy and help build independent political power.
Hope and Helphopeandhelp.org
Some numbers we can NOT be proud of: Florida has the third-highest rate of HIV diagnosis among the 50 states; only Georgia and the District of Columbia are higher. And Orlando proper has the third highest rate of new diagnosis among American cities, with only Atlanta and Miami seeing more. In the fight against AIDS, testing and protection are key. Hope and Help's streamlined mission addresses just that, offering HIV and STI testing and treatment. They even offer free condom delivery by mail in Florida. (We think teens who know more about reproductive health than their school sex-ed programs are teaching should know about this.) They also offer the only needle exchange program in the area, in partnership with Orange County, complete with free Naloxone — reducing not just HIV and hepatitis C spread, but also overdoses and death. See Hope and Help's fundraising opportunities on their website.
Pet Alliance of Greater Orlandopetallianceorlando.org
Orange County Animal Servicesorangecountyanimalservicesfl.net
After a deadly fire completely destroyed Pet Alliance's public clinic, the shelter has scrambled to take care of its four-legged clients while preparing a new home for them. Luckily, the organization had a parcel of land prior to the fire, but to expedite the building process, Pet Alliance could use some extra money to foot the bill. The animal shelter has asked the public's help in providing monetary donations while the new building is being constructed. In the meantime, the Orange County Animal Shelter has picked up a lot of the slack and is currently caring for 5,200 homeless dogs and cats. They, too, would appreciate some support — as would the cats and dogs who are patiently waiting there for their forever home.
Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Floridaplannedparenthood.org
People with uteruses brace for impact as a Supreme Court completely reshaped by former President Trump revisits the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Abortion challengers continue to push to restrict Planned Parenthood's reproductive healthcare services, though abortions only account for 3 percent of the organization's services in 2020. With local health centers in East Orlando, Kissimmee and Lakeland, Planned Parenthood continues to be a leading provider of quality and affordable healthcare when needed most, providing a myriad of services ranging from mammograms to STD testing, as well as referrals to oncologists, obstetricians and other sexual health specialists.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Floridafeedhopenow.org
As food insecurity — exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic — continues to impact Central Florida residents, Second Harvest provides resources to the one in eight adults and one in six children that face hunger. This food bank continues to redistribute donated food to over 550 feeding partners in Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties. As well, their culinary training program provides economically disadvantaged adults with the skills to pursue work in the food industry, and is the source of their Spoon Full of Hope line of soups and cookies. Whether it be through donations, volunteering or buying their food products, the nonprofit would love some extra help during this holiday season.
Surprise, surprise. Despite having the most expensive health care, the U.S. has ranked last on access to care among 11 high-income countries. And the Commonwealth Fund's 2020 healthcare scorecard ranked Florida 41st of the 50 states. To mitigate effects of our insubstantial healthcare system, Shepherd's Hope provides medical services to the uninsured and underinsured, saving the community $20 million in healthcare costs. Although 3,000 licensed medical volunteers donate their time, the clinic still needs money to procure used medical equipment — not to mention all the other expenses that come with running a healthcare facility that has provided 300,000 free medical visits since its founding in 1997.
Even though the LGBT community only makes up between 10 and 12 percent of the U.S. population, LGBT youth account for 42 percent of all of the country's homeless teenagers and young adults. But here in Orlando, a network of organizations is working to stop this epidemic. The Zebra Coalition is made up of nearly 30 Central Florida social service providers that provide resources for local LGBT youth between 13 and 24 years old. The network's main mission is to create safe spaces for these young people. Though Gov. DeSantis cruelly struck out all funds set aside in the state budget to help the Zebra Coalition purchase and renovate an old motel as safe housing, the coalition still has a drop-in center where students can receive mental health counseling, meet with case managers and attend life-skills workshops. Volunteers are always needed at fundraisers and events, although all volunteers must go through a vetting process. If you're not into the hands-on approach, donations are readily accepted. The coalition even has an Amazon wish list and every little bit, from cleaning supplies to gift cards, goes to enriching the lives of these young people.