Start the year right by volunteering or donating to Orlando groups doing essential community work

Our 2023 Giving Guide

Start the year right by volunteering or donating to Orlando groups doing essential community work

This is now our third yearly list of local organizations that would benefit from your financial support or time, and that giving would in turn benefit the community at large. We've running this list a bit later — or way earlier, depending on how you look at these things — because we see giving resources to these groups as a way of starting the year off right, rather than an end-of-year holiday-centric exercise.

So, consider this a list of financial resolutions to help contribute toward and shape the Florida you want to live in, and act resolutely. Did we miss some groups? Absolutely; this is by no means a comprehensive list. Feel free to contribute to your personal favorites as well as the following handful.

The Black Health Commission

Despite federal resources made available to the state, Florida continues to put politics over healthcare access. We live in a state with high healthcare costs and deep healthcare disparities, particularly severe when you consider the intersections of race and class. Black communities face systemic challenges, from food deserts to a lack of culturally competent services. In 2020, a team of volunteers founded the Black Health Commission. Their mission is foundational and critical, to create opportunities to learn about health inequities and design spaces to have honest conversations about issues that directly impact Black communities. Their signature annual event, the BLK JOY Festival, embraces this vision as well. — IVE

The Center/Zebra Coalition

We've included both of these in previous years' Giving Guides, and we're doing it again with that extra bit of urgency this time around for a very important reason: In the interest of throwing red meat to his base, the current governor and his Legislature are still zeroing out all funding for these organizations in the state budget. The staff at the two Center locations in Orlando and Kissimmee work hard to offer counseling, health services, computing, employment and financial assistance programs to the local LBGTQ community. The Zebra Coalition is made up of Central Florida social service providers that provide resources for local LGBTQ youth. The LGBTQ community seems increasingly under attack in Florida, so private money for essential services is needed. — MM

Central Florida Mutual Aid

Central Florida Mutual Aid is a community-powered, volunteer nonprofit collective that organizes in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties. During last year's hurricane season, the group stepped up to provide aid and resources to local residents who hadn't yet been reached by local, state or federal governments. Throughout the year, they also help gather donations and basic supplies for working-class residents in need, organize food distributions and hold peer-support gatherings. Online, they have a link.tree where you can donate, request aid or sign up to volunteer. — MS

Change for the Community

Nobody better explains the mission of CFTC, established in West Orlando in 2019, than founder and community activist Shan Rose: "Our mission at Change for the Community is to promote better neighborhoods and communities through group action. We inspire, educate and empower to build pride and unity among the youth and adults. We enhance livability. Recognizing the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by marching in the recent Orlando MLK parade is an expression of our gratitude for the great work he did, as CFTC continues to better the community." The hands-on group advocates for voting rights, undertakes youth mentoring and community clean-ups, and disseminates information and educational resources. — SK

Descolonizarte Teatro

You can't say "Latinx" in Arkansas anymore, but you sure can in Central Florida. Descolonizarte Teatro aims to keep it that way, with an ambitious and ever-growing slate of theatrical performances, literary events, artistic showcases and educational programs that celebrate and amplify the Latin American experience. Shows are performed in Spanish and Spanglish, with English supertitles sometimes provided for extra outreach. Your contribution to this 501(c)3 helps further its mission of "decolonizing" the arts while providing intersection points for Latinx, immigrant and LGBTQ expression. And that's a worthy cause in any language. — SS

Florida Access Network

This reproductive justice organization and abortion fund has been doing important work since 1996 as the Central Florida Women's Emergency Fund. 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. And let's face it, things are going to get worse before they get better in DeSantis' Florida as far as reproductive rights go. Help give this organization the financial resources to provide much-needed healthcare. — MM

Hope CommUnity Center

Since the early 1970s Hope CommUnity Center has served farmworkers and the working poor of Central Florida to ensure our communities can function every day. These are members of our community who rarely get the recognition or compensation they deserve, but are so often targeted by far-right politicians looking for a scapegoat and a cheap headline. HCC offers direct service through childcare and citizenship clinics, and fosters connections with the wider nonprofit network in Central Florida to help working people not just survive, but thrive. Through education, HCC empowers families to know their rights, connect with their elected officials and organize for policies that serve all workers. HCC also engages volunteers and students across Central Florida in direct service and community building. — IVE

Orlando Girls Rock Camp

Orlando Girls Rock Camp is an annual summer incubator program that prepares girls and nonbinary youth to claim and shape their own space in the world through creative expression. While OGRC's value is evident on paper, I saw their vital work firsthand when my own daughter was finally old enough to attend last summer. The volunteers — many of whom are notables in the local music scene — are personally and deeply committed to the nurturing and development of these campers. At the live showcase that concludes the weeklong camp, the youngest band were given the finale spotlight before a capacity crowd at Will's Pub. Of the thousands of concerts I've attended, never before have I been among, or contributed to, audience cheers this fanatical, pure and filled with heart. (I'm seriously welling up writing this.) Besides money, they also accept instruments and wish-list donations. If you don't have the funds, you can help by volunteering. — BLH

Safe Studio Spaces

Noting the all-too-familiar tales of exploitation plaguing creative communities, a small group of leaders established Safe Studio Spaces in 2021. They've worked to develop reasonable policies that can be easily adopted by studios nationwide. McKenzy Bowers, co-owner of Tivid TV Studios in Orlando, one of the first studios to ally with their efforts, said, "Our customers who are coming in and out, our artists have to be safe. That's number one, hands down. We set the tone as soon as you come in the door. If we are deemed unsafe, it's a hazard for everything else that we're trying to do with people. If people can't feel safe, they're not coming to us." — SK

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About The Authors

McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, with a focus on state and local government, workers' rights, and housing issues. Previously worked for WMNF Radio in Tampa. You can find her bylines in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, In These Times, Strikewave, and Facing South among other publications.
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