The SPIRIT of the Season

A list of ways you can give, get involved and help the less fortunate


Tis the season for giving! Ordinarily we like to poke fun of, well, everything, but in the spirit of the season, we're taking a break from all that sarcasm to bring you this handy-dandy list of events, charities and more so you can get into the spirit by doing good deeds - that or just work your way off that "naughty" list.


FIRST COAST AIDS WALK. The eighth annual walk is held at 10 a.m. (registration at 9 a.m.) on Nov. 19 at Riverside Avenue Christian Church, 2841 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville, 389-1751, Proceeds benefit local organizations and primarily support the Hitzing Fund, designed to provide photo identification and documentation necessary for healthcare services for low-income HIV clients.

TOYS FOR TOTS/19TH STREET CHARITIES POKER RUN. The Sons of the Beaches hold this third annual run 8 a.m. Nov. 19, starting at FRA Branch 290, Mayport Road. A raffle, silent auction, barbecue and live music by Highway Jones are featured. $20 per bike, $10 per passenger. Details, 866-1165, 237-5277,

FEED THE CITY. The 22nd annual event is held 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 20 at Clara White Mission, 613 W. Ashley St., Downtown; for details, call 354-4162 or go to

CHRISTMAS ON THE RIVER. The COA’s annual fundraiser is held 5-8 p.m. Nov. 20 at River House, 179 Marine St., St. Augustine. The Festival of Wreaths, featuring one-of-a-kind wreaths hand-crafted and donated to the COA by local garden clubs, florists, 4-H’ers and Master Gardeners and a silent auction and a wine tasting are featured. Proceeds benefit COA’s programs. 209-3687,

JOHNSON FAMILY PRAYER BREAKFAST. The annual breakfast is held at 9 a.m. Nov. 17 at Johnson Family YMCA, 5700 Cleveland Rd., Jacksonville. Tickets are $15 per person. For more info, call 765-3589 or go to

BLESSINGS IN A BACKPACK. ServPro holds its second annual Fancy Pants Golf Tournament 11:30 a.m. Nov. 18 at St. Johns Golf & Country Club, 205 St. Johns Golf Dr., St. Augustine. Tickets include scramble format, lunch, dinner, beer, golf cart, longest drive and speed contests, and prizes. Check-in and range time begins at 10 a.m., tee-off 11:30 a.m. Proceeds benefit First Coast Blessings in a Backpack. 829-0665.

TURKEY TROT 1K, 3K & 5K. The 10th annual family runs start Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 24, at Mickler’s Landing parking lot, South Ponte Vedra Boulevard. Proceeds benefit the YMCA’s Safety Around Water Program. Register online or visit or call Ponte Vedra YMCA for more information. 5K is for ages 15-64; the 3K for ages 11-14 and the 1K for kids 10 and younger. 543-9622,

MISTER ROGERS SWEATER DRIVE. The 14th annual sweater drive is on. Drop off clean, new and gently used sweaters, jackets, coats and blankets through Nov. 30 at WJCT Public Broadcasting Studios, 100 Festival Park Ave., Jacksonville, Two Men & A Truck, 8849 Arlington Expressway, and all First Coast VyStar Credit Union locations. Contributions are donated to several area nonprofits. 358-6322,

GINGERBREAD HOUSES. The 14th annual Extravaganza displays holiday houses weekdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Nov. 30-Dec. 23 at Jacksonville Historical Society, located at Old St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 317 A. Philip Randolph Blvd., Downtown. More than 30 gingerbread houses are created by local chefs, architects, culinary students, engineers and civic organizations. Proceeds benefit the Society. Admission: $5 adults, $3 kids ages 3-16; free for kids younger than 2. 665-0064,

TREE OF LIFE CELEBRATION. The 26th annual event is held 5:15 p.m. Dec. 1 at Community Hospice’s Hadlow Center, 4266 Sunbeam Rd., Southside. The tree’s lights represent the adults and children cared for by Community Hospice. A candlelight Service of Remembrance is featured. Proceeds benefit Community Hospice Foundation. 886-3883,

TOYS FOR TOTS. The annual program collects new, unwrapped toys worth $10 or more, from the local community through events and toy box donations. The Marines collect (in Dress Blues) until completion. For details and more info, email or call SSgt. Phillip Greer, 714-7458.

ANGEL TREE. This YMCA program runs from Nov. 18-Dec. 16, providing gifts for children of deserving families in the community who can’t afford to put presents under the tree. For details on how you can be an angel, call 265-1775.

BEACHCOMBER CLASSIC. The restaurant’s 29th annual tournament is held 8:30 a.m. Dec. 5 at Marsh Creek Country Club, 169 Marshside Drive, St. Augustine. Proceeds benefit St. Johns Council on Aging programs. For details, call 471-3744. 

CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY. This 18th annual event needs folks to hand out new donated toys to kids 12 years old and younger at the annual gathering held 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Prime Osborn Convention Center, 1000 Water St., Downtown, 350-1616,

CANDY CANE 5K. Take Stock in Children, Barco-Newton Family YMCA and Dye Clay Family YMCA of Florida’s First Coast host the fourth annual race. Registration ($25) is 8 a.m., Walk/Run 8:30 a.m. Dec. 10 at Orange Park Town Hall, 455 Park Ave., 272-4304, Proceeds benefit Take Stock in Children, a nonprofit that provides scholarships, mentors and hope for low-income and at-risk students in Clay County.

J.P. HALL CHARITIES CHILDREN’S CHRISTMAS PARTY. The 33rd annual children’s event is held 8 a.m.-noon Dec. 17 at Clay County Fairgrounds, 2497 S.R. 16 W., Green Cove Springs. Open to any Clay County kids up to 14 years old, the party features new toys, food and entertainment. 707-1978,

FOOD FOR FINES. St. Johns County Public Libraries offer the opportunity to resolve overdue fines and help those in need this holiday season through the “Food for Fines” program. Library staff accepts sealed, unexpired, non-perishable food items in lieu of up to $1 in overdue library fines through Dec. 19. Donations are delivered to the Health & Human Services Food Pantry, distributed locally. The donation waivers are for library fines only and cannot be applied to fees for printing, lost items, or for credit against future fines. Don’t owe fines? Drop off canned foods at any library branch or bookmobile stop. For more information, visit or call 827-6940.

WINTERFEST 2016. The sixth annual WinterFEST at Adventure Landing, held Nov. 18-Jan. 8, transforms the waterpark into an Alpine snow village with an outdoor ice-skating rink, the Alpine Racer, a 130-foot ice slide, visits from Santa, cookie decorating, carnival and crafts, Santa’s workshop (and photo op), ornament decorating, s’more roasting, reindeer games, Crystal Creek Lodge and nightly snowfalls. Proceeds benefit Dreams Come True. Pricing by attraction; call for details. Open select days at select times; check the calendar; 1944 Beach Blvd., Jax Beach, 246-4386,

FAMILY PROMISE. The nonprofit helps homeless families with children become self-sufficient, providing temporary shelter, meals and case management, with local churches, social service organizations and volunteers. A fundraiser is held Nov. 30 at Panera Bread, 4403 Roosevelt Blvd., Jacksonville; a portion of proceeds is donated to Family Promise. Get the flyer at 354-1818,

GIVING TUESDAY. Lutheran Social Services is part of this worldwide initiative to encourage charitable giving during the holiday season, specifically on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29. This year, LSS’ Giving Tuesday campaign benefits its Backpack Program, which provides take-home food on Fridays for Duval County students who receive free or reduced lunch during the school week. This ensures they can return to school on Monday ready to focus on their schoolwork instead of a rumbling belly. A gift of $10 will provide a weekend of food for five students. For details, go to or call 448-5995.

DREAMS COME TRUE. The locally based nonprofit is dedicated to fulfilling the dreams of children who suffer from life-threatening illnesses. Proceeds from some performances of the 25th annual Community Nutcracker Ballet at The Florida Theatre are donated to Dreams Come True. Volunteers are needed to assist with special events and administrative chores. 6803 Southpoint Pkwy., Jacksonville, 296-3030,

SEA TURTLE ADOPTIONS. For those who want to make a positive impact on the natural world, sea turtle adoptions are a great, green gift idea. For a tax-deductible donation of $30 or more, Sea Turtle Conservancy sends gift recipients a personalized adoption certificate, a Sea Turtle Conservation Guide, a membership window cling, a sea turtle sticker and bookmark, a hatchling magnet, and a one-year subscription to STC’s membership publication, all in a keepsake sea turtle folder. For details, visit or call 352-373-6441.

HOPE FOR THE HOLIDAYS. Community Hospice bereavement specialists lead free discussions and group exercises on coping with grief, now through the holidays in Jacksonville, Orange Park, St. Augustine and Fernandina Beach. For schedules and details, call 407-6500. For reservations, call 407-7001.


Seeking Volunteers and Donations

B.E.A.M. MINISTRIES, 850 Sixth Ave. S., Ste. 400, Jax Beach, 241-7437, Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry’s mission is to keep economically challenged families in their homes and help them become self-sufficient. B.E.A.M. has served Beaches families for more than 30 years. The annual toys event is held in December. The annual Beach Ball fundraiser is held in January. And there are always many ways to volunteer at B.E.A.M.

BETTY GRIFFIN HOUSE, Crisis Hotline 824-1555, Betty Griffin House provides safe emergency shelter to abused women and their minor children, and victims of rape, as well as counseling, support groups, legal assistance, community education and advocacy programs. To see the wish list for the Adopt a Family program, go to A support group for survivors of sexual assault is held 12:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Outreach Center, 1375 Arapaho Ave., St. Augustine, 808-8544. Two thrift shops are open: 1961 A1A S., 471-4716 and 445 S.R. 13, Fruit Cove, 230-5435.

THE BRIDGE OF NORTHEAST FLORIDA, 1824 N. Pearl St., Downtown, 354-7799, The Bridge’s mission is to promote the development of healthy, productive, self-sufficient youth and families by providing comprehensive educational, social and health programs to those in need. The Bridge also collects personal hygiene items throughout the year for families experiencing financial hardships and socioeconomic adversity. If you wish to donate time or talent, go to

BRIGHT HOLIDAYS OF JACKSONVILLE INC., 7540 Founders way, Ponte Vedra, 535-3674, Bright Holidays needs volunteers to shop, wrap and deliver clothing, food, school supplies and other essentials. Pssst, high school students: It’s an easy way to earn service hours.

CHILDREN’S HOME SOCIETY OF FLORIDA, 3027 San Diego Rd., Jacksonville, 493-7744, Provides foster care, adoption, parenting education and child-abuse prevention services to children and families in Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. The Society needs monetary donations, volunteers and items. For Wish Lists, go to

EPISCOPAL CHILDREN’S SERVICES, 8443 Baymeadows Rd., Ste. 1, Jacksonville, 726-1500. The ECS is a nonprofit organization that uses research and best practices to help families ensure their children enter school ready to learn. The ECS needs monetary donations and gift certificates for holiday meals.

HOPE AT HAND, 3886 Atlantic Blvd., Jacksonville, 868-4673, The nonprofit is dedicated to providing art and poetry therapy to the underserved in Northeast Florida, with monthly groups at PACE Center for Girls, Hubbard House shelter, Sulzbacher Center for the Homeless, The Bridge of NE Florida, Liberty Center III, Gateway Community Services and Cypress Village. Your donations provide supplies and support the staff.

JEWISH FAMILY & COMMUNITY SERVICES, 6261 Dupont Station Court E., Mandarin, 394-5728, The food pantry, serving the entire community, needs canned food donations and volunteers to help sort and stock the items. Its six key programs need volunteers to support its services.

P.A.C.E. CENTER FOR GIRLS, 1 W. Adams St., Downtown, 421-8585; 2933 University Blvd. N., Jacksonville, 448-8002; 1241 Blanding Blvd., Ste. 5, Orange Park, 458-0840, The Center needs volunteers to tutor girls and young women (ages 12-18) in math, English and reading, and to help provide program enrichment activities. Donations of gift cards for food and clothing are also needed. To make a donation or for more information, visit

USO GREATER JACKSONVILLE AREA, 2560 Mayport Rd., Atlantic Beach, 246-3481; NAS JAX, Yorktown Gate, Bldg. 1050, 778-2821; Welcome Center, JAX International Airport, 741-6655; The USO, serving Northeast Florida active duty military and their families, needs monetary donations for food baskets, supplies and children’s toys. The holiday toy drive and drop off is at noon Nov. 28.

WASTE NOT WANT NOT, P.O. Box 119, Orange Park FL 32067, 215-3150, This volunteer-based group collects and provides food to organizations serving the homeless and hungry, low-income families and seniors, people with disabilities and at-risk youths. Monetary donations and volunteers are needed.

ANGEL ATTIC THRIFT STORE, 8595 Beach Blvd., Southside, 398-4882, Angel Aid Ministries runs the shop year round, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sun., supporting the foundation for children with life-threatening diseases or situations. They need donations of food and grocery store gift certificates for the holidays.


Soup Kitchens, Food Pantries & Rescue Missions

An additional resource for food banks is at

BARNABAS CENTER INC., 1303 Jasmine St., Ste. 101, Fernandina, 261-7000; 45103 Green St., Callahan, 261-7000; New to You Resale Store, 930 S. 14th St., Fernandina, 321-2334. The food pantry at the Barnabas Center has an increased need for provisions. Any food drives that organizations would like to do on behalf of the pantry are greatly appreciated. And the food pantry is always in need of volunteers. Barnabas also offers help with health services, crisis assistance and other resources.

BEACHES COMMUNITY KITCHEN, 233-3959, For 25-plus-years, the 501c3 nonprofit has prepared and delivered meals to frail, ill, elderly or disabled residents, with an all-volunteer staff, with no salaries and no overhead expenses. Donations are appreciated for food, essential food prep items and establishing the kitchen to serve more people in need. Contact

CITY RESCUE MISSION, 426 S. McDuff Ave., Northside, 387-4357; New Life Inn, 234 W. State St., Downtown, 421-5161; Thrift Store, 5343 Normandy Blvd., Northside, 421-5171; Jacksonville’s City Rescue Mission, celebrating 70 years, needs volunteers to help with mailouts, holiday meal serving, data entry, phone calls and gift-wrapping. A donation of just $1.92 provides a Thanksgiving meal and hope for a new life; call 421-5149 to volunteer. Call for details and other volunteer opportunities.

CLARA WHITE MISSION, 613 W. Ashley St., Downtown, 354-4162, Community volunteers serve dinner to homeless and disadvantaged families every Friday at 11 a.m., 11:30 and noon, and breakfast daily. The 113-year-old Jacksonville mission needs donations of food and/or money to continue the much-needed program. The annual Thanksgiving Breakfast is held 8 a.m. Nov. 24.

I.M. SULZBACHER CENTER FOR THE HOMELESS, 611 E. Adams St., Downtown, 359-0457, 359-0657, Proceeds from the sale of Good Night cards, created by children living at the Sulzbacher Center, help provide services to those who need them. Volunteers are needed to amass toys and Toys R Us gift cards, blankets, watches, cold-weather clothing, hygienic products and non-perishable food items. Volunteers are needed to wrap toys, too.

HANDSON JACKSONVILLE, HandsOn Jacksonville offers countless opportunities for you to help, with a website full of information about organizations all over Northeast Florida that need donations of time, talent or funds.

MISSION HOUSE, 800 Shetter Ave., Jax Beach, 241-6767, This day facility, serving the homeless from Mayport to St. Johns County, provides meals, showers, clothing, hygiene support, medical care, case management, support services, and referrals. The Mission House is in need of funding to support its programs.

ST. AUGUSTINE CHRISTIAN SERVICE CENTER, 78 Masters Dr., 808-1557, This small, nonprofit food pantry ministry feeds hundreds of people each month, many elderly and disabled. They need committed volunteers and financial and food donations.

ST. FRANCIS HOUSE, 70 Washington St., St. Augustine, 829-8937, This homeless resource, food pantry, soup kitchen and emergency housing shelter, serving 200 hot lunches daily, accepts donations of time, money, sponsorships or handyman skills.

ST. FRANCIS SOUP KITCHEN, 134 E. Church St., Downtown, 356-2902 or 359-0331, Operated by Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the soup kitchen serves breakfast at 7 a.m. and lunch starting at 10 a.m. every Saturday, a canned goods giveaway at 10 a.m. every Saturday and a clothing distribution at 7 a.m. on the first and third Saturday.

SALVATION ARMY, 328 N. Ocean St., Downtown, 301-4846,, 705 N. Second St., Jax Beach, 246-5563. The Salvation Army needs Red Kettle bellringers, sorters, food box distributors and meal servers on Thanksgiving, meal servers on Christmas Day, Adopt-a-Family participants, Angel Tree toy shop workers and volunteers to help with year-round local programs, in Clay, Duval, St. Johns, Putnam and Nassau counties.

YOUTH CRISIS CENTER, 3015 Parental Home Rd., Southside, 877-720-0007, 720-0002, The 40-year-old center shelters homeless, runaway and abandoned children (ages 10-17), provides counseling and attempts to reunite families. Needed items include coats, sweaters, jeans, shoes, CD players, watches, journals, educational games, arts-and-crafts materials and backpacks.


Cold Weather Shelters

Many centers listed above provide emergency shelter. Here are some additional resources.

  • Salvation Army, 356-8641, Downtown; 321-0435, Fernandina Beach; 276-6677, Clay County; 824-6880 ext. 201, St. Johns County
  • St. Paul’s By-The-Sea Episcopal Church, 249-4091
  • Community Presbyterian Church, 249-8698
  • Daniel’s Community Care, 296-1055
  • St. Paul’s Catholic Church, 249-2600
  • Palms Presbyterian Church, 270-1089
  • Jacksonville Beach Church of Christ, 246-2457
  • First Christian Church of the Beaches, 246-2010
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