Living in Gainesville, especially if you’re a newcomer, can feel like your life centers around schoolwork. Some may miss the active community service they used to do in high school or at home. However, you don’t have to bid your love of volunteering farewell. There is an abundance of community service opportunities, organizations and even service-based fraternities at the University of Florida that promote giving back to the community.
Helping people in our community
The bright side of being part of such a diverse community is the even more diverse number of opportunities. There are over 100 volunteer sites for students and people alike in the Gainesville area. Here are a few to check out:
Habitat for Humanity has multiple locations across the United States dedicated to helping communities build or improve their homes. In the process of building, they give millions of people safe, affordable and decent housing. Volunteers in the Alachua County area can either volunteer at the local thrift store or on the construction site building houses.
The Boys & Girls Club is also nationally recognized and operates in Alachua County, as well. They are dedicated as an organization to the personal development of young women and men in the community with special attention to those disadvantaged and at-risk youth. They do so by providing positive youth programming surrounding five core values of leadership and character: career and educational development, sports and fitness, health and arts. Volunteers are required to help in day-to-day activities with youth.
Girls Place is dedicated to empowering girls of all backgrounds, whether it be economic, religious or racial. They support them by teaching confidence, strength and independence. Volunteers act as tutors, counselors and coaches for the girls in order to make a difference in their lives.
Latina Women’s League is dedicated to contributing to Latino and Hispanic culture and art in Gainesville. They are currently seeking volunteers to tutor in their English classes. Volunteering with this organization serves as an opportunity to help integrate others into the community and share your own experiences with newcomers.
House of Hope is a prison-transitional ministry that offers faith-based programs for those who are adjusting back to society. They provide mentorship, clothing, shelter and special events catered to their reintegration.
Peaceful Paths is a member of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and strives to stop domestic violence and offer communities the ability to make informed choices. They provide services to domestic violence survivors, such as emergency shelter, crisis hotline, victim advocacy, counseling and support groups. Volunteer opportunities vary from advocacy programs, training, fundraising, counseling and much more.
Family Promise of Gainesville provides homeless children and families with education, case management, meals, housing and transportation. Internships in different sectors of the organization are available.
Organizations at UF
Among the dozens of organizations at UF, there are service-based organizations that strive to be a more involved and better community.
Among those are some service fraternities focused on helping the community such as Omega Phi Alpha, Alpha Phi Omega and Epsilon Sigma Alpha. ESA’s motto is “make service fun,” and shares a similar mission with the other service fraternities. Epsilon Sigma Alpha states on their website, “Our organization focuses on three pillars: Service, Philanthropy, and Brotherhood. Through these pillars, members will learn to collaborate on community projects and make friends along the way. While serving our community, our hope is to shape tomorrow’s leaders.” These organizations volunteer with several community organizations in Gainesville and recruit new members every semester.
There are other unique organizations at UF, such as UF Footprints, which is a nonprofit volunteering and community service organization benefiting UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.
Advocacy and cultural groups
Pride Student Union along with Outlaw at UF both strive to be political and social organizations that advocate for the LGBTQ+ community on and off-campus. They do so by working toward increasing community awareness regarding issues within the community regarding gender, sexual orientation and the law while providing safe spaces for students of marginalized sexualities and gender identities.
The UF Black Student Union is dedicated to challenging the UF and Gainesville community and, as their constitution states, members, “educate and exemplify the rich cultural heritage and unique diversity of the people of the African Diaspora.” BSU also participates in philanthropy and service opportunities in the Gainesville community.
The Asian American Student Union is also dedicated to service and fundraisers while simultaneously bringing awareness to movements within the Asian community. Awareness includes issues such as protecting transgender individuals in Asia, stopping Asian hate and helping out other Asian communities.
Chispas UF is a student-led organization that promotes the fair treatment and liberation of the immigrant community. They spread awareness on important topics such as agriculture workers, boycotts, voting awareness and immigration rights.
Unlitter UF is centered around limiting your waste and treating every day like Earth Day. More importantly, they push the student body to be more sustainable and conscientious of the planet.
It goes without saying, Gainesville and UF have an extensive amount of community service outreach teams and organizations. These are only a handful of the hundreds of opportunities available. Each may focus on specific groups, but all aim to better our community and ultimately keep improving the community in Gainesville and the world as a whole.