Local Nonprofits Continue to Show Courageous Leadership in Times of Crisis

Team NLC Stories

When communities are in crisis, nonprofit organizations are here to help. As a nonprofit that supports other nonprofits, the Nonprofit Leadership Center has been shining a spotlight on the courage, leadership, nimbleness and resiliency of Tampa Bay nonprofit leaders and organizations. This week, we’re pleased to share stories from seven organizations that are helping strengthen our community — and us all.

Palm River Family Services

Palm River Family Services is a nonprofit organization that serves families of children ages 14 years and younger at Clair Mel and Palm River Elementary Schools. When the coronavirus led to school closures, Program Coordinator Chelsea Lee and Family Support Specialist Lazara Hernandez didn’t skip a beat. They operate the organization’s Go-4-Kids after-school educational enrichment programs and immediately started providing fun, engaging educational activity sessions to enrolled students via Facebook Live. They called all families and explained that every Monday through Thursday students could log in and participate. They created and delivered educational kits with paper, markers, pencils, crayons and other materials to the children’s homes. Each Friday, they also deliver activity kits for the following week’s sessions so the children have the materials they need to follow along with a STEAM learning activity.

Photo from Palm River Family Services: Tampa Bay Nonprofits Help Community through COVID-19 Crisis

Children earn points if they like a post, make a comment or send a picture of their work, and points earn them a raffle ticket. At the end of each week, one child wins a basket of goodies, which has boosted participation rates.

In addition to the online learning activities, Palm River Family Services has hosted a Feeding Tampa Bay mobile food pantry every Friday for the community. They have served between 132 and 160 cars each week, with some cars getting food for multiple families. If families can’t attend the food pantry, they deliver food to their homes.

“Our staff has worked tirelessly and endlessly to make sure our students get to keep a familiar schedule and are taken care of both academically and socially/emotionally. Their live educational enrichment program has become so popular that we’ve had other families contact us to see if their children could receive the materials to participate, and we have honored those requests.”

Valerie Smirlock, Executive Director, Palm River Family Services

High Risk Hope

High Risk Hope is a local nonprofit that supports families hospitalized for months surrounding the premature birth of a child, delivering the hope and essential items families need to survive their hospital stay. With the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changing hospital visitation policies for moms on hospital bed rest and with premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), High Risk Hope has had to shift their highly personalized hospital visits to real-time virtual support. As such, the organization recently launched its first High Risk Hope Huddle for hospitalized high-risk obstetric patients and NICU parents via GoToMeeting. GoToMeeting offers a HIPPA-compliant meeting platform that is easily accessible for families via their cell phone, tablet or computer. The Huddles connect moms and families so they may share their unique journeys together, leaning on one another for support.

High Risk Hope volunteers who sew and knit baby blankets and hats for NICU babies started sewing much-needed masks for the hospital units the organization supports. To date, the organization has donated hundreds of masks to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital, Tampa General Hospital’s Antepartum Unit and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. High Risk Hope has also partnered with Berkeley Preparatory School to make 3D printed reusable masks for St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital.

Photo from High Risk Hope: Tampa Bay Nonprofits Help Community through COVID-19 Crisis

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida

To keep families connected and girls learning while schools and in-person activities are on hold, the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida recently held a Virtual STEMapalooza event. It was open to all families, not just those who have Girl Scout members. The event was so popular that the webpage was viewed by visitors in 48 states and 17 countries.

Photo from Girl Scouts of West Central Florida: Tampa Bay Nonprofits Help Community through COVID-19 Crisis

“We did this as a troop on Zoom. We loved watching the atmospheric pressure and the egg going into the bottle. That got the best reaction! The chromatography was pretty cool, and we also liked the hair/fiber and handwriting analysis. We have to go back and watch the fingerprint analysis and have some new cool sites to continue to check out.”

Parent participant

Women Centered 4 Success

Photo from Women Centered 4 Success: Tampa Bay Nonprofits Help Community through COVID-19 Crisis

Women Centered 4 Success is a nonprofit organization that supports women by equipping, encouraging and empowering them with tools and services to achieve personal growth, housing, jobs, youth services and health care for a better life. The organization formed a sewing circle of four volunteers who, using their personal supplies, made 65 washable masks for the neighbors in the Blessed Sacrament Community Center area to distribute to families who do not have access to them.

“We plan to order supplies for our sewing circle to continue their work making washable masks to be given to at least 400 teachers once the Hillsborough County Schools reopen.”

Sheila Lewis, Executive Director, Women Centered 4 Success

Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City

The Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City is a faith-baased nonprofit organization serving women in Plant City. To help clients during the COVID-19 crisis, they have been providing essential baby items like diapers, baby wipes and formula to those in need through curbside pickup.

Photo from Pregnancy Care Center of Plant City: Tampa Bay Nonprofits Help Community through COVID-19 Crisis

Foundation for Community Driven Innovation

The Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI) is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting academic achievement, economic development and the spirit of innovation through inspiring programs and active learning projects. Their AMRoC Fab Lab, located in University Mall in Tampa, is working in partnership with a local Department of Defense engineer running a volunteer PPE project called MRG 3D. AMRoC is coordinating a volunteer 3D Printing Brigade, helping produce thousands of face shields a week requested by area hospitals and health care workers.

Photo from the FOundation for Community Driven Innovation: Tampa Bay Nonprofits Help Community through COVID-19 Crisis

“Our volunteer hub now has 20 volunteers operating nearly 50 personal, small business and academic 3D printers, including printers at AMRoC and in addition to MRG 3Ds 14 onsite printers. With support from the United Way, the CEL, private donors and in-kind contributors, the project will continue to operate as long as needed to provide stop gap PPE for health professionals on the front lines who are keeping us safe during the pandemic.”

Terri Willingham, The Foundation for Community Driven Innovation

Lutheran Services Florida

Lutheran Services Florida Adult Advocacy Program in Sarasota continues to make a difference in the lives of families, even during the global COVID-19 crisis. A couple in Sarasota who are suffering with dementia and other mental illness were discovered by their daughter to be residing in a home with no water, electricity, food or phone access. She assisted in getting utilities back on and food in the home but resides out of state and needed a longer-term solution for their safety and well-being. A referral was made to Lutheran Services Florida Adult Advocacy Program. The organization was able to gain guardianship of the couple and is assisting in managing their finances and hiring caregivers for them until they can be transitioned safely to an assisted living facility after the pandemic is over. Their daughter is in regular contact with the case manager and involved in decision making but was able to return home out of state, knowing they are properly cared for.

See more stories of hope and how local nonprofits are responding to the COVID-19 crisis.


Share Your Story

Do you have a positive nonprofit story you’d like to share with our community? Tell us about it here.


For more information and assistance specific to nonprofits, check out our COVID-19 Nonprofit Resource Hub. To learn about all events and resources from the Nonprofit Leadership Center, sign up to receive our weekly NLC e-newsletter, and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram