Life now is not what it was a month ago.
As we continue to trudge our way through the uncharted waters of COVID-19, I feel helpless. I’m not a nurse or essential employee, I can’t make ventilators or PPE, and I certainly have no power over the self-serving politicians who are technically supposed to be leading us through this. It feels not unlike the world after a hurricane, when the devastation seems so overwhelming and you just don’t know where to start.
So what can I do? What can any of us do?
Well, here’s one thing: we can rally around the nonprofits who are supporting folks right here in our own backyards. Most of us received our stimulus money this week, and while many folks may need to use it for essential bills and supplies (as well they should), for those of us who still have jobs and health insurance, we have an opportunity to use that money to help our neighbors.
Below is a list of links I put together of local St. Augustine and St. Johns County nonprofits who could use some help. If you know of any I’ve left off, drop them in the comments and I’ll expand the list! These are just the first ones that came to mind for me.
St. Augustine/St. Johns County Nonprofits:
Run by St. Johns Ecumenical Ministries, this food bank located by Crookshank Elementary offers free food to St. Johns County residents every 60 days, provided that they meet a few application standards. | DONATE ONLINE
The Family Worship Center, a church located on SR207 at the entrance to Treaty Oaks, has a weekly Food Bank that is open to anyone in the community with no requirements or restrictions. | DONATE ONLINE
Habitat has built over 100 homes in our community, each of which comes with an affordable mortgage for the qualified new owner. With so many folks laid off now, they are unable to cover their mortgages, which in turn fund the construction of new homes. You can make a donation online to support Habitat and keep these folks in their homes while also helping fund future homes for those in need. | DONATE ONLINE
For decades, the St. Francis House has been providing housing crisis support for men, women, and children in our community. They recently added the Port in the Storm Youth Shelter to serve homeless children and teens in our community. Both of these programs provide food, shelter, and counseling services. They are still accepting donations of nonperishable foods during COVID-19, or you can make a donation online. Just $39 covers one day of food, shelter, and case management services for a single resident. | DONATE ONLINE
Our local chapter of the United Way raises money to support a multitude of local nonprofit organizations and services. In response to COVID-19, they have joined with the United Way of Northeast Florida and several other groups to open Florida’s First Coast Relief Fund. Donations to this fund will support local nonprofits who are making big impacts during this health crisis. | DONATE ONLINE
EPIC provides critical mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment for local residents. They are still providing services virtually during COVID-19. There is a donation page on their website, but the link to donate online seems to be broken. Still, you can call or email them to find out how to make a donation to support this important nonprofit. You can also contact them via Facebook.
Throughout this pandemic, Wildflower continues to offer free dental and health care services to low income residents in St. Johns County. | DONATE ONLINE
While the COA’s senior centers and activities are currently closed, they continue to provide Meals on Wheels and other critical services for vulnerable seniors in our community. They also operate the Sunshine Bus line, which helps many minimum wage workers, some of them essential employees, get to and from work. | DONATE ONLINE
CHS has a local office in St. Johns County. They provide critical resources for children in our community through programs like The Webster Community School (shoutout from this Webster alum!). Even during COVID-19, they are still providing food and other services to those in need. | DONATE ONLINE
INK! is the foundation of the St. Johns County Education System. As a nonprofit, they support teachers and students in our school system. With all Florida students in virtual school through the end of the year, INK! is helping provide important resources to help students and teachers achieve academic success. | DONATE ONLINE
This local organization provides affordable housing assistance through a number of different programs, including rebuilding neglected homes and adapting homes for wheelchair access with safe ramps. I actually reviewed the SJHP for United Way a few years ago and was blown away by all the work they’ve done to help seniors in particular, especially after Hurricane Matthew. | DONATE ONLINE
I also reviewed Alpha-Omega’s programs and services for United Way and was moved by their combination of support programs for senior women and single mothers. They take in women and children in crisis, provide them with affordable housing, job support, childcare, and other services to help them build the foundations of their independence. A lot of their funding comes from their thrift shop on San Marco, which is of course closed due to COVID-19. | DONATE ONLINE
For victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, Betty Griffin is a critical resource for support and assistance. They are still open during COVID-19 and providing services. With so many people sheltering at home, this unfortunately creates dangerous environments for domestic violence victims. Betty Griffin also runs a thrift store that is closed due to the virus. | DONATE ONLINE
Providing advance illness planning, palliative care consultations, and hospice care, Haven serves much of Northeast and North Central Florida during some of their most difficult moments. They have set up a special COVID-19 Emergency Fund to supply their care providers with ventilators and PPE. | DONATE ONLINE
With the county animal shelter closed due to COVID-19, SAFE and other pet rescues in our community are more important than ever. SAFE rescues and adopts both cats and dogs from their two locations on Anastasia Island. Their thrift store at 312 and A1A is still open, albeit with greatly reduced hours, so it’s not bringing in the funds they need. My family has adopted three dogs from this shelter, they are great! (The people and the dogs, that is…) | DONATE ONLINE
Another major no-kill pet rescue in St. Augustine is Ayla’s Acres. They are still recovering from a devastating fire at last December at their sanctuary out in Greenville, Florida, and with their thrift store downtown currently closed, they need support now more than ever. | DONATE ONLINE
In addition to providing pet adoptions, our local humane society provides free shot clinics, spay/neuter services, dog training, and a pet food pantry. They are still open, but with some restrictions to protect the health of their staff and visitors. Just $15 covers a pet microchip or you can donate $25 to cover a pet’s lifesaving vaccines. They also have an option to memorialize your pet with a tile in their new veterinary clinic. | DONATE ONLINE
Our local JSL chapter raises money throughout the year to support St. Augustine and St. Johns County nonprofits including The Webster Community School, St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, and Kids Bridge. | DONATE ONLINE
Near and dear to my heart, the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum maintains one of our most iconic pieces of history and provides educational programming on the maritime history of our area. Tourism dollars in the form of ticket and gift shop sales provides the majority of the museum’s funding, so being closed during one of the busiest times of the year has a significant impact on the museum’s support. | DONATE ONLINE
Also near and dear to my heart, the Tesori Family Foundation was started by close family friends of mine, Paul and Michelle Tesori, to support a variety of different nonprofit services. A lot of their work centers around supporting and loving children with Down Syndrome and their families. They are currently working to expand their support to some other organizations serving those most impacted by COVID-19 as well. | DONATE ONLINE
Our wonderful local theatre has had to close their doors and cancel all programming due to COVID-19. I know a lot of great kids in St. Augustine who have found their home performing at the Limelight (and some adults, too!). They need donations to insure that the show will go on, as soon as it is safe to do so. | DONATE ONLINE
Other Ways to Support Our Community:
SAiRA is comprised of several locally owned and operated restaurants (including some of my favorites like Cap’s on the Water, The Floridian, Raintree, Catch 27, Sunset Grille, and The Reef). You can purchase a SAiRA gift certificate and use it at any of the association’s participating eateries. Support local businesses and get delicious food! You could also make your donation go even further by donating the gift certificate to nurses, doctors, and other frontline workers in our area. | BUY GIFT CERTIFICATE ONLINE
Some very creative local students developed an idea to support local businesses by creating a St. Augustine or “STA”-themed care packages. These include a lot of our local favorites — like Minorcan Mike’s Datil Sauce (yum), Florida Mule mixer from the St. Augustine Distillery (yes please), Kenyan coffee from the Grower’s Alliance (fill me up), and a smash cake in a jar from Luli’s Cupcakes (devine). There are three different tiers for boxes and they are all hand-delivered (no-contact) to your door. | BUY AN STA CARE PACKAGE