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Making Holidays Happier: Local Communities Give Back

Making Holidays Happier: Local communities give back [10 Images] Click Any Image To Expand

Bonita Springs Assistance Office, Bonita Springs

A variety of programs are offered at the Bonita Springs Assistance Office over the holidays and beyond. The organization provides a food pantry, financial assistance and planning, social service referrals, a senior food program and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program providing free tax help to those with household incomes of $66,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers. This holiday season, plans are in the works for a Toys for Tots program. 

For more information: Bonita Springs Assistance Office, 25300 Bernwood Drive, Suite #6, Bonita Springs; 239-992-3034;

Cape Coral Animal Shelter, Cape Coral

The Cape Coral Animal Shelter recently opened a low-cost, full-service veterinary clinic. Services include vaccines, spay/neuter operations, illness treatment, wellness visits, dental procedures and more—all at an affordable cost to community members. Shelter animals are provided a safe place to live and receive the care they need until they find their forever home. The shelter will host its Fourth Annual Golf Classic on November 2. 

For more information: Cape Coral Animal Shelter, 325 SW 2nd Avenue, Cape Coral; 239-573-2002;

FISH of SANCAP, Sanibel-Captiva

Every holiday season, FISH of SANCAP helps ensure its clients enjoy happier holidays. “Through our Holiday Food Basket program, families are provided the fixings for a full holiday meal, including a gift card to purchase a protein,” says executive director Alicia Tighe Orgera. FISH’s Adopt-a-Family program allows islanders to buy holiday gifts for a family anonymously. This year FISH has launched Senior Boxes, which include useful household items, things to exercise minds and projects. “We’ll also have special holiday boxes,” adds Orgera.

For more information: F.I.S.H. OF SANCAP, 2430-B Periwinkle Way, Sanibel; 24-hour service: 239-472-0404; walk-in center: 239-472-4775;

The Sanibel Captiva Lions Club, Sanibel-Captiva

The Lions Club’s 44th annual Christmas tree sale starts November 28 and runs until the trees are all gone. Fresh wreaths, stands, delivery and set up are available. The fresh trees range in height from five to ten feet. The tree sale is open from 10 am until 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday in the area next to Island Cinema at Bailey’s Shopping Center, 2477 Periwinkle Way. Online sale options are available to limit person-to-person contact. Details will be available on the website, starting in November. Proceeds support Sanibel-based charities, as well as sight-related agencies in Lee County and throughout Florida.

For more information: The Sanibel Captiva Lions Club, PO Box 391, Sanibel;

Fort Myers Beach Library, Fort Myers Beach

The Fort Myers Beach Library offers virtual preschool story time weekly on Wednesdays at 10:30 am via A craft associated with the story is available for children to pick up for assembly at home. “Holiday crafts for Thanksgiving and Christmas will be available on the crafts-to-go table in the children’s section of the library,” says Kathy Del Balzo, children’s and community room coordinator. A variety of free presentations are offered every month. For details, check the website, electronic bulletin boards at the library and the monthly calendar available at the circulation desks. 

For more information: Fort Myers Beach Library, 2755 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach; 239-765-8162;

Valerie’s House, Fort Myers

Valerie’s House provides free grief support services to children and families in Naples, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. Grief may be particularly difficult to manage during the holiday season. “Although loss is often heavy and dark, families find hope by sharing their experiences and journeying through grief together,” explains Amy Strom, director of programs and bereavement. Valerie’s House offers a variety of peer grief support groups, individual counseling, Val’s PALs (positive adult leadership) mentoring, in-school bereavement services and family assistance. All of these programs are adapted to meet the needs of families safely, both in-person and virtually.  

For more information: Valerie’s House Inc, PO Box 1955, Fort Myers; 239-204-5804;