Daily Point of Light # 2800 Oct 28, 2004

Florida’s Hometown USA Program is a non-profit educational youth organization that reaches beyond the borders of its own hometown of Fruitland Park, Florida to nurture and inspire burgeoning volunteer-spirit within youth across the state. Seventeen years ago, a local educator had a vision and developed a grassroots, community youth program that focused on linking youth with volunteer activities. Today that vision has grown into a broad statewide model that continues to make a difference in the lives of children and youth of Florida, primarily through a professionally supported volunteer program aimed at assisting children to achieve their highest potential as they grow.

The mission of Florida’s Hometown USA Program, Inc. is to make a positive difference in the lives of children and youth Florida, primarily through a professional supported volunteer program and to assist them in achieving their highest potential as they grow to become more confident and caring individuals who show a commitment to volunteer work, leadership and standards of excellence. The purpose of Florida’s Hometown USA Program is to educate the youth of Florida on the values of volunteer work and inspire them to make a difference in the lives of their neighbors through volunteer commitment. The focus of the program’s volunteer work is with children, youth and the elderly offering support to those who have been abused or neglected.

The effect of Florida’s Hometown USA is of great importance because of all the good things a young person can learn from volunteering. Many of the students that have been a part of this program will continue to volunteer for years to come because of what was instilled in them at an early age. This program has worked hard to improve the gap between the young and the old and to let the elderly know they are not forgotten. It has also been a very important part in abuse shelters through visits; sharing with others and making a child feel better. There is an “Adopt a Grandparent Program” in nursing homes throughout Florida that provides care and concern for the elderly who have been abused, sometimes through neglect or those who are forgotten. Each student is assigned an elderly person to visit monthly who has not family nearby or needs special attention.

The benefit of Florida’s Hometown USA Program is to instill in young people to give back to their community. The students in this program are elementary through high school. If children are involved in volunteering at an early age and are taught to show love and concern for others, it will stay with them forever. The visit s to the elderly help brighten the day of many lonely people. Some have no family or visitors and just a smile and a hug are all they want. The entertainment for the elderly is always enjoyed and they love to sing along. Some of the residents at the nursing homes are happy just to see and talk with a young person. Giving of the gifts to the children’s hospitals teach the students to share and have compassion for others less fortunate. In this program, the youth are encouraged to take time to visit and give of their time to make someone else’s day a little brighter.

Florida’s Hometown USA Program develops, evaluates and disseminates programs that foster young people’s ethical, social, and intellectual development. While nurturing the importance of volunteer work, there is a deepened commitment of values such as kindness, helpfulness, personal responsibility and respect for others – qualities that are essential to leading productive lives in society. Many of the students that have been a part of this program have continued to volunteer for years because of what was instilled in them at an early age. Florida’s Hometown USA Program has received recognition for the positive impact and outcomes it has achieved in local communities.