It’s the time of year to be thankful and to give of your heart. The spirit of giving shines 365 days a year at Walt Disney World Resort, which provides cash and in-kind support to more than 100 local non-profit organizations. One such organization, Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida, provides food and shelter to approximately 600 people each night, including many families with children.
Coalition for the Homeless is more than a shelter; it is a comprehensive program designed to empower homeless men, women and children to become self-sufficient. In addition to food and shelter, the Coalition provides programs and services including education, job skills training, case management, licensed day care, child development programs and housing placement.
“When you see homelessness in the media, you are moved to humility and compassion but when you see homelessness in person, you are moved to action,” says Trevor Larsen, vice president of Engineering Services & Manufacturing for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, who is making a difference at the Coalition by providing leadership through his board service and support in the maintenance and improvement of Coalition facilities. “There are plenty of ways people can help,” says Larsen, who invites others to “come meet these adults and children in need and get involved.”
Additionally, Disney VoluntEARS serve nearly 750 meals monthly at the Coalition and chefs from Disney Resorts will prepare and serve dinner for residents on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Disney Chef Tony Marotta is overseeing Thanksgiving meal preparations, which begin two days prior to the holiday. “What surprises me most is when we ask our team for volunteers to help at the Coalition, we always get two-to-three times more than we expect,” says Marotta, who will be making a traditional feast to feed approximately 700 people.
“Disney’s generosity, both financial and in-kind, has been invaluable to us in meeting the needs of the homeless individuals and families seeking our help,” says Coalition for the Homeless President/CEO Brent Trotter. “And the volunteer involvement of Disney Cast Members really extends our reach in helping those in desperate need.”
For the past two years, Walt Disney World Resort has recognized Coalition for the Homeless with its top Disney’s Helping Kids Shine Grant – the Bob Allen Outstanding Community Service Award – for its outstanding outreach efforts to the homeless children of Central Florida. Disney provides funding to the non-profit’s children services program, which aims to instill values such as trust, honesty, integrity, responsibility, personal power and self-esteem.
“It’s humbling and a great honor to be recognized for our work with families,” says Trotter. “Families with children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in Central Florida today. We’ve created a wide variety of services to meet the unique needs of the growing number of children who the Coalition serves and are happy to have the support of Disney in our mission.”
To learn more about how you can help, visit www.centralfloridahomeless.org.