Serve Orlando

Serve Orlando May 14, 2024

Serve Orlando/ B. Green

Serve Orlando

When most people think of Orlando, FL, they think of theme parks, warm weather, and fun family activities; they don’t think of poverty and a huge, homeless population. It’s “the happiest place on earth,” right?  However, I just spent several days in Orlando with seven high school seniors and an organization called Serve Orlando, and it was an eye-opener.


Serve Orlando arranges room, board, and an itinerary of service for any size group. Here are some of the options for serving: 


Clean the World


Clean the World Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit charitable organization with a two-part mission: Reduce the waste created by discarded soap and shampoo products. Prevent the millions of deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses every year.


Clean the World has an innovative program to prevent needless waste and supply hygiene products to people who desperately need them:


  1. Collect the millions of pounds of hotel soap that guests leave behind in their rooms every year.
  2. Recycle the gently used amenities through a third-party tested-and-approved sanitization process.
  3. Distribute the repurposed soap worldwide through non-governmental partnerships, and to domestic homeless shelters.


This organization was featured on Dirty Jobs and on the Kelly Clarkson Show. Our group was able to sort 2,000 lbs. of soap and shampoo containers during our time with them. 


Second Harvest Food Bank


Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is a private, nonprofit organization that collects, stores, and distributes donated food to more than 550 feeding partners in six Central Florida counties. Last year, with the help of numerous donors, volunteers, and a caring, committed community, the food bank distributed 56 million meals to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, day care centers, and Kids Cafes.


In addition to helping feed the population of those who need help, Second Harvest also transforms dozens of lives directly every year. Economically-challenged adults who graduate from their 18-week culinary training program are placed in “better than minimum wage” jobs that set them and their families on a path to self-sustainability.


The day we visited Second Harvest, they had frozen meat to organize. We separated the meat into bins according to “poultry,” “pork,” “precooked,” etc. We finished ahead of the time schedule and were told we had organized nearly 8,000 lbs. of meat.


Straight Street


Straight Street, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit urban mission catering to the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of the poor and homeless.  Through their urban ministries in Orlando, FL, and Parque das Flores in Sao Paulo, Brazil, they encourage life change through activism, awareness, and action.


The ministry of Straight Street goes beyond the passing of food to the hungry or providing a blanket or shoes to someone in need. It promotes the idea that we must exist to help each other see ourselves as God sees us. “We must come alongside our brothers and sisters and show them what matters most is not who we were, what we’ve done, or where we’ve been, but rather who God wants us to be and how to get there. We must exist to bring hope to the hopeless, faith to the faithless, and to encourage life change from the inside out.”


This ministry touched the hearts of my students more than any other. This is a very different kind of “soup kitchen” in that the “guests” come in and sit at tables in the shade under canopies (it was 101 degrees) and are served their dinner plates restaurant-style by the volunteers. It is one thing to hear about a homeless “population.” It is entirely another thing to hand a glass of ice water or a plate of food to an individual, look into the person’s eyes, smile at the person, and hear the “thank you” that most of them offer. We served 214 meals.


Orlando Children’s Church


Orlando Children’s Church is a Central Florida non-profit, 501c3, Christian outreach ministry. The vision is to reach children living on the fringes of poverty through no fault of their own, and powerless to meet their own needs. At Orlando Children’s Church they are given a message of hope and life, prayer, and just as important, food and clothing. 


What began on a Saturday morning with two vans and a handful of visionaries, navigated through trailer parks of Orlando’s inner city picking up about ten children to bring to church, has grown to a train of fourteen brightly-colored busses that service hundreds of families, bringing children into a safe environment for breakfast, play, Bible lessons, and crafts. 


My group enjoyed playing soccer and basketball with the children in the big field outdoors, or sitting at picnic tables under large trees with Spanish moss hanging and playing board games with them. I joined one of the young men in our group at a table full of children for the lesson and craft. They were making Mother’s Day gifts. The children listened to this young man with rapt attention as he talked about the commandment with a promise: “Honor your father and mother that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). They focused on coloring and making cards, then slipping them into a bright mesh, drawstring bag with a lip gloss and small hand lotion. How very nice! 


Christian Service Center


Compelled by the love of Jesus Christ, the Christian Service Center seeks to mobilize the Central Florida community under one common mission–to eradicate poverty through the provision of services and resources that foster hope, well-being, and empowerment.


The Christian Service Center began as a combined effort with local downtown churches. It was established in 1971 in order to provide direct assistance for individuals and families facing critical need. The mission of the Christian Service Center is to prevent homelessness, combat poverty, cultivate self-sufficiency, restore hope, and glorify God through the faithful provision of services that directly address physical, emotional, and spiritual needs for struggling individuals and families, regardless of race, religion, age, or gender.


The Christian Service Center serves the community through the Daily Bread program which provides a nourishing lunchtime meal 6 days a  week. The Love Pantry program provides struggling families and hungry children with an emergency food supply through public schools and the Family and Emergency Services program that provides immediate emergency assistance and relief to families and individuals who are faced with an unexpected financial crisis.

“Whatsoever you have done for the least of these,

you have done it for me.”


Friends, you don’t have to go overseas to find missions work that needs done. It’s on your doorstep. If you are looking for a missions project for your youth group, school group, family group, or other group, I encourage you to look up Serve Orlando and speak to Carrie.. A Florida vacation is great, but time spent investing in the Kingdom of God is greater still!

God bless you as you serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His beloved.


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