Volunteering while on vacation is not a new concept. Mission trips have long been a popular summer vacation activity for church and school groups. Today, the opportunities are stronger than ever, with new and exciting opportunities available for travelers to expand their horizons and give back to the community. The Pensacola Bay Area is home to an abundance of natural resources that give travelers the opportunity to roll up their sleeves, learn about our unique eco-systems, and give back to the environment – all while enjoying a fun-filled vacation on our beautiful Gulf Coast.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Project Greenshores is a 12-acre saltmarsh and seagrass habitat along Bayfront Parkway created by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and local partners to boost estuarine habitat. The project won the Gulf Guardian Award by the Environmental Protection Agency, and it was designated as part of the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Opportunity: Pensacola Bay is home to many infant marine life. These marine life need a healthy environment in which to grow. The estuary relies on oysters to filter the water, seagrass to filter pollution, and reefs to protect the area from wave action.
Volunteer Tasks: Planting seagrass in the estuary; propagating seagrass in the lab and creating seagrass mats; growing saltmarsh grass in the greenhouse; collecting oyster shells from restaurants to help build reefs; distributing oyster shells by boat to create reefs.
Project timeframe: 1-5 days
Group size: 3-10 people
Contact: Amy Baldwin, (850) 595-8300
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gulf Islands National Seashore is the largest tract of protected seashore in the country. The national park is a barrier island which protects the mainland from damage during storms. One of the most visited parks in the United States, the seashore is home to natural vegetation, historic sites and breathtaking views along with animal and marine life.
Opportunity: The national park is littered with debris and trash from visitors and boats in Pensacola Bay Area and the Gulf of Mexico. With a small staff of volunteers and park rangers, Gulf Islands National Seashore needs help from the public to keep the beaches pristine.
Volunteer Tasks: Volunteers can spend a half-day picking up debris and trash to beautify the seashore. Volunteers keep a diary of the type of litter collected.
Availability: September through March
Project timeframe: Half-day
Group size: Any
Contact: Beth Caverno, (850) 934-2654
Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida
The Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida provides appropriate care to injured or orphaned indigenous wildlife. Their primary objective is rehabilitation and release, but they also provide a sanctuary for non-releasable wildlife. The wildlife sanctuary also educates the public through exhibits and tours.
Opportunity: Hundreds of animals are injured each year in the Pensacola Bay Area, from birds and mammals to marine life. It’s critical they are treated and released back to their environment to survive.
Volunteer Tasks: Volunteers do a lot of household-type chores including washing dishes, sweeping, laundry and wiping down counters along with food preparation, cage cleaning and wildlife feeding.
Availability: Year-round, 8-5 p.m., 7 days a week
Project timeframe: 1-5 days
Group size: 8-10 people; 18 years or older
Fee: $20 application fee, including orientation and one-year sanctuary membership
Contact: Leticia Grove, email@example.com
CULTURAL HERITAGE PROGRAMS
Florida Public Archaeology Network
The Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) is dedicated to the protection of cultural resources, both on land and underwater, and to involving the public in the study of their past.
The Northwest Region of FPAN, located in Pensacola, is hosted by the University of West Florida. FPAN has a year-round archaeology lab volunteer program encouraging citizens and visitors to help rough sort artifacts recovered from local archaeological sites. The volunteer program is perfect for those interested in a unique way to experience local history and archaeology, as well for those who have dreamed of getting their hands dirty participating in real archaeological work.
Opportunity: Since the vast majority of archaeological research is performed in the lab, backlogs of excavated materials await cleaning and analysis. FPAN wants people to engage with their past by helping with the lab process.
Volunteer Tasks: Volunteers work inside our air-conditioned lab to rough sort artifacts recovered from local archaeological sites. Volunteers work with small screens, trays, brushes, magnets and other lab tools to clean and sort artifacts. Once artifacts have been cleaned, they are sorted into groups of like materials (i.e. brick, class, shell, ceramics, stone, etc.) No experience is needed, but all volunteers are given a brief orientation by a professional archaeologist their first day.
Availability: Year-round: Two days a week, days and hours vary based on season.
Project timeframe: Flexible: From a few hours to multiple days
Group size: Lab Work: maximum of 15 people
Additional Information: Volunteers are recommend to bring something to drink and wear clothing that may get a little dusty. The lab is located inside the FPAN Coordinating Center, 207 E. Main St., in downtown Pensacola next to The Fish House restaurant.
Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization and welcomes volunteers from all faiths who are committed to the goal of eliminating poverty housing. Homes are sold with no profit made. Homeowners contribute "Sweat Equity" and house payments are recycled to build additional homes. Pensacola Habitat For Humanity promotes home ownership with volunteers building houses in partnership with Escambia and Santa Rosa County residents in need of adequate housing.
Volunteer Tasks: Volunteers support construction staff by helping build decent, affordable homes for deserving families in our community. For those not interested in construction, the Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Pensacola and Milton need volunteers to assist staff with organizing the sales floor, greeting customers, pricing merchandise, taking inventory, etc. Proceeds from the ReStore’s sales have sponsored more than 40 Habitat homes. The ReStores also provide an environmental service by diverting discarded materials from our landfills.
Project timeframe: Flexible: From one to multiple days
Group size: 15 volunteers per build site