CORAL SPRINGS, FL - This summer, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School helped organize a virtual summer camp to teach other youth about environmental conservation, homelessness, and mental health.

Addison Wooley volunteers at the seven-week camp through HandsOn Broward -- a nonprofit that offers volunteers in Coral Springs and across Broward County hands-on projects meant to uplift lives and improve communities.

“I fell in love with what they do and what they stand for,” said Wooley, 16, who lives in Parkland.

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Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, volunteers can still do community service through organizations such as HandsOn Broward.

HandsOn Broward CEO/President Dale Mandell said the agency provides a variety of safe and accessible volunteer activities that can be completed virtually and practically anywhere.

Still, converting an active pre-pandemic community of volunteers from in-person events to exclusively online projects has been no easy task, Mandell said.

In recent months, the staff brainstormed and developed ideas and then put them into action to keep the agency’s pool of volunteers working on projects that they cared about from home or any other location.

“It was like whiplash,” Mandell said. “We had to come up with ways to get volunteers engaged.”

For Wooley, she got involved after seeing an advertisement online. Part of her contribution to the camp was to plan a week surrounding mental health, an issue she cares deeply about.

Now that she is back at school, Wooley expects to stay connected to the program.

Mandell said the organization generally has 25-30 youth who volunteer on projects. They learn a lot of life sessions.

“We’re learning about social action, civic education, and being a good citizen,” Mandell said.

Although summer camps have ended, there are still a variety of opportunities for youth to get involved, Mandell said.

HandsOn Broward’s “Kids Who Care” and “Teen Service Squad” groups are designed to help students from elementary school through high school volunteer within their community through virtual projects.

In addition, for the students, the “Do It Yourself Volunteering” projects offer at-home activities to earn service hours and better their community.

Each project comes with instructions and supplies that can be purchased at a low cost or can be found at home, Mandell said.

Mandell said one of those projects is creating Hunger Action Totes out of old T-shirts that will be used to hold donated food.

Learn more about the projects here.

Sophie Lichtenstein is an intern at TAPinto Coral Springs. She is a junior at Pompano Beach High School.


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