By: Jaime Vining
Heather Khalil is a volunteering powerhouse. “My family has been creating service projects for a long time. Throughout the years, more and more people have asked to volunteer,” she recalled.
Last year, Khalil officially launched Heather’s Volunteer Opportunities, a Facebook group dedicated to forwarding information about South Florida nonprofits in need.
“I have a heart for the homeless and foster kids. My mother and Godmother were social workers,” she shared. “Friends had asked my family to join in feeding the homeless, cooked meals for them at my house, and donated when we collected items. It just blossomed. People want to help and serve others, and I welcome them.”
Over the December holiday season, Khalil and her team of neighborhood volunteers from Parkland, Coral Springs, Plantation, Davie, and Boca Raton collected pajamas, blankets, stuffed animals and books for their “Christmas Eve PJ Party” to benefit Kids In Distress, SOS Children’s Villages, and Hope South Florida.
“Déjà Blue always hosts the children and house parents from SOS Children’s Villages, and we put on a party there. They feed everyone and volunteers set up party stations for crafts, cookie decorating and games,” said Khalil. “Creating the projects has been really fun, but my favorite thing is creating special event parties. The volunteers get really involved.”
This Easter, Khalil organized an Easter basket drive with necessities for the foster children from Hope South Florida and God’s Little Lambs and collected over 300 baskets primarily from Parkland families. “None of this would be possible without all the amazing team leaders and hundreds of volunteers participating,” she exclaimed.
Sheela VanHoose is the team leader from Cascata at MiraLago. “I have always volunteered and found ways to give back. I sit on numerous boards, including Covenant House Florida, which focuses on ending youth homelessness, and Pace Girls, which primarily focuses on keeping girls out of the juvenile justice system,” VanHoose explained.
“Every child deserves an opportunity to dream big dreams. This particular set of projects fell into my lap. I was trying to volunteer to sponsor a child, and somewhere along the path became a coordinator for our community.”
Even as Florida continues to shelter in place, Khalil is looking ahead to May. “Right now, we are working on Kids Care Mother’s Day totes for Women in Distress, Anzora’s Foundation for trafficked victims, and Hope South Florida’s single moms,” she said.
Neighbors looking to get involved should fill tote bags with full-size toiletries, shampoo, and conditioner, a hairbrush, body wash or soap, lotion, a pack of razors, shaving cream, a nail kit and polish, lip balm, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. “You may also include other items as well, like body spray, makeup, hair accessories, a book or journal, and feminine hygiene products, but the above list must be included. A note of encouragement is always nice too.”
Jaime Vining is a Florida native, but recent Parkland transplant. By day, she is a Florida Bar-certified Intellectual Property attorney, adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law and an avid blogger. Prior to earning her law degree, Jaime was a featured journalist for publications like the Orlando Sentinel and aXis Magazine. In 2009, she released a compilation of interviews with musicians under the title Off the Bus and On the Record.
Jaime is also a mom to two little boys and you will regularly find her running early mornings at Pine Trails Park trying to keep up with them.
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