When it comes to creating magical moments, there’s nothing like Walt Disney World® – and the company has brought that spirit to its service in the community. As one of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s most prominent volunteer groups, Disney sets a standard of excellence, helping to triple the nonprofit’s volunteer hours in recent years.
This week, Second Harvest joined the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Central Florida Chapter in celebrating Walt Disney World’s exceptional passion for volunteerism as part of National Philanthropy Day.
Since 2016, nearly 2,000 Disney team members have contributed about 6,000 hours at Second Harvest, sorting and preparing food for distribution. Disney features Second Harvest opportunities on its intranet and encourages participation through the Disney VoluntEARS program. In addition to dozens of regular shifts each year, Disney turns out en masse for events such as Disney Family Day, supporting the nonprofit heading into the critical Thanksgiving season.
Disney lends credibility and brand appeal to Second Harvest’s work, inspiring other groups to follow their lead. “The Disney crews really embody our mission, and they ‘do it big,’” says Mindy Ortiz, Director of Volunteer Services. “When they show up with their matching shirts, it’s a great image to reinforce our reputation.”
To further encourage participation, Disney hosts an annual “VoluntEARS of the Year” Celebration, recognizing its Second Harvest volunteers with both individual and team awards. Disney also extends the impact of volunteering into the community by partnering with Points of Light, which promotes volunteerism for all ages. Through the program, Disney provides free theme park tickets to Second Harvest, allowing them to reward volunteering families year-round – including incentivizing them to sign up during slow volunteer periods.
Disney’s wide-ranging involvement spans Second Harvest’s history and was instrumental during the nonprofit’s move to a new headquarters. The previous facility could fit only 50 volunteers per shift, and Second Harvest was in need of additional support to feed more people in the community. Disney gave $100,000 to fund the larger workspace, then donated the time of its Imagineers, worth about $125,000, to create a whimsical, engaging design throughout the space.
The design features a beanstalk mural from the movie Mickey and the Beanstalk, a large character mural in the warehouse, “Hidden Mickeys” tucked away within both areas and lively décor in the volunteer break room. Completed in 2013, the project has a significant impact today. The atmosphere has helped to triple volunteerism in the past six years, to 120,000 hours in 2018 – equaling $3 million worth of labor. “We have a higher rate of repeat volunteers now, thanks to the overall feel of the experience and word of mouth,” says Greg Higgerson, Vice President of Development. “Disney played a key role in creating that buzz.”
In addition to volunteerism, Disney has continued its support through a wide array of initiatives: donating food from Disney restaurants to Second Harvest’s Second Helpings programs, supporting the organization’s Kids Café program for underserved children, and coordinating employee food drives, among many others. Disney also offers critical financial support year-round.
“Disney is an incredible driver of philanthropy and volunteerism in our community, and we couldn’t be more grateful for their leadership,” Higgerson says.