Seven Gift Ideas for December Holidays

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December is the season of giving, when we take time to recognize the people and places in our lives that we hold dear.

Whether giving a gift to a loved one, your time to an organization or money to a charity, it can be hard to decide exactly how to spend your time and money.

Here are seven ways you can give back this season, to both the people and the parks that you love:

  1. Annual Entrance Pass to Florida State Parks. Annual entrances passes are a fantastic gift for the nature lover in your life! They cover the entrance fees for most of Florida’s 175 state parks, from our winding rivers to our sunny shores. The cost is $60 for an individual pass or $120 for a family pass, and they can be purchased online or at any state park that has a ranger station. The online store also offers merchandise like T-shirts, hats and water bottles.
  2. Membership in the Florida State Parks Foundation. An organization that protects our state parks and helps them grow, the Florida State Parks Foundation is integral to the continued protection and expansion of our state park system. When you become a member – or purchase membership as a gift for someone else – you’re directly supporting the places you love to explore. Memberships begin as low as $30 and are offered at many levels. Some memberships even include complimentary one-day passes to our parks.
  3. Become a wildlife champion. Know someone who loves our native wildlife? Through the Florida State Parks Foundation’s wildlife adoption program, you can symbolically adopt one of our native species for them! Depending on your donation, you can receive a personalized adoption certificate, a fact sheet and picture of your chosen animal, a personal letter acknowledging your donation and a bandana. More than symbolic, your adoption goes directly to protecting our native wildlife and their habitats.
  4. Donate to the Plant a Pine project. Longleaf pine forests are essential for native wildlife, and restoring the existing ones is critical to protecting the Real Florida ℠. The Florida State Parks Foundation plants a longleaf pine for every $1 donated to the project. Every tree counts!
  5. Donate to the Foundation’s Small Grants program. Our parks are always looking for ways to improve, but sometimes they need help with funding. Beginning in the new year, the Florida State Parks Foundation will accept applications from park citizen support organizations, also called friends groups, and state parks directly for grants of up to $5,000. These grants help address different needs at the parks. For example, a previous grant paid for the professional installation of audio equipment in the auditorium at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The foundation will match up to $25,000 for the program. 
  6. Donate to Manatee Care at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. At this unique state park, wildlife that can no longer survive in the wild are cared for by park staff and serve as ambassadors for their wild counterparts. The foundation provides funds for supplies, food and professional services to care for the park's manatees. 
  7. Volunteer! Giving your time to our state parks is a great way to help them thrive. Our volunteers help us with every aspect of park management, from running visitor centers to maintaining trails. Some volunteers help out on an hourly basis, while others are campground hosts who serve for up to four months at a time. No matter how they help out, we always appreciate the time and effort of our volunteers.

This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign-up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.