As the snowbirds leave, the city settles in for a steamy summer. Many of TEAM Punta Gorda’s 500-plus volunteers live here all year, and many are asking the question, “How can we be of service over the summer months?”

Looking ahead to the coming season of storms, TEAM Punta Gorda plans to develop a summer Park Brigade. Last year after Hurricane Irma came to town, the city had its hands full trying to keep Punta Gorda residents’ yards from sliding into the canals, which left little time for public works staff to remove the large amounts of post-storm debris from city parks. At the city’s request, TEAM Punta Gorda put out a call for volunteers. Over the course of a week, 40 residents volunteered to remove brush and clean things up. This summer we plan to organize the crew in advance and use this strategy for any debris-strewing weather events. Hopefully, there will be no hurricanes.

Along those same lines, a volunteer group from TEAM Punta Gorda’s Maritime Committee has decided to clean up the Harborwalk East on a year-round basis. This lovely stretch of mangrove-fringed walkway gets continually littered by careless passersby. They plan to do this cleanup four times a year and will include wading into the shallow areas to remove debris from the edges of the mangroves. They will not intrude upon or disturb the mangroves. Anyone wishing to help with this effort should contact TEAM Punta Gorda.

It’s easy to recruit volunteers to help with these short-term tasks. For those that don’t want to join a volunteer organization on a regular basis, these little and occasional service opportunities are popular. Additionally, they help build ownership and community pride.

TEAM volunteers will continue to maintain the free Bicycle Loaner program, even though the numbers of riders will be reduced during the off season. Twenty-eight new loaner bikes (80 percent of the total inventory) were recently put into service at three of the five loaner bicycle sites. Ridership data reflects an increase in bike use with a March 2019 high of 1,211 riders in one month. These hard-working volunteers do an incredible job of managing this program and keeping the wheels of our yellow bikes rolling. With that kind of usage, these bikes must be replaced every two to three years. This is only accomplished with the support of sponsorships from the business community.

The volunteers of the “TEAM Builds” committee were able to drive down Virginia Avenue with pride, knowing that they had completed work on one of Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity’s houses and that it would soon be occupied by a deserving family. This year over 50 volunteers worked together over three months to build this home from the ground up. Unbelievably, Habitat completes 35 of these homes each and every year.

As these examples illustrate, TEAM Punta Gorda works in three areas: community development, community improvement and community service. As the city gets ready to put in place a new Community Master Plan, TEAM expects to find its next priorities within the pages of that plan.

Nancy Johnson is the CEO of TEAM Punta Gorda. TEAM Punta Gorda is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization. Ideas or questions can be addressed to team@teampuntagorda.org or visit our website, www.teampuntagorda.org.

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