Volunteering is an essential part of how First Church partners with our local mission organizations. It is through these service opportunities that relationships are built, needs are met, and the heart of an organization is understood by the one volunteering.

New Horizons of Southwest Florida is one of First Church’s mission partners. A local faith-based nonprofit, New Horizons offers after-school and summer tutoring, mentoring, and faith-building to over 700 at-risk students in grades K-12.

“These students live in poverty, do not speak English at home, and are under-performing in the classroom when they enroll in a New Horizons program,” said Debra Haley, Executive Director of New Horizons. “With the help of 900+ community volunteers, these students can now complete their homework with understanding. Over time, their grades go from rock bottom to C’s and better. Students and volunteers work together at 13 locations from East Naples to South Fort Myers. The nearest location to First Church is right next door at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.”

Debra was drawn to the mission of New Horizons and accepted a board position in 2007. She has served as its Executive Director since 2012. “There are many volunteers who attend First Church who give their time, talents, and hearts to our students,” she said. “In Ecclesiastes 11:1-6, King Solomon encourages us to plant seeds far and wide, plant now and often, have faith they will grow, have high expectations for them, and nurture them as they grow. It is through the work of our wonderful volunteers that the students are being grown from little seeds to the amazing individuals God has created them to be.”

Isaiah 58:10 (NLT) tells us: “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” It is through volunteering that First Church continues to shine its light in the community and make a difference for Him.

by Trusha Barner, Director of Missions


Lynn Lyons, Tutor at New Horizons

When the New Horizons Super Kids Club sang at First Church one Sunday, I was inspired to volunteer for one day each week. I loved seeing the children so poised and accomplished at such young ages. As time went on, the importance of continuity became clear so now I tutor up to four times a week. Afterward I often feel euphoric because of the joy I witness as the children progress and achieve success. The fact that I can plant seeds for a growing understanding of God and how He wants us to live is an additional blessing for which I am most grateful.