Best New Leader in Naples, Florida
Naples Noteworthy picked Julie Thomas, Director of Project Outreach, as the second feature for our July launch issue, and Thomas is also our pick for the Best New Leader in Naples, Florida.
We picked Thomas because of her work in Project Outreach, an organization that is quickly becoming the central hub for matching physical donations with needs in the Naples community. This is an organization you need to know about, if you don’t already. What it’s doing in Collier County is nothing short of astonishing.
It’s heartwarming and encouraging to see the good people can do when they come together.
Project Outreach is a live, ongoing demonstration of people ready and willing to lend a helping hand, fueled by the powerful networks of today’s social media. But it’s more than that. The organization simply has a special anointing on it to bring help–and hope–to people in our community in a way that defies explanation.
Something divinely peculiar is going on.
How Project Outreach Works
Here’s how it works. A need is voiced at the network, which is the Project Outreach Group on Facebook.
click here to join
For instance, someone may need a refrigerator, or a new bed. Maybe a family needs help because a parent is terminally ill and they need people to step in and help provide meals and other assistance for the family. In one case, a family lost everything in a fire. In another case, a man’s wife died at childbirth, leaving him to care for the newborn baby.
Usually within hours the need is met.
Naples Noteworthy asked how that was possible.
“It’s God,” Thomas explained. “Nothing else could account for how quickly these needs are being met or how fast this network has grown. From the very beginning, God’s hand has been on this.”
How Project Outreach Has Grown
Angie Meister, the daughter of Julie Thomas, is the founder of Project Outreach. She knew she wanted to do something to help those in need in the Naples community. The family rallied around Angie and embraced the idea, taking it from a grassroots organization to where it is today.
Project Outreach initially focused on doing events in the community to teach others the selfless sense of serving. For instance, every year, they invite volunteers to the Immokalee Friendship House for Thanksgiving to help clean the house and make and serve dinner. Volunteers who join the network learn what it feels like to serve selflessly helping others.
The Facebook Group has been a key element for communication and rallying support. It’s how Project Outreach has been able to find out about people in need and organize a response to help them. As one need after another began to be met, people started stepping up with donations–beds, furniture, refrigerators–and that’s when a warehouse in which to store items became necessary.
Once again, people stepped in to help. The Hardy family, which owns TollGate Commerce Center, heard about what Project Outreach was doing and generously donated the air-conditioned warehouse space.
The warehouse began to fill up with items even as more needs began to be voiced on the Facebook Group. At the same time, the network was, and is, growing–now 1188 members and counting. Even as we write this article, we keep having to change the number!
Being able to meet physical needs is important in any ministry. The passage that comes to mind here is James 2:15-17: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
Naples Noteworthy believes God has anointed Project Outreach to meet physical needs so that it can accomplish even greater things in the spiritual realms.
Project Outreach begins and ends its days at the warehouse in prayer, and there are people solely devoted to praying for the Facebook group, asking that whatever needs arise may be met.
Thomas, who has been counseling people for the past twenty years, continues to do so at the warehouse, finding that her counseling ministry integrates seamlessly with Project Outreach. She also offers prayer to those willing to accept it.
Thomas knows that she’s running a ministry of hope. “You can see the transformation in the people we serve,” she explains. “In the worst cases, such as women who have suffered domestic violence and are looking to start a new life, they often seem hopeless when we first meet them. After we’ve ministered to them with tangible, physical aid and loved them a little, you can see the change. You can actually see the hope in their eyes. They come alive again.”
How You Can Help
How can you get involved?
Project Outreach really needs a few “muscle men” with trucks who can help pick up and sometimes deliver items that people want to donate but have no means of transporting.
Donations from people in the community are another reason Project Outreach is succeeding. It’s people like you, stepping up to donate items like clothing, books, toys, furniture, beds, refrigerators, appliances, dishes, etc. These are then stored in the warehouse.
You can help by donating items in good condition to Project Outreach. They are in need of twin beds, dressers, toys, baby items, children’s clothes, tables and chairs, all in good condition. You can help by donating these items to the Project Center Warehouse, which is located near the Cracker Barrel at:
Toll Gate Commercial Center
3845 Beck Blvd #806
Naples, FL 34114
The Warehouse is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 11am – 2pm.
You can also make monetary donations to Project Outreach at their website at www.projectoutreachnaples.com.