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Moving Mountains and Changing Lives In North Port, Florida

| Jodi Schwarzenbach |

Some people have the heart for giving.  It doesn’t matter who has the need, or what is required, they just show up, often helping people they have never met.  Such is the case with North Port’s own, Nicole Nappi who heads the non-profit Move Mountains.  When Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida, Nappi mobilized new and seasoned volunteers alike to provide assistance to people who lost everything.  Here is her story of giving back, community-building, and leading with heart.

SP: We have had the pleasure of interviewing you on behalf of Move Mountains in the past.  I think we were highlighting the amazing opportunities you were providing to local students interested in volunteering.  Can you fill us in on this and how Move Mountains has grown over the past few years?


MMWe definitely had some setbacks with COVID, but we learned to navigate around that as best as possible. Our Mini Movers school clubs ended due to the virus, but we created “service at home” projects that families could pick up on my porch, complete, and return; things like crafts for assisted living facilities or no sew blankets for animal shelters. We continued this through our toughest times and then moved back to meeting in groups, mostly outside when possible. We hold clean ups at Rescue Garage once a month, hold park clean ups, and help other local non-profits like Family Promise and Jesus Loves You Ministry. The kids enjoy making bagged lunches for the homeless, creating care packages for our Project RAE (where we assist families battling cancer with monthly meals and snacks), and of course helping animals in need! Now that things are functioning as normal, we are getting back into the schools too, we’re already at Woodland Middle and Toledo Blade.

SPAfter Hurricane Ian went through, we noticed Move Mountains was one of the first local organizations to gather supplies and be a reliable place for effected individuals and families to regroup and retrieve some essentials they were lacking.  Can you walk us through the efforts of Move Mountains during this time, and the interesting means by which you got much of the supplies to the area?

MMMy family was actually in New York City prior to the storm, and we got stuck there. We ended up traveling to Rhode Island and staying with my parents until we could get the first flight into Tampa. While in Rhode Island we purchased huge duffle bags and filled them with supplies to take home. Each of my 6 family members ended up with 2 checked bags and a carry on. We used funds from Move Mountains to purchase things like batteries, tarps, extension cords, baby wipes, etc. We were also given funds from Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial to use for supplies which was a blessing. Once we arrived in North Port I received a call from Mike Bailey, owner of Compressed Air Systems in Tampa. His wife had seen our page and they wanted to help. Mike is a pilot with a private plane and has a lot of friends that fly as well. He and James Webb, youtuber with the page Jimmy’s World, were amazing! They helped raise funds and flew out to us twice, once with 2 planes and once with 10 planes of supplies! They also had a couple of trailers that drove up. They supplied us with food, diapers, wet wipes, water, grills, and so much more! Another big helper was Drop the Wall Boutique in Plant City. Owners Jeannine and Chrisitopher Pennell not only donated financially but drove down with their family to deliver a trailer full of food. We also had helpers from the east coast who drove over twice with supplies from First Impressions Child Care and School Investment Properties. Local helpers include Mr. Ed’s Ice Cream, Painting with a Twist Sarasota, Hardesty & Hanover Engineering, Mickie’s Marvelous Bowtique, ANE Creative Confections, LuLaRoe Jen Calandra, Luxe Life with Lacey, and LuLaRoe Shannon Rollins


SP:  How is Move Mountains continuing their efforts 30 days post-Hurricane?  Can you discuss some of the other non-profits in the area who have assisted or might need the efforts of our readers?

MMWe held supply pickups pretty much twice a week since the storm, our last being last week. We estimate that we’ve given away over $75,000.00 in supplies. At this point we are trying to get back to our normal activities with our youth volunteers while turning our focus to those who have lost it all. We hope to help individual families rebuild and we are relying on the schools to help direct us to those families. I was a teacher in North Port from 2005-2019 so my focus has always been children. As far as our supply drives, Rescue Garage and One Mission Disaster Response are the nonprofits we’ve worked with locally. They have been an amazing help and our community is blessed to have them. Rescue Garage provided all the pet food for our pickups and their volunteers helped hand out food. One Mission Disaster Response delivered a ton of supplies to us.

SPLastly, what memories are going to stick with you, going through the Hurricane Ian process?  Surely, you’ve not only been dealing with damage and loss at your own home, but then being the face of someone who cares and obviously has a calling to help others really speaks to your giving nature.  How can the rest of us begin the process of volunteering, if we feel lack of time or fear of commitment, are their incremental ways we can help out?  Can you spotlight some of the “helpers” you have encountered and how this has inspired your organization?


MMOur home definitely suffered some damage. We’re in need of a new roof, many ceilings, some walls, a fence, screens, pool pump, etc. but we’re all safe and our dogs who were at the house with friends when the storm hit are safe as well! In all honesty, helping others and keeping the kids busy doing the same has helped us through a lot of the trauma. It’s stressful thinking about what we need to have done and waiting on the insurance but helping others has kept us busy while we wait. Some helpers I’d like to recognize are obviously my Move Mountains volunteers, but also the North Port High School Wrestling team. Not only did these kids come out and help us at supply pickups, but when asked to go out and help a local teacher in need, they and their coaches drove out to Englewood to help clear her home of trees as her husband is disabled. They answered the call and donated their time and strength to give back.  When it comes to volunteering with Move Mountains, our mission is to help children serve their community, so we have youth volunteers and their families. We don’t keep a specific schedule; volunteers are not asked to commit. They keep up with our Facebook page and come out and help when they can. If adults are looking to volunteer, I highly recommend Rescue Garage or the Kiwanis.  If you can’t volunteer, attend fundraisers to show support. Move Mountains is the charity for the Quarter Auction on Thursday November 10th at 2421 Tamiami Trail Port Charlotte at 6pm. Rescue Garage is the charity for the following one same time and place on December 8th and North Port High School Wrestling is the charity for January 12th

For more information on volunteer opportunities for adults and students, please visit Move Mountains | Facebook

Photos courtesy of Nicole Nappi.

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