Mother/daughter charity blossoms in Windermere

The National Charity League has formed its most recent chapter, Citrus Blossom, with more than half its members residing in Windermere.

Photo courtesy of Citrus Blossom
Photo courtesy of Citrus Blossom
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A group of mothers and daughters are coming together to foster their relationships by serving the community.

The National Charity League, a multi-generational philanthropic organization of mothers and daughters who donate close to three million hours annually to more than 6,000 charities in the United States, has formed its most recent chapter, Citrus Blossom, with more than half its members residing in Windermere. 

The chapter is the organization’s 293rd chapter to form in the U.S. and only the second in Florida.

The Citrus Blossom chapter is open to mothers and daughters who reside in Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk or Seminole counties.

Chapter President Casandra Matej, who lives in the Windermere area, said she and another mother had relocated to the Central Florida area. Both had been part of NCL before and inquired about chapters in the area. 

They learned a chapter did not exist locally, so the conversation turned to how to form a chapter in the area. 

The search was on for the two mothers, who began to look for community-focused mothers and daughters with their goal to see if they could form the chapter. The two reached out to PTO organizations, talked to mothers during volleyball tournaments and even connected with people at local community events to let them know what they were doing.  

“I was new to the area, so I hadn’t fully formed my circle of friends quite yet,” Matej said. “So as I was meeting others, NCL became part of the conversation. However, I knew it was worth the work. NCL is an incredible organization and experience for mothers and daughters. I believe in the mission of NCL in fostering mother and daughter relationships through our core pillars.”


The local chapter chartered in June 2022 and already has 71 members.

The organization’s programming pillars are philanthropy, leadership and culture, with core values including strengthening the mother and daughter bond; empowering women with the skills and confidence to mentor and lead; inspiring a legacy of social awareness and compassion; providing depth of support in local communities; honoring a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion; and modeling integrity, graciousness and excellence.

In addition to participating in national philanthropic initiatives, the chapter’s inaugural members have the opportunity to choose which local organizations they will support through hands-on volunteer service hours.

Daughters in seventh through 12th grade, known as Ticktockers, and their mothers, known as Patronesses, together embark on a program focused on the core values and initiatives. 

“It is the hope of NCL that our daughters will absorb the community values and ideals, which our generation holds to be important and worthy of preservation,” Matej said. 

The chapter has both local and national philanthropic partners. 

To date, Citrus Blossom has worked with Harbor House, Operation Gratitude, Salvation Army and Second Harvest Food Bank.


Mother Jennifer Elzeer’s connection with NCL dates back to the Rockwall, Texas, chapter in the 1990s. 

Through years together in NCL, Elzeer and her mother, Mari Davidson, built lifelong, cherished memories. 

Now, Gotha residents Elzeer and her daughter, Regan, build the same relationships.

“I know my love for philanthropy formed through our involvement in NCL and sharing that with my daughter is incredibly valuable to me,” Jennifer Elzeer said. “Regan is also a Special Olympics athlete and a member of the disability community. It is so important to me that she understands that she can be of service to others and not just the recipient of others’ volunteerism and kindness. To me, this is a critical component of being a valued member of our community. I know our time together in NCL will help establish her love for community service, as well as, give us opportunities to make beautiful memories while positively impacting others.” 

Lisa Walsh and her daughter Abby, who attends Windermere Preparatory School, also served in Texas before moving to Orlando last year, and said they were thrilled to hear that a new chapter was starting in the area. 

“This organization teaches our girls the value of giving back to the community, the principles of leadership to prepare them for life after high school — and the importance of the mother and daughter bond,” Lisa Walsh said. “It’s truly unique, especially when teenage girls often pull away from their mothers as they explore their independence. The joint activity of serving those in need together not only illustrates to the girls the struggles others face which isn’t often visible to them, it also enables us moms to set the example of how to interact, how to show compassion, and how to unselfishly put others first.”  

Lisa Walsh said the “in-the-car” conversations that happen after volunteering are often the richest learning moments — complete with robust discussion about the joint experience and how it impacted them.

“Not to mention how great it is just spending time together, laughing and working side-by-side,” she said. “NCL helps everyone win — the girls, the moms and the community.”

Windermere resident Asha Sharma, who attends Windermere Prep, said the chapter has helped her to make new friends her age and work alongside them at charities.   

“I feel good that I can volunteer, and it’s a lot of fun,” she said. “My mom and I get to ride to different places together and chat in the car, and then we volunteer together, so it becomes a really nice outing for us. We both feel good that we can do something for others and spend time with each other.”

Shamila Sharma said she had been looking for some way for her daughter and her to give back to the community, so when a friend told her a few women were forming a chapter of NCL in the area, they decided to join.

“It is especially exciting because since this is the first chapter in Central Florida, all of the members are actively guiding the direction of the chapter,” Shamila Sharma said. “I have enjoyed the variety of volunteer opportunities provided by Citrus Blossom. Also, it’s been fulfilling to meet other mothers of daughters because we can share our similar experiences. It’s been wonderful, because my daughter and I can volunteer when it fits our schedules and we spend time together helping our neighbors in the community. When we are on the way to an event, we discuss what we are going to do and why it’s important. We both have enjoyed all of the volunteer opportunities and chapter meetings.”


This holiday season, Citrus Blossom will be working with Give the Kids the World and serving in the Kids Korner during Night of a Million Lights. 

The event benefits the Give Kids the World Village, an 89-acre, whimsical nonprofit resort that provides critically ill children and their families from around the world with magical weeklong wish vacations at no cost. 

Kids Korner volunteers hang out in the Kids Korner and manage the kid’s activities including coloring, letters to Santa and festive temporary tattoos. 

The chapter has also had the opportunity to provide packages and letters to the military, sort donated gifts for Angel Tree Families, and feed more than 12,000 families through food sorting efforts. The daughters even learned how to create floral arrangements and then delivered them to Harbor House to spread kindness.

The chapter is currently in the midst of a membership drive for the 2023 NCL year. 

Applications close on March 10, 2023, and it is the organization’s hope that in a few years from now each county may have its own chapter.

“Membership growth is a big part of our current priority as well as making sure the community starts to know who the National Charity League is,” Matej said. “In other areas of the U.S. colleges and other groups look to tap into National Charity League membership for their own recruitment because there are shared values of community and leadership.”

At NCL, the organization believes in helping the community, and even in the short amount of time of the chapter, Matej said she has seen her 14-year-old daughter, Ellie Mae, become more interested in the community. 

“She is connecting that when we help at one of our partner organizations that it makes a difference for someone,” Matej said. “She is more compassionate to community needs or needs of others, and takes action, and that is the impact of NCL.”



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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