Keeping a Forever Home with HouseProud Atlanta

The AARP recently found that 87% of senior citizens wish to age in place, remaining in their own home without having to move to an assisted living facility or different location as they grow older. Sometimes, though, keeping up with home repairs and making sure the house meets the needs of an aging population is not always easy, or cheap.

HouseProud Atlanta works to meet the needs of elderly individuals who need some repair work to keep them comfortable and safe in the home they love.

Originally called Community Redevelopment Inc, HouseProud got its start in 1992. The organization gave repair assistance on critical issues like electrical, plumbing, and home accessibility. Now 25 years and a couple of names later, HouseProud has helped more than 400 low-income seniors and their homes in southwest Atlanta.

“We have a very compressed geographic area, which helps us to really focus on community revitalization, we serve about 20 neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta,” Lisa Jones, House Proud Executive Director said. “There are some neighborhoods where we have worked on every house on that street, and we feel like that’s really impactful.”

Partnering with local organization and skilled individuals, HouseProud fills an essential need for residents as they wish to stay in their home, but need a little extra help. And, as they have grown over the years, they have expanded their services to also meet the home needs of disabled individuals and veterans, with the mission of keeping everyone warm, safe, and dry in their homes. HouseProud wants to give back to those who have already given so much.

HouseProud works on any number of projects to update and repair homes, but does not perform rebuilds. Volunteers often work on needs like re-decking porches, fixing and replacing locks, installing wheelchair ramps, and light painting.

Using corporate partnerships and volunteer manpower, the nonprofit capitalizes on the collaborative efforts of the community to assist individuals in need. Sponsors for the organization include Home Depot, SunTrust Bank, KPMG, and Wells Fargo, just to name a few.

Partners and volunteers who sign up to help out with the project are equipped with all the necessary tools and instructions, and are matched up with a professional to oversee the work. These projects are also great opportunities for corporate visibility, allowing companies to promote their service and receive recognition for their team’s work.

To be eligible to receive HouseProud services, senior citizen individuals must be 60 years of age or older, live in the designated service area, and have homeowner’s insurance. There are not age restrictions for individuals with disabilities.

To help raise money for their services, the HouseProud is throwing a large fundraising event in October, called “Raise the Roof.” A cocktail party with a live DJ, the event will be a chance for individuals to learn more about the organization with a $25 donation.

Individuals and companies can learn more about the event and how to volunteer at www.houseproudatlanta.org.

Growing Communities with Green of Hearts

Sometimes a hobby can turn into a passion, and that passion can change your community. Such was the case for Bonita Cason-Atlow.

After finding herself out of a job she held for twenty years, she found herself searching for purpose. She found it in a perfectly-heart shaped green tomato she pulled from her garden.

With her free time, she started gardening more, and took some of her fruits and vegetables to Interfaith Outreach Homes, a housing development for low-income individuals. She donated more than 20 types of food, and the staff were ecstatic.

Atlow took her love of gardening and whole foods and took it to the people of Atlanta. Now, her nonprofit Green of Hearts works with individuals and organizations to build community gardens and teach groups how growing and cultivating their own food can lead to healthier, more sustainable lifestyles.

Green of Hearts mission is to is to “alleviate societal issues concerning malnutrition, hunger, and obesity within populations at risk by establishing gardens – and a mindset – wherever there is an open space and a need.”

They achieve this mission through programming all over the city, working to turn black thumbs green. With their Senior Horticulture Education program, Green of Hearts works with senior citizens in an hour of gardening and garden-themed crafts. Then, to further help the community at large, the organization works with community groups, schools, churches, and residential centers to work on installing gardens and teach ways to cultivate and maintain them.

One of their biggest projects is with the Interfaith Outreach Home, as part of their efforts to create immersive community support. They work with residents and families to teach gardening and life skills, and show families how to incorporate the food and skills into their daily lives.

Through their community gardens, Green of Hearts hopes to inhibit community ownership, engage self-sufficiency, help citizens control obesity, provide access to nutritional foods for low-income families, and increase physical activity.

Atlow hopes to inspire people on the benefits of community gardening. “Cultivating and changing the way something is currently being used is a way to bring people together,” she said. “The goal is that we grow and share and sit down and have a meal together. I think we’ve forgotten how to just sit and talk and look at each other.”

“We are changing our direction of the way we view life,” she closed. “We are putting our hands together and doing something.”

The organization is always looking for volunteers to help with garden installations, garden maintenance, and carpentry. Volunteers can sign up and help out as individuals or in groups. The nonprofit is also always in need of financial support to carry out its programs, and donations go toward gardening equipment, seeds and plants, community outreach, and operations. Those interested can sign up or donate on Green of Hearts’ website at www.greenofhearts.org.

If You Build It, They Will Come: Building Websites for Local Nonprofits with 48in48

Nonprofits have a lot on their plate: the mission of the organization, the people they serve, raising enough funds to keep their programming going. The list goes on and on.

While they are busy doing good work, sometimes their online presence takes a hit. There’s not always enough manpower or revenue to design and maintain a quality website.

But with everything going digital, their website should be at the top of their priority list. It helps people connect with the organization, and acts as the face of the nonprofit for new and veteran supporters.

For those organizations who need a little extra help in the web department, there’s 48in48. Serving nonprofits in Atlanta, Boston, the Twin Cities, and New York, the group select worthy, small to mid-sized nonprofits, and helps them build a site that works for their needs.

48in48 mobilizes local digital professionals to lend their expertise and provide assistance with the nonprofit’s marketing and technology needs. Over an eight week period, they work with the nonprofit to go through branding, content, and maintenance for their website.

48in48 was founded by marketing professionals who saw a need for others in their industry to have an outlet to use their skills for good. They saw an opportunity to pair this with the needs of small nonprofits who might lack the resources and ability to keep a site up and running.

“Online presence is increasingly important,” said Carol Williams, 48in48 Executive Director. “A website is really the base of good online marketing. But it’s intricate and expensive, so many nonprofits push it aside due to funding or time to manage it.”

48in48 prefers to work with smaller nonprofit, who tend to be the ones who struggle the most with their online presence. After the eight week period, the program culminates with a 48-hour hackathon-style event in which 48 new nonprofit websites are built. 48in48. Get it?

48in48 held their first event in Atlanta in 2015, where they provided $1,200,000 of value in services to the nonprofits involved. They’ve since expanded into four US cities and are in the midst of planning international events, too.

The volunteers for the websites are content managers, graphic designers, and frontend developers, and typically come from area digital agencies. A lot of the teams that build the 48 websites come as a company group, providing great teambuilding and PR for participating organizations.

Each city’s 48in48 works with the local United Way to identify are nonprofits that would be good candidates for the program. The organization has transitioned from an application to an invitation system from United Way. The United Way checks the submitted organizations and look at their current websites to make sure the event would have capacity.

Nonprofits and interested volunteers can learn more about being considered at www.48in48.org.

The Mission Continues

When the men and women who so bravely served our country come home, they are often left with a bit of a void. Bonded by the fact that they all had the passion to serve, they miss that opportunity for constant service and camaraderie.

The Mission Continues helps these veterans continue their calling by bringing them together to give back to their community. Partnering with local nonprofits and organizations, The Mission Continues provides the manpower and dedication needed to create real impact.

Placing veterans and community volunteers into platoons, the groups are deployed to areas that are in the most need, focusing on education and at-risk youth, food disparities, housing, and neighborhood beautification.

Not only are the veterans able to continue their service, they are able to find ways to more easily reenter civilian life while collaborating with both veterans and local-residents. The organization operates under five main values: word hard, trust, learn& grow, respect, and have fun. Tjune (10)hese values help connect their volunteers and build and environment to create the most community impact.

Right here in Atlanta, the organization deploys three platoons to serve across the city, with two platoons stationed on the West Side and one on the South, and plans to for expansion over the next two years. They work on a variety of projects, including youth development and providing supportive housing for those in need. In partnership with the Salvation Army and the Boys and Girls Club, they have helped improve technology spaces for kids, renovated and painted reading rooms in the library, revitalized an outdoor baseball field, and helped plant a community garden.

On the community development side, the team helped a veteran’s village housing complex with more than 24 veteran residents. The building has serious issues with flooding, so the platoons installed a drain to alleviate the problems.

Veterans can also take part in a six-month fellowship, in which the organization places them in a local nonprofit for up to 20 hours of work. There, the veteran can acclimate back into the working world while also providing critical manpower to nonprofits that need it.

“This generation sees themselves as assets, and want to leverage their talents and skills that they built in the military to be able to help in their local neighborhoods,” said Stewart Williams, Atlanta’s City Impact manager. “It’s a natural desire to do good work.”

One of their biggest projects, Operation West Side Surge, is coming up the week of June 8-15. More than a hundred veterans are flown in to help with projects all around the city, and stay in campus housing at Georgia Tech. They’ll be doing landscaping and greenscaping at parks, building urban farms, and creating outdoor learning centers, including an amphitheater on English Avenue. For this and other projects, the organization accepts the broader community into their platoons to promote working hand in hand with the community for the greater good.

Listen to the full episode of the show, here. Those interested in learning more about the organization, including how to apply for a fellowship, sign up for a platoon, or donate, can visit www.missioncontinues.org.

Communicating and Caring at The Ellis School

Not every child learns the same way. And even the most effective and veteran teachers are not always equipped with the time or resources to give every student the individualized attention they need and deserve.Our mission is to create confident students who are life-long learners, focusing on what IS possible.

The Ellis School of Atlanta hopes to offer an educational experience for those students who might need a little extra support. First started by Alison Caputo in 2012 to give her son a place to learn and grow, the school offers a learning environment for students with multiple developmental and physical disabilities.

Caputo and her husband started the school after being met with programs in the public school system that didn’t fully meet their son’s needs. Caputo found that most teachers had too much on their plate or did not have enough training to accommodate students like her son with multiple disabilities.

They were also looking for a school that placed high-importance on communication. Caputo believes that communication was a crucial piece for her son, and so many others like him, to help him be a member of his community and have human relationships.

“Those relationships really start and end with communication,” Caputo said. “For a child who has so many other things going on, at the very least we wanted him to have enriched relationships. That was the main thrust of what we were looking for in a program.”

The Caputos quickly realized that many parents and families were looking for this type of program. The school works with a highly-collaborative staff that designs individualized programs for each student. When the child first enters the school, they will complete a full evaluation and assessment, including vision, hearing, behavior, motor skills, and speech. Evaluators will also determine the academic level for each student, looking at their communication skills, and their math and sequential problem-solving scores.

From there, the staff develops a program to capitalize on the student’s strengths, and focus any high-need areas. This is not just a student-teacher approach, though. Parents and family members are asked to be as involved as possible, making sure they are fully aware of any medical and educational needs, and utilizing at-home strategies to carry the learning throughout the full day.

Since the school is also a nonprofit, they also offer additional programming, including a summer camp that is open to all members of the community. They also offer community education events to help train and inform members of the community who might want to learn more. Lastly, The Ellis School helps with evaluation services to provide families unique and specialized evaluation services outside of their public school or hospital.

The school has seen many success stories, including a young student who was ten years old when she started at the Ellis School. At first, she wouldn’t speak, and scared of her walker, her only device of mobility. By working with the school and its staff, she became more comfortable with her walker, and blossomed in her communication. Now, she’s a chatty teen and her academic scores have increased.

The School is always looking for financial support and volunteers for their summer camp, and can be found online at www.ellisschoolatlanta.org. Listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, here!

Cultivating Community and Creativity at The Guild

The GuildThink about all the times you had a great idea, and just needed to talk it through with someone else. You just needed a sounding board, and someone who could help you take the idea to the next level. But maybe it’s 10 p.m. and you don’t want to drive all the way over to that person’s house. Or it’s dinnertime, and you don’t want to interrupt. You wait until you can talk tomorrow. In the meantime, you lose that flash of genius, and the creative momentum dies down.

What if during all those times, all you had to do was go to your own living room to talk it out? Or sit down to dinner with the person that could help you expand your idea? What if the flash of genius didn’t go away, but just got brighter?

That’s the reality at The Guild in Atlanta, a co-living home for entrepreneurs and social change makers. By bringing individuals together to live and create, The Guild capitalizes on the collective energy and inspiration of the group.

Accepting housemates for a 10-month idea accelerator program, The Guild brings together diverse individuals who are working on projects or businesses for a social good. The cohort learns how to grow their idea or venture, how to increase their social impact, and how to develop themselves as individuals and leaders. They even receive coaching from professional mentors and industry experts.

For their part, the members have to commit to participation in a leadership retreat, weekly dinners, monthly peer leadership group meetings, and sponsored events. They are expected to take part in four hours of community service at the East Lake Commons every month, and must make a presentation on their project at the end of the program.

Porsha Thomas, founder of Atlanta’s Ladypreneur League and member of the inaugural Guild cohort, is thankful for her experience with the program. “I have a better foundation for everything,” she said. “I am generally happier, because I know how to structure things. It’s knowing that you have people around you to talk to. It helped set me up for success– I’m happy that I joined.”

In addition to their in-house program, the Guild’s Triple Bottom Line Lab works with local organizations to connect them with their environmental and social impact. Not only does this allow Atlanta businesses to increase their social footprint, but it connects the cohort to area organizations and experts, giving them hands-on experience.

What started as one house a year ago has quickly developed into the idea of an expansion, and building a greater social enterprise that develops co-living spaces and programs to empower change makers and build resilient communities. The Guild also has plans to expand its offerings even more, preparing for a 12-week external cohort group that will focus on the same curriculum.

Learn more about The Guild in the latest podcast from The Good Works Show.

Building Communities Here and Abroad

Friendship Force International Executive Director Jeremi Snook says he often meets the same type of people interested in getting involved with the organization. “They are the type to say, ‘I don’t want to be a person of hate, I don’t want pre-judge, I don’t want to stereotype. I want to meet people where they are,’” he said.

The Atlanta-based nonprofit has been around since 1977.

“Its mission is to bring people from around the world together for the purpose of increasing our understanding of the world around them,” he said. “For 40 years, they have been facilitating groups to visit people from other countries, and stay in their homes and live with them for a week or two weeks at a time.”

Groups of 15-20 travel to partnering towns around the world and stay with local families to get a firsthand look at the country and its culture. “They get to know their families, and expand their mind and understanding of that local community,” he said.

The organization started when Wayne Smith, a Presbyterian minister, started working with then-Governor Jimmy Carter on ideas to bring people from all over the world together. “They worked together to brainstorm this wild idea of what if we brought people from the United States and Russia together?” Snook said. “During a time when there were a lot of divisions in the world, he thought it would be a great idea to embark on a mission of citizen diplomacy.”

For Friendship Force members, they go with one mission in mind- they want to better themselves. They want to listen and not talk, and absorb and not try to pre-judge.”“Expect to be changed,”The organization’s current model has sustained them since the 80s: 360 “clubs” around the world host people in clubs from other countries. 60 countries are represented, with 16,000 members. Every year, 5,000 people travel with Friendship Force.

Snook believes that it’s so popular because people are looking for a way to connect. “If you look at the news, everybody has an opinion about what’s going on in the world,” he said. “Those opinions can really sway you to think a certain way. We were founded on the idea of planting seeds of understanding beyond the barriers that separate people. We approach first with understanding, before you form stereotypes of opinions that could possibly lead to hate.”

“These are things that resonate to a lot of people who are looking for a way to engage with the world without being influenced by the way the world says they should do,” he added. “People are looking for a way to develop themselves as global citizens because they are rejecting what they are seeing around them.”

It takes two groups to make Friendship Force work: the host club, and the traveling club. While they aren’t traveling, clubs often take part in local activities, like get-togethers and cultural events. Friendship Force trips have gone all over the world, including Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, and South America. Each club will likely host a traveling club once or twice a year.

“Any club that you join can tell you stories of people they have hosted from all over the world,” Snook said.

“One thing that has really emerged in all the conversations I have had with folks is the similarity in their spirit, in the way that they think, and their desire to continue to develop themselves,” he added. “You can sign up for a cruise, you can go on a tour– you can do all those things. You can use another hosting organization to pay money to stay with somebody. But for Friendship Force members, they go with one mission in mind: they want to better themselves. They want to listen and not talk, and absorb and not try to pre-judge.”

“Expect to be changed,” he said.

Trenise asked how he had been changed since his time working with Friendship Force. He said he has an eye-opening experience during a trip to Japan right after the 2016 Presidential Election. Right after he got off the plane, a woman ran up to him, asking if he was an American. “What are we going to do?” she asked. “The election! What are we going to do?”

Snook went to a conference while he was there, where the speaker opened up the event by saying “In the last 48 hours, the world has fundamentally changed.”

“You think that your world is right here, and for me that was a really big moment to realize how interconnected the world really is,” Snook said. “I wasn’t going just to attend a conference—I was going as a citizen ambassador. I was representing a whole group of Americans.”

Snook explained how the host-family setup makes the program different than just traveling with a tour group. “The meal is the most important part of the whole home-hosting experience,” he said. “There’s a special moment that happens when you are sharing a meal together and you begin to talk about life.”

For those who are skeptical of the process and opening up their homes to strangers, Snook said there is a network of 16,000 members and a dedicated Friendship Force staff that will  help answer any questions or concerns.

“You have to have the will to open up your home and try something new,” he said. “Be prepared to be changed.”

Those interested in the organization can learn more online at www.thefriendshipforce.org.

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David Lee, Executive Director of the Atlanta Hawks Foundation, knows that his job is about more than just basketball.

“It’s a commitment that I have as an individual to give back to Atlanta, who has been so good to me and my family, but also what’s great is that our organization takes on that identity as well,” he said of the Foundation.

Known for their skills on the court, the Hawks also take time to give back to the community through their Foundation.Hawks

“The Atlanta Hawks Foundation exists for three areas: health, wellness, and education,” Lee said. “We focus on young people. Our core audience is 6-14, so everything that we are creating is trying to use our sport and the resources from our sport to help try and make a better outcome for these kids.”

Lee said it’s important for the team to be a strong community partner in Atlanta. With 14 years with the team, Lee considers this position to be his most important. “There’s no better way to build a business than to build a community first,” he said.

When Hawks CEO Steve Koonin took the role in 2014, he made it clear he was invested in the community aspect for the team. “There was a redoubling of that commitment,” Lee said. “We are fortunate to have an opportunity to be in this industry, and the responsibility that we have is to make ourselves the fabric of the Atlanta metro-community, and work in ways that are both important and impactful.”

“It’s both an obligation and a call-to-action,” he added. “We have a chance to build the community.

Lee said that although only one team will win the championship each year, every team has the opportunity to bring that championship-excitement to the community, no matter what. “There is a way in which the community can win a championship every year,” he said.

The Foundation is busy with its work in the three areas of health, wellness, and education. They are working to open up access to public courts, with a goal of cleaning up 25 courts in the next five years. “We want to make sure that every kid, regardless of their ability, has the opportunity to play in a safe and enjoyable environment.”

The Foundation is also investing in training for youth basketball coaches, as one in three coaches are not properly trained in the sport in which they coach. They also host frequent camps and trainings for young players, and offer scholarships for kids who can’t afford the cost. “There should be no income or economic barrier to a child’s ability to grow, learn, and enjoy the sport of basketball,” Lee said.

More information on the Foundation can be found at www.hawks.com/community.

A Safe Place to Learn for Georgia’s Newest Citizens

With more than 2,000 refugees resettling to Georgia every year, the state is one of the top six across the country for refugee resettlement. Learning to acclimate to new surroundings can be difficult for adults, and even more tricky for kids, finding themselves placed in a new environment and a new school.

And for many, this is the first time they’ve been in an educational setting in a very long time. Many young refugees, having spent years of their lives in refugee camps, have experienced extended periods of interrupted education. For them, the transition to the public school system in the United States can prove very difficult. Being placed into a grade based on their age, and not their academic ability, often leads to struggle and strife for the student.

For those students, there’s the Global Village Project. An accredited special-purpose middle school for refugee girls who are academically behind because of their refugee-status, the school helps bridge the educational gap. Working with girls ages 11-18, the school focuses on academics and social awareness, and groups students based on their learning level, not their age.

GWS

The school’s focus on girls is based on staggering numbers of those affected by the refugee crisis. 80% of all refugees are women and girls. And, of the 21 million refugees around the world, half are under 18—that’s the entire population of the state of Georgia! As girls have disproportionately less access to education than boys and men, the Global Village Project sought to provide the greatest impact where there was the greatest need.

Providing them with a safe space to learn and grow, the school currently has 42 girls attending full-time. Embracing the student’s cultural values and backgrounds, while also providing them the information needed to feel comfortable integrating into their new surroundings, the school provides individualized attention and instruction for its students.

“At Global Village, you meet the child where they are,” said Pia Ahmad, Global Village Project Board Member. “The most important thing is to meet the child where they are right now. You work with them. We are all teachers and we are all learners. People assume refugees come with a lot of deficits. In fact, though, they have tremendous strengths.”

An 8:1 student to teacher ratio is additionally bolstered by the 150 community volunteers who support the school and provide even more encouragement and assistance to the students. Students are grouped into “forms,” put with students of similar academic levels. Each form is then broken down into 3-4 subgroups, allowing smaller groups of girls to work directly with volunteers, based on their needs.

Students apply to the school through resettlement agencies, and are selected based on their need. And these students have found success– the school is producing staggering numbers of its own. 90% of students have grown 1.8 grade levels in just nine months of coursework, a critical jump for those behind multiple years. 90% of those who complete the program have successfully gone on to high school or college coursework. In fact, during the last school year, 15 of the Global Village Project students went on to college.

Global Village Project is always looking for volunteers, mentors, and financial supporters to continue their work. Those interested can find out more at www.globalvillageproject.org. To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, check out the podcast at www.soundcloud.com/thegoodworksshow.

STE(A)M Truck—bringing fun and learning to a school near you

For many students, learning and growth are simply about access. Their minds want to explore and create; they just have to be given the opportunity.

STE(A)M Truck brings that opportunity right to their fingertips with mobile-learning labs designed to ignite passion for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. Serving in Title 1 schools of Atlanta, the trucks bring the tools and teaching to students who might not otherwise have the chance to take advantage of similar programs during the normal school day. The trucks can also frequently be found at community events, public spaces, and local libraries.

Started in 2014, STE(A)M Truck started with just one roving workshop, and made sure to incorporate art into the common STEM programming to allow kids to use creativity and innovation. Now with five trucks, and hopes to build the fleet to nine by the end of next year, STE(A)M Truck is booked solid and in high-demand.

“We bring tools, talent, and technologies to communities that may not otherwise have access,” Jason Martin, Executive Director of the nonprofit said. “Our mission is to close opportunity gaps that are too often predicted by zip codes. We want to give youth an opportunity to tackle real problems, not textbook problems, get their hands dirty, and build something together.”

While each truck has a slightly different setup, they are all equipped with tools (both hand and high-tech) for students to learn. Each comes with the technologies and community experts to lead students on experiments and hands-on learning. And they have seen results—of the students who participate, more than 73% say they have an increased-interest and confidence in pursuing a STEM career.

STE(A)M Truck targets students between the 3rd and 8th grade to pique interest at an early age. “We want to spark their interest while they are still young enough, before they get into high school,” Martin said. “We want to give them a sense of what’s possible.”

One, three, five and 20-day “builds” are offered to the students, in which participating groups will take part in putting together their own STEM-related materials, including a stomp-rocket made out of soda bottles and PVC pipe, and a solar-powered Bluetooth speaker.

To figure out what types of builds and projects to do, STE(A)M Truck works with the participating teachers. Working with the teachers is critical, as their partnership and continued enthusiasm helps continue the work even after the STE(A)M Truck leaves. The organization works to build capacity of schools and teachers to do the work on their own.

STE(A)M Truck is always looking for volunteers and supporters. Those interested can go to their website at www.steamtruck.org to learn more on how to give time, talent, and treasure. They are also looking for their hottest commodity: trucks. Building their fleet will enable more schools and students served, and vehicle donations are always welcome.

True Colors Theatre Steals the Show in the Atlanta Art Scene

For an emerging playwright, there’s nothing better than getting the stamp of approval from a celebrated and accomplished Broadway director. At Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre, this is exactly the case for many of the top new theatre talent.

When Tony Award-winning Director Kenny Leon started True Colors in 2002, he set out to create a space to promote playwrights, preserve African-American classics, and cultivate new, young writers. The theatre focuses on creating opportunities for artists of color, and tells stories of diversity, inclusion, and cultural understanding.

With his backing and the freedom to take risks, the theatre often gets to showcase works that other playhouses might not consider. Opening the door to those who often get it slammed in their face, True Colors takes chances on projects they believe in and want to promote.

The upcoming season features a wide variety of plays and musicals for the community to experience. First up in the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning play Between Riverside & Crazy. They’ll also produce Holler if Ya Hear Me, the musical featuring the music of Tupac Shakur, working with students at local HBCUs to write new poetry and rap for the show’s finale.

Leon and his staff put the season together after careful deliberation of readings and workshops, even taking input from test audiences. If a showcase reading receives rave reviews, it has a chance of being placed in the lineup.

“From there, Kenny starts to craft the story he wants to tell for the whole year,” said Jennifer McEwen , Managing Director of the theatre. “It’s not just play, by play, by play. It’s what kind of message am I trying to tell this community right now. We are always looking for something that has some hope bubbling through. We are always looking for something that makes you think, that starts conversation, and is entertaining.”

Beyond their performances, True Colors hosts education programs for young adults, elementary-age through high school. First, with the Page to the Stage program, True Colors take elementary-aged students, and turn a book into a stage play. The kids then learn the basics of production and putting on a play.

For middle school girls, there’s Act Like a Lady, working with young women who might need a little extra support. The 7th and 8th grade ladies talk about issues currently affecting their lives, and put these emotions and thoughts into a play, letting their artistic expressions aid in social-emotional learning. The August Wilson Monologue Competition is open to all Georgia high school students, and encourages participants to perform a 1-3 minute monologue from August Wilson. The top three performers receive a scholarship and a chance to compete in New York City against winners from across the country.

Individuals can buy tickets to upcoming performances and learn more about educational opportunities at the True Colors website at www.truecolorstheatre.org.

To listen to the full episode, click here.