From Homeless to Hopeful

For the last 80 years, The Atlanta Mission has served those who need it most, seeking to transform the lives of the homeless.

Every day serving more than 1,000 homeless men, women, and children, the Mission provides critical wraparound services to the homeless population of Atlanta.

“We’ve spent a lot of time over the last five to six years doing best practice work and looking at what the real fundamental issues of the people we get the privilege to serve each day,” said Jim Reese, CEO of the Mission.

“A big challenge for the homeless and the many people we see on the street is that they’ve reached a place of hopelessness,” Reese added. “When you reach a place of hopeless, you are kind of frozen.”

Reese said that the Mission tries to get the people they serve from a place of hopelessness to help. This can be difficult for many reasons, including a lack of relationships and a support system for those who are homeless.

Started in 1938 as the Atlanta Union Mission, the nonprofit originally operated on a $10,000 budget with 20 beds, serving only men. In 2010, they officially changed their name to the Atlanta Mission, and now serve 1,000 people a day across four campuses.

“The goal of the Mission is to get you stabilized and get you the emergency needs you need,” Reese said.

In the short-term, this looks like shelter, and a variety of day services like laundry and showers. From there, the Mission tries to build relationships with their clients, to encourage them to “choose help” over hopelessness.

“We are not prescribing for you what you need, but helping you discover what your needs are,” Reese said.

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Clients work with ambassadors through this process, and are able to take part in programming through the Mission, like art therapy and conflict management classes.

From there, the goal is to move clients into the “make progress” phases. Focusing on their physical, emotional, spiritual, social, and vocational well-being, the Mission helps them build individual plans and goals. Clients work directly with a social worker, counselor, and an advocate to receive wraparound services.

The Mission hopes for three outcomes through this work: that the individuals become rooted in their community, that they can retain employment, and that they are able to secure housing. The Mission also helps their clients by offering work or service assignments, getting them comfortable with working on a team. In these controlled environments, their counselors can monitor their work and progress.

The nonprofit relies on the support of individuals and corporate partners to continue their work. To learn more about donating, or how to volunteer, visit www.atlantamission.org.

“There is nothing that will impact your life like serving the people that God gives us the privilege to help,” Reese said.

Pebble Tossers: creating a ripple and a tradition of giving back

In his University of Cape Town speech in South Africa in 1966, Robert F. Kennedy told students that “each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”

Here in Atlanta, the nonprofit organization Pebble Tossers is sending out these ripples.

Started nearly ten years ago, the youth service organization connects kids and families with age-appropriate service opportunities throughout metro-Atlanta. Jen Guynn co-founded the group after noticing a lack of options for the whole family to give back.

“It can be hard to find opportunities to get kids engaged,” she said. “I have three kids and trying to find activities that we can do together was difficult.”

Many nonprofits, she said, saw kids as a liability or a hazard. Pebble Tossers started creating projects suitable for kids, provided all the volunteers and the supplies, and proposed them to area nonprofits.

Now 16,000 volunteers strong, Pebble Tossers produce an annual volunteer value of more than $1,183,000, hosting nearly 100 volunteer projects every year.

Interested families can visit the Pebble Tossers website to find upcoming volunteer opportunities and sign up. Soon, the site will switch to a membership model, which will allow individuals to create an account and track their hours. There are options ranging from animals, to the arts, to helping with the elderly, to homelessness, and veterans.

“If you’re interested in it, we’ve got projects,” Guynn said.

Each volunteer event includes an informational, education portion, which highlights the benefits of the project, and the mission of the nonprofit organization.

Pebble Tossers works with 111 different nonprofits across Atlanta, and have developed strong relationships with their partners. Each month, the group focuses on a different theme, with April being devoted to the environment. Activities will coordinate with Earth Day and Global Youth Service Day. In May, Pebble Tossers will focus on veterans and moms, for Mother’s Day.

The name “Pebble Tossers” comes from that concept of creating a ripple. Volunteering not only creates a ripple for the organizations and communities involved, but for the individual families, as well.

Kids who start volunteering with their families at a young age are more likely to continue giving back as they get older, and those who have grown up with the program are now looking for opportunities all on their own. One former Pebble Tossers volunteer, now in college, manages her school’s Adopt a Grandparent program.

“It’s a way for parents to pass on those values and instill them in kids at an early age,” Guynn said. “We want to create lifelong volunteers.”

“It’s opening kids’ minds to see opportunities that are out there,” she added.

For more information, families and organizations can go to www.pebbletossers.org.

Gigi’s House: providing love without strings or sacrifice

Home to the world’s busiest airport, countless convention, and a burgeoning entertainment industry, Atlanta, unfortunately, provides the perfect-storm of opportunity for sex trafficking.

Called, she says, to do her part, Gigi’s House founder Sabrina Crawford has created a safe haven for formerly trafficked girls in the metro area. Providing a space for these girls to escape their situations and get their life back on track, Gigi’s House plays a key role in combatting the trafficking epidemic.

“I knew there was something inside of me that was just on fire to help these girls, and just mentoring them wasn’t enough,” she added. “Once you know that these girls are out on the street, you have to do something. You can’t just sit back and do nothing.”

A former CASA (court appointed special advocate) guardian, Crawford said she saw the problem firsthand, and noticed that the foster system was not always the best place for a girl just out of trafficking.

“I think seeing what the kids going through in the foster system helped me with this home,” she said. “It’s so much for than just being someone’s mom when you have the level of trauma that these girls had. There is no way they can get where they need to be as a young adult without going through the trauma-informed therapy. They have to work through their past issues.”

This trauma, Crawford said, typically includes sexual abuse from within the family of the girl. 95%, she said, have been abused before being trafficked.

“You can’t just put them in a home and expect that they are going to change,” she said. “They don’t know how. They have to be prepared to be independent.”

Now with a ten-room house, Crawford’s organization offers life-skills and a safe space for trafficked girls ages 13-19. The house in single-sex, and girls are homeschooled while they live there. This is important, Crawford says, as this added attention to their specific needs, away from the distractions of the school, helps with their long-term success.

The one-home model, in comparison to traditional foster care, is beneficial to the girls’ recovery, Crawford said. Here, they are able to work with professionals trained in trauma, and aren’t as susceptible to the shame they might feel in an integrated setting. Arming these girls with the practical and emotional skills and tools they need to succeed in the real world, Gigi’s House provides a crucial transformational zone.

With such a high need, Crawford hopes to expand her services to care for more girls. She would love to open a second home, and an independent living home for girls over the age of 19. Here, they will still have the support system, but not as many rules.

“It’s allowing them to start making decisions on their own, but with support staff there with them,” she said.

Those interested in supporting the organization can visit www.gigishouseatl.org or attend one of their upcoming events, including a 5k, a golf outing, and a “Come Together” event, featuring keynote speaker Annie Downs, and award-winning recording artist Meredith Andrews. The concert will be held on Friday, March 23 at Community Bible Church. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at communitybible.church.

Special Offers

Have you shopped at our Flat Shoals, Buford, Tucker and Roswell stores lately? If not, you are in for a special surprise! Shop these locations now through January 31 for a special discount. Continue to check the “Offers” section on our Facebook page for additional promotions in the future. As always, thank you for supporting our mission to put people to work.

Tucker Store:

$10 Off

Buford Store:

Buford

Roswell Store:

Roswell

Flat Shoals Store:

Flat Shoals

Support and Guidance for Students Without Mothers

Navigating the college-entry process can be a struggle for even the most informed and prepared student. With seemingly endless paperwork and costs that add up quick, it can be a tricky time for a young adult.

Trickier, still, if that young student doesn’t have a mother to help guide them through. Luckily for them, Atlanta’s Students Without Mothers nonprofit offers support and scholarships for students in the 21-county metro area who don’t have a mother in the home.

Started by Mary Torrence Williams in 2004, the organization provides financial assistance and life-skills for students who need a little extra adult guidance.

“Not having their mom just makes it really difficult to transition from high school to college,” Williams said. “There are so many questions and things that your mom would normally figure out for you. Most of the students we help are the first in their family to go to college, so there’s nobody who can help. There’s a lot that they need to get ready for this next big step in their lives.”

The nonprofit’s scholarship program holds an application period from September to January, and is open to high school juniors. While any students in this age group are encouraged to apply, priority is given to those living with a guardian whose annual income is less than $50,000 a year. The scholarship totals $4,000, which is disbursed in four $1,000 annual payments throughout the student’s college experience. To continue to receive the award, students must annually meet the scholarship’s standards.

Scholarship recipients are officially awarded in their senior year, after completing the groups Life Coaching Program. The Students Without Mothers’ Life Coaching Program helps provide additional support for students during this time of great transition in their lives. Working with Atlanta’s Gifted Education Foundation, the organization offers students the opportunity to work on important life skills training. The training sessions help students figure out how to choose a major, how to choose a college, how to deal with conflict resolution, and other important life challenges.

Students who receive the scholarship also receive a new or refurbished laptop for college. Computers are often a cost-prohibitive item for students coming from low-income families, and this additional resource will help on their college quest. Scholarship recipients are also awarded gift cards to help offset the costs that come even before starting their first college class: school supplies, dorm and room needs, and even personal items.

Since its inception in 2004, the organization has helped 72 students. Williams said that much of their success comes from the help and dedication of the nonprofit’s board. “I think the biggest area that we’ve grown is in our board members and board commitment,” she said. “They all share the passion and mission for the organization and they are all devoted to making this happen. It is because of their commitment that we have been able to grow and continue to help students.”

To help sustain their work in providing financial support for students, including scholarship funding, computers, and gift cards, the nonprofit is always looking for more donors and supporters. For more information on how you can give to the organization, or if you know a student eligible for the scholarship, www.studentswithoutmothers.org.

The Nanny Manny Brigade: Giving Love and Quality Time to Atlanta’s Foster Children

For children in the foster care system, life can be difficult. There are many hoops jump and waiting periods to go through before they are placed in a stable foster home.

This includes lots of time, potentially, spent at the Department of Family and Children Services. Not really a welcoming and fun environment for a child, they can often be left lonely and bored.

The Nanny/Manny Brigade recognized this, and decided to take action. Working with a slew of volunteers, the Nanny/Manny Brigade spends time with foster children waiting at DFCS. Playing games, spending time outside, and planning fun activities, the volunteers give the children the attention they need and deserve.

“Our main goal is to make them feel like somebody is paying attention to them,” said Pam Ritchie, coordinator of the organization. “They help get their mind off what’s going on in their life.”

This includes making sure children are occupied and entertained during high-stress meetings and phone calls, like child behavioral and needs conversations. The nanny/mannies work to create a positive environment for the children, especially as they go through intake, court proceedings, and any trainings with their new foster parents.

This year, the group is hosting a celebration for Cobb County’s foster and adopted children, dubbed “Princess for a Day.” The event will take place on February 18 from 12-5pm at the Smyrna Community Center.

At the event, children can take part in princess pampering, including full-service hair, makeup, and nails. They’ll also be treated to a princess outfit and fun accessories to make sure they feel like royalty. The party will include food, dancing, and appearances by “real” princesses and princes. All the children will get to take part in a fun photo shoot.

Nanny-Manny Brigade solicits event sponsors, princess sponsors, and dress donations. Sponsors at the $2,500 level receive logo placement in event materials and signage at the event. Room sponsorships are also available for $300, and organizations can select from the Makeover Room, Wardrobe Room, Ballroom, and more.

The event will also need donations of fairy wands and crowns, costume jewelry, and materials to make portable dressing rooms. Volunteers are also needed to help put together princess sashes and flip flops. More information can be found on the organization’s website.

To volunteer with the Nanny/Manny Brigade, individuals must submit to a drug screening and background check. Anyone over the age of 18 can sign-up, and then must take an orientation class.

For more information on the organization, visit their website at http://nannybrigade2015.wixsite.com/nannymannybrigade.

Tips for Year End Donations

Year-end giving is almost here, which means it’s time to prepare your donations! Last year, we served more than 100,000 donors between December 26th and December 31st. As this busy time of the year approaches, keep these tips in mind when you donate.

Don’t wait to donate – Due to an increase in donations during the end of the year, the earlier you make your donation, the better. Not only will you be able to get your charitable contribution in before the 2017 tax year cutoff, which is December 31, there’s a good chance you’ll avoid waiting in lines.

Do your research – Before donating, know how your donations benefit the community. Not all thrift stores are charities, and some for-profit companies solicit donations under the name of charities while giving them little or none of the proceeds. At Goodwill of North Georgia, we proudly operate our own stores and donation centers, which directly fund job training programs and employment services right here in North Georgia. See how your donations make a difference in our community, here.

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Clear your clutter – One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to organize and declutter. Why not start completing that New Year’s resolution early by cleaning out the clutter? If you’ve ever wondered what to do with outgrown clothing, books you’ve read thousands of times, old CDs and DVDs, excess kitchen appliances, various household items and even computers, consider donating them to Goodwill. Not only will donating these items clear out your cluttered space, they will also impact your local community.

Double check – Before donating the items that once cluttered your space, double check for items you plan to keep! Pant pockets, drawers and even books can serve as holding places for things we don’t immediately need. It is the season of giving, but make sure you don’t donate something by mistake.

Remember your receipt – To receive a tax deduction, be sure to keep a record of what you donate and its value. It’s easier than you may think. Check out our donation tracker to keep track of donations you’ve made throughout the year. Once you’ve registered a donation in the system, you can access an electronic receipt at any time.

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To find a donation center near you, visit goodwillng.org/locations. As always, thank you for donating in support of our mission to put people to work.

Fair and just representation under the law with Gideon’s Promise

The 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that defendants unable to pay for legal representation must be provided on by the state. This landmark decision was the birth of the public defender’s system in the United States, and created a momentous shift in the criminal justice system.

To honor that decision, and to ensure all public defenders were informed, engaged, and encouraged as attorneys, Gideon’s Promise was founded. Started in 2007, the nonprofit works with public defenders across the country to train, mentor and support them to provide quality representation to individuals who can’t afford attorneys.

While working with attorneys directly, Gideon’s Promise wants to shift current cultural perceptions, especially as they pertain to people of limited means. By supporting the grueling work of public defenders, Gideon’s Promise hopes to change the way defendants are processed through the system.

The organization is also trying to do their part in stopping mass incarceration. According to their website, since the Gideon v. Wainwright case was tried in 1963, the prison population in the United States has gone from 217,000 to 2.3 million, even though there has been a decrease in crime rates.

To combat these growing numbers, Gideon’s Promise is making it personal. “We felt like who better to partner with than public defenders who help tell the story of their clients, their client’s significance, their importance, and why we should advocate for people who have no voice in court,” said Ilham Askia, Gideon’s Promise Executive Director.

This partnership starts by acknowledging the demanding workload for public defenders. While the American Bar Association suggests that attorneys take on no more than 150 cases each year, the average public defender tried between 250 and 300. Gideon’s Promise works with young, new attorneys to make sure they are prepared for the work ahead of them.

To achieve its goals, Gideon’s Promise has multiple programs. The New Public Defender Program works with attorneys with less than three years of experience, providing them with comprehensive training and support for the first three years of their career.

To create a pipeline of new public defenders, Gideon’s Promise’s Summer Law Clerk Program attracts and recruits current law students interested in public defense. Each student is paired with a partner law firm for a 6-10 week summer training program.

Askia said their ideal public defender candidates are students already interested in the specialty.

“You have the heart-set, mind-set, soul-set to really do this work,” she said. “You have to really want to change and make a difference in the lives of people.”

“Law school tends to strip the humanity out of it,” she said. “You are learning about the law, but at the end of the day, you are representing people. So when we go into recruit, we try to remind them of that. When you talk about public defense, it takes a special breed of lawyer to do this work.”

For more information on Gideon’s Promise, including how to become a Summer Clerk Program partner firm, go to www.gideonspromise.org, or check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

How will you give this year?

Join the #GAGivesDay and #GivingTuesday movement! On Tuesday, November 28, charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity.

There are many ways that people choose to give, such as making a financial contribution or volunteering their time at a local community-based organization. There are other ways to donate, too, like offering your time and skills to a food pantry or donating items to your local Goodwill. For the latter of those options, gently-used household goods will generate revenue to support employment and job training programs for people in the community. When you donate and when you shop, your actions help us put people to work. In fact, for every one donation, Goodwill is able to provide one hour of job training.

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No matter how you choose to give this holiday season, remember that November 28 is a great day to get started. Find the right way for your family, community, company or organization to come together to give something more, then share how you are giving and inspire others to also give.

To make a financial contribution to Goodwill of North Georgia, visit https://www.gagives.org/c/GGD/a/goodwillng

Love Rolls: Providing Comfort and Care for Atlanta’s Homeless

It’s fairly common to hear about seasoned CEOs and company leaders and their successful business and nonprofit ventures. It’s not every day, though, that one of these success stories comes from the mind of a high school sophomore.

Such is the case, though, for the burgeoning nonprofit Love Rolls, and its founder, Atlanta High School student Kendall Robinson.

What started as a project for the 2015 Youth Summit quickly turned into a passion project for Robinson, as she saw firsthand the difficulties Atlanta’s homeless population endured while living on the street. While handing out goods, including toilet paper, at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, she encountered a homeless man who confided in her his need for the item.

“He was so grateful to receive it because normally he would have to ration out one roll for one month,” Robinson said. “I was completely shocked.”

This simple request for an item so often taken for granted sparked an idea for Robinson. Since then, the group has transformed from a small coalition of Robinson’s family and friends to a collaboration with large donor organizations, including Procter and Gamble (Charmin), Kimberly-Clark (Scott Brand), and even Chick-fil-A.

Distributing more than 100,000 rolls of toilet paper to Atlanta’s homeless population, Love Rolls has started a movement for the community, holding toilet paper drives and filling up a warehouse space to store the rolls for distribution.

Individuals can either come to the warehouse for pick-up or come to one of the many outreach events where Love Rolls hands out the toilet paper.

Love Rolls has also extended beyond the Atlanta-metro area, and has made multiple out-of-state distributions, to Florida, Louisiana, and New Jersey, to name a few. Their goal for 2017 is to make even more trips outside of Atlanta to distribute the toilet paper.

The organization has helped countless individuals, but Robinson said one specific man, whom she met during a distribution at Hurt Park, left an impression.

“He said ‘Finally, somebody thought that we might need this,’” she remembered. “It made me realize that I am out here doing the right thing and I am helping people, and they are grateful for what they are receiving.”

Robinson says she couldn’t do the work without all the support from her family and friends. Love Rolls was only supposed to be a one-week drive, but turned into something much bigger. The word of mouth and community support have also enabled the organization to host their recent fundraising 5K, which included fun and games for participants, raffles and door prizes, and food trucks and a movie viewing.

“It was only because of the help of family and friends and getting the word out,” she said.

For more information on the organization, including how to volunteer or donate, individuals can visit www.loverolls.org.