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.

From Breakdown to Breakthrough

In 1973, Rickie Parker was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a life-changing physical disability. “My left leg and arm were amputated and I knew it was going to be tough,” Parker says.

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His road to recovery began with regular visits to his local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (VR). Though he had regular appointments scheduled, Parker struggled to attend them consistently. “I was a disappearing act for a while. I wanted to work again. I love working, but employers saw me as limited,” he says. Faced with doubt and lack of confidence, Parker hit a low point in his life.

“I became homeless and knew I needed to make a change,” Parker says. With the courage to turn his life around, Parker was referred by his VR counselor to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Workforce Development Program, offered at the organization’s Cartersville career center. While enrolled in the program, Parker learned various skills that aided his re-entry into the workforce. He worked in Goodwill’s Cartersville store where his skill level and work ethic were evaluated. Throughout this process, he regained his confidence, rebuilt his stamina and strengthened his communication skills. “I remember thinking, I can really do this,” he says. Parker secured employment as a Garden Center Attendant at Home Depot, where he enjoys greeting people, tending to the plants and simply going to work each day.

From a life-changing accident to a life-changing experience, Parker found hope in himself again. “I couldn’t have done it without Goodwill,” he says. “They believed in me, counseled me and went the extra mile for me.” Less than a year ago, Parker believed he would not be able to work again. With help from Goodwill, he broke through barriers and landed his life on the right track.

After successfully completing the Workforce Development program in 2017, Parker was invited to speak at his graduation ceremony as an inspiration to his fellow graduates. “Being able to speak at the graduation ceremony and look at all of the graduates was an experience I will never forget,” he says. Now a role model for job seekers, a graduate and a homeowner Parker knows the sweetest success comes after the greatest defeat.

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!

Call it a Comeback

Success Story Template (5)Some of Brian Bennett’s past mistakes were the only thing standing in the way of him finding work. He has a criminal background, and needed a company willing to look beyond his record to allow him the chance to prove himself. As he searched for ways to start the next chapter in his life, Bennett heard about Goodwill of North Georgia’s Welding program.

While enrolled in the program Bennett’s training was two-fold. He gained hands-on training at CSX Railroad Education and Development Institute, completing nearly 100 hours of welding training. Through the program Goodwill staff also helped him refine his job readiness skills, such as how to address gaps in his employment history on a résumé. Upon completion of the program there was no question that Bennett was a desirable job applicant, criminal record or not.

Now a pipe cutter at Cobb Industrial, he has proven himself time and time again as a stand-out employee. Bennett operates a forklift and industrial equipment with ease. He shows up on time every morning and he stays until each job is complete and completed correctly. “Brian is a great employee,” says Mike Hrib, president of Cobb Industrial. “He’s doing very well and he has a good attitude.” Constantly learning on the job and looking for new ways to help the company, Bennett is eager to contribute and to make up for lost time.

Bennett’s workplace successes have translated into areas outside of his new job, too. He shared with Goodwill staff that his new job helped him and his family have one of the best holiday seasons they have ever experienced. “I cannot thank Goodwill enough,” says Bennett. “I knew that I had to make a change in my life to get where I wanted to be, and it all started with Goodwill.” Prepared to work hard, stay focused and seek out a strong support network, he is a perfect example of the resounding impact of a second chance.

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.

Goodwill Donation Do’s and Don’ts

Donations

When you donate to Goodwill of North Georgia, you’re supporting our mission to put people to work. Revenue generated by your gently-used household goods supports 13 local career centers and tob training and placement services in industries ranging from logistics to retail. In fact, donors like you will allow us to put 23,000 people to work this year!

do's and don'ts

Next time you feel inspired to donate, there are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you head to Goodwill. Here are some tips:

•    Don’t wait to donate. Clutter today will be clutter tomorrow. If you are ready to clear some space in the closet, carpe diem! There will always be reasons to put off a trip to your local donation center, but there is no better feeling than giving back while simplifying your life. Find the Goodwill donation center nearest you at goodwillng.org/locations.

•    Do your homework. 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. “We operate our own stores and donation centers, which directly fund Goodwill job training programs and employment services right here in North Georgia. If consumers can’t clearly see how their donations benefit the community, they might want to think twice donating to that organization,” says Summer Dunham, director of PR for Goodwill.

•    Do double check. The last thing you want to do is donate something you planned to keep. Pant pockets, desk drawers, suitcases and even books can serve as holding places for things we don’t immediately need. “Give each item a good check before adding it to the donations pile, and if you’re packing up items for someone else, be sure they’ve removed anything they intended to hang on to.” For families with little ones, make sure the items they aren’t quite ready to let go of don’t accidentally fall into the donation pile.

•    Don’t forget your receipt. Donations made to Goodwill are tax deductible. Just be sure to keep a record of what you donate and its value. “With our Donation Tracker, it’s easier than ever for you to keep track of donations you’ve made throughout the year. Don’t worry about hanging on to paper donation receipts. Once you’ve registered a donation in our system, you can access an electronic receipt at any time and print an annual summary.”

Happy donating, and thanks for your support!