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.

Goodwill Week 2018 Schedule: May 6-12

From May 6 – 12, Goodwill organizations across the country will host a variety of events aimed at thanking those who support them and recognizing those they serve. Here is what’s in store for Goodwill of North Georgia:

Week Long Event
Each of our 13 career centers will host job fairs throughout the week. See the calendar below for locations.

Monday, May 7 – Thank You Notes
Career center visitors can tell us why they’re thankful for Goodwill by posting a thank you note in each location. There will also be a hashtag (#GoodwillWeekATL) for Facebook and Twitter followers who wish to share their message digitally.
Job Fairs: East Athens, Oakwood and Stockbridge* Career Centers

Tuesday, May 8 – Donor Appreciation Day
We love our donors. We will share a sweet treat with donors as they make a donation that makes our mission to put people to work possible.
Job Fairs: Cornelia, Smyrna and South DeKalb Career Centers

Wednesday, May 9 –  Shopper Appreciation Day
Shoppers will enjoy 25% off a purchase of $25 or more as a thank you for their support of
our mission.
Job Fairs: Duluth, Dawsonville, Northeast Plaza, Rome and Woodstock Career Centers

Thursday, May 10 –  Influencer Event
Join fashion blogger and thrifting expert Keren Charles at our Tucker store as she helps shoppers navigate our aisles to put together stylish looks for less.
Job Fairs: Cartersville and Decatur Career Centers

Friday, May 11 –  Employee Appreciation Day
All Goodwill employees will have a “sweet” celebration as a token of thanks for all they do to help put people to work!

* Note: The Stockbridge job fair will take place with the City of Stockbridge at Merle Manders Conference Center (111 Davis Rd, Stockbridge, GA 30281) from 10AM-2PM.

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.

A safe place for the whole family at The Drake House

Women and children make up more than 40% of Atlanta’s homeless population, contributing to the more than 10,000 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Finding a safe place for these families to stay can be a challenge, and even more so if the family includes a son age 12 or older. In Atlanta, these boys are typically required to stay in an all men’s facility.

From a need to help keep families intact, and to offer them a stable living environment where they can get back on their feet, The Drake House was born. Founded in 2004, The Drake House is a 16-unit housing program for single mothers who come from North Fulton communities.

The home is located on a MARTA line, allowing kids easy access to their current schools, and provides adequate space for the whole family to stay.

Programming at the house includes mentorship, tutoring, and support for the kids and the mothers. Mothers must be employable or already employed to be eligible. They must live in the community, and the kids must be enrolled in school in the North Fulton area.

Housing must also be the number one priority for the mothers. Once admitted into the house, they work with social workers to outline a personal empowerment plan, and then are held accountable to their goals. Every Monday, mothers are required to attend a life-skills class, which covers a variety of topics like prioritizing needs over wants, household budgeting, making better decisions, and boundary setting.

“We give them the tools and education to help them better manage not only their money, but their lives,” said Kathy Swahn, Executive Director of The Drake House.

Mothers are also required to meet every week with their social worker and a career coach. The Drake House partners with local businesses to provide employment opportunities, and the women must save the money they would otherwise be paying in rent and food costs (all provided at the house).

“That’s a critical goal so they have a nest egg when they graduate from our program to hopefully have enough for a deposit for next-step housing,” Swahn said.

The nonprofit recently acquired another property of 16 units for mothers who have gone through the full program to transition after living in the Drake House. Here, they can pay under-market rent, and must set up utilities in their own name and establish some good credit. This gives families the opportunity for up to 24-months of under-market rent housing and additional services.

Swahn said these services provided are crucial for helping moms and families get back on their feet. “When the moms finally get into the Drake House and unpack their bags, they can take a breath,” she said. “They can sit down with the trained staff, and chip away at layers and layers of trauma.”

“We sit down and say, ‘let’s rediscover your strengths and build your confidence,’” she added. The job readiness programs at the house include resume development, mock interviews, outfitting for work, and babysitters onsite to watch the kids while the mothers are in training. With an average stay of 142, moms who go through the programming see a 45-60% increase in monthly wages.

To learn more about the organization, including details on their upcoming Miss Mary’s Ice Cream fundraiser on August 26th, visit www.thedrakehouse.org.

A Savory Solution

Nothing ignites passion in Orlena Stocks quite like food. For her, food is almost a universal language, whether she is discussing it, preparing it or enjoying it. “I love to cook because I learned it through my mom from the age of six,” she says. “When you cook, you have to cook with love, because your food tastes like how you feel.” Through cooking she is able to share her talents with others. It seems only fitting that, in some ways, food is what brought Stocks to Goodwill of North Georgia.

Referred to Goodwill’s Smyrna career center through the Department of Family and Child Services Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps), Stocks was looking to fulfill the program’s work requirement. While in an information session at the career center she found that she could do more than that. Through Goodwill’s Hospitality program, Stocks realized she might finally be able to pursue her dream career of becoming a chef. “They didn’t look at it just as a job – they said a career,” she says of Goodwill’s staff. “[Goodwill’s program] would also assist me with job readiness skills and job placement after I completed the training.”April (2)

Before coming to Goodwill Stocks faced many setbacks in her life, including an abusive relationship and a run-in with the law. For a while she settled on working temporary positions at warehouses. Her heart wasn’t in those jobs, though, and health challenges started impacting her ability to accept those positions. The work wasn’t consistent either, which made it difficult to stay on top of paying the bills.

When Stocks enrolled in Goodwill’s Hospitality program she was ready for a major change. For six weeks she received hands-on training at a local hotel, learning to balance speed and quality in her work. She also worked with Goodwill’s staff on soft skills, such as how to interview for jobs and perfect her résumé. She excelled in the program.

After graduating from the program Stocks got a chef and prep cook position at SunTrust Park. “I work for the Braves stadium,” she smiles. “It’s a huge building and we feed thousands and thousands of people.” Finally, in a position to earn a living doing something she loves, Stocks speaks highly of Goodwill’s training program and its role in helping her realize her goal. She is gaining valuable experience every day and already has a vision for her future. Her next move: opening a restaurant of her own.

A coalition of support for domestic violence victims

Since 1980, the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence (GCADV), has provided critical resources and advocacy for domestic violence survivors across the state. The organization was

“Our mission is to collaborate, advocate, educate, and empower,” said Sheena Morris, Director of Community Engagement and Public Policy. “We strive to achieve this mission in a number of ways, such as training, domestic violence programs, community-based organizations, businesses, education to community groups, and public policy advocacy.”

The group prides itself on its rich history of grassroots work, and, since its beginning, has expanded their scope and outreach to broaden their programming and the diversity of those they serve.

“We’ve really grown in bringing in the larger ‘we’ of community voices into the work of our organization,” Morris said. “All communities are impacted by domestic violence. It knows no socio-economic status, no class, and no race.”

Through their guiding principles of empowerment, safety, social change, and systems accountability, just to name a few, the organization works specifically with domestic violence, in the context of intimate partner violence. This includes those who are dating, sharing the same house, and are or have been married.

GCADV works within the community to provide trainings for domestic violence first-responders, healthcare providers, and individuals. They work on core skills, including danger assessment, safety planning, and population-specific trainings. Currently, they are holding a training on Serving Black and African American Survivors of Domestic Violence, and “Don’t Knock the Hustle,” which talks about the intersections of racism and oppression on domestic violence.

For those in need of immediate support, GCADV provides holistic services to help victims of domestic violence. This includes a 24-hour hotline and a rapid-rehousing initiative, which helps find victims safe housing. With their Child and Youth Project, GCADV works with kids who have been exposed to situations of domestic violence.

They are also very active in lobbying efforts, and are currently busy advocating in the Georgia Legislature. HB 834, which will allow survivors to break a lease early if they need to flee an unsafe living environment, is of top-priority for the GCADV. The group seeks modifications and improvements to any systems or programs that relate to domestic violence. Action alerts are sent out to the group’s supporters to get engaged when an important issue is on the table.

Up next for the group is the 2018 Race for Empowerment, to be held at Piedmont Park on April 29. Proceeds will support the organization’s mission.

The coalition can be found online at www.gcadv.org. The organization is always in need of financial support, community volunteers, and program membership participants. Those in need of immediate assistance can call the hotline at 1-800-334-2836.

Forging a New Future

Australian Actress and Director Rachel Griffiths is quoted saying, “There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.” On Tyeisha Marshall’s eighth year of a 20-year sentence at Arrendale State Prison, she was ready for a comeback. But in order to take full advantage of her second chance she knew she would need a job, which would be difficult to land with a criminal background.

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Marshall was referred to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Welding program, a work-based learning program hosted in collaboration with North Georgia Technical College and sponsored by Georgia Mountains Regional Commission Workforce Development. The program is designed to equip participants like Marshall with industry-recognized welding skills along with soft skills, such as workplace etiquette.

“Everything about the program was surprising,” she says. “I learned that I like welding, which is something I never thought I would do. I wasn’t the type of girl who worked with power tools or did manual labor.” This changed as Marshall learned the ins and outs of welding, added new skills to her résumé and learned how to interview with an employer. Welding was more than a new skill; it was Marshall’s ticket to a comeback.

Upon graduation of the program Marshall was hired as a welder for Fanello Industries, Inc. Her co-workers helped show her the ropes, and she wields a welding gun with confidence. One thing she loves about her job is the family-like atmosphere – she says someone is always there to help her if she needs it and her colleagues are very friendly and supportive.

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Marshall is already planning her next career move, hoping to advance her welding techniques with additional courses at North Georgia Technical College. “I never thought I would do something like this because I’m kind of girly,” she laughs. “But I really like it here. This company rewards hard work and I’ve already earned a raise. I want to see how far I can go.” Crediting a combination of soft skills and technical skills for her new career path, Marshall is eager to take full advantage of her second chance. The embodiment of a comeback, she is embracing a new life and a promising career head-on.

Spring Cleaning with a Thrifty Twist

Spring is a time for second chances or fresh starts. Want to have a little fun with spring cleaning this year? Check out these five thrifty organization ideas to help tackle your messy house.

  1. Spice up your office supplies and give an empty spice container a second chance by using it as a fun storage piece for your office needs!Spice Storage
  2. Did you know lamp shades can double as baskets? Find a unique design at your local Goodwill and transform your playroom into an organized living space! Lampshade basket
  3. Glass jars can be used for storing almost anything. From craft supplies to snack foods, these handy jars can be found at almost any Goodwill anytime of the year! Have fun mixing up what their purpose is and find out just how multi-functional they are.
    Jars
  4. Another commonly found item in Goodwill stores are milk glasses. These glasses can serve as a unique, yet functional storage pieces for your jewelry items.Plant jewelry holders
  5. Gift bags are not an every day household item, however they are easily collected and can still be stored in an organized fashion. Use file folder organizers as your gift bag storage solution.
    office organizer

Blue Girls Turned Gold

For Myesha Collins, Blue Girls Turned Gold has been a passion project that she’s been dreaming up for a long time.

“It’s always been an idea because of where I came from, as far as not having resources as a woman and a young teen mom,” she said. “It’s always been a s51Te175vwNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_eed, but I never knew how to get it to fruition.”

Now a reality, Collins works with women to help them find these resources and support they need as they navigate through life.

“I’m offering them the opportunity to be braver and see how much power you have within yourself.”

Collins said the seed was planted for her after she became a mom at 15. “Having that responsibility at that age and not having the education and experience was difficult,” she said. “Having this extra responsibility made me know that I had to go harder because it wasn’t all about me anymore.”

Collins joined the military, but was sexually assaulted within the first six months. She said this left her feeling emotionally stuck, and like she was responsible for the bad things that happened.

“I had to learn a lot of lessons, the hard way,” she said. “I want to shorten those lessons for a lot of people.”

The nonprofit works with local women to help them turn from “blue” to “gold.” This is the process, Collins said, of going from not knowing to knowing how great you are. The group helps women empower themselves and gives them resources to make it through life’s struggles and challenges.

“Experiences shape who you are but they do not dictate who you become,” Collins said.

To aid in this work, Collins also recently put together an ebook, called Blue Girl Turns Gold. Along with eight other women and one man, the book shares stories of hardships and resilience, and finding the strength within one’s self to overcome.

“It was therapeutic for me, but I also knew so many women who had the stories,” she said. “It is empowering to see them empowered, and to me, that’s what it is all about.”

“I was looking outside for answers, for support, for encouragement, when all that was within me along with a higher power,” Collins said. “Experiences will occur, how you move forward is all that matters.”

Her organization is also partnering with the Genius is Common movement, to let everyone know they have genius within them. “Everybody starts out with a genius in them, you just have to figure out what the genius is,” Collins said. “It’s getting back to that seed that is already in us and really nurturing that.”

Up next, Collins and Blue Girls Turned Gold will host a Genius is Common Empowerment workshop on Saturday, March 31. Attendees will be lead in conversations on the genius that is inside of them. The group will go through a series of activities and discussions, and light refreshments will be provided. The session is for all ages, but geared toward boys and girls ages nine and up.

For more information on the organization and their upcoming events, find them online at www.bluegirlsturnedgold.org, or Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Goodwill’s C3: combining college and career for long-term success

With a goal of assisting 50,000 individuals this year, and placing 24,000 in jobs, Goodwill of North Georgia has all hands on deck to help people find new or better employment.

One of the many ways they are getting the job done? C3: College Career Catalyst.

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Individuals enrolled in C3 enroll in a college or credential program while working with Goodwill to receive additional support and placement help. Working with Goodwill, they participate in skills and professional development trainings while also attending post-secondary courses.

Ashia Walker, one of C3’s Navigators (who help applicants with the program and college), said the work they do with the students is all-encompassing, ensuring success.

“Our job is to help any of our participants who are enrolled in programs with post-secondary education,” Walker said. “That includes helping them figure out where they want to go to school, what they want to study, and helping them get their applications done.”

Once they get into school, the assistance continues through the first semester, making sure they can navigate the campus and their classes. From there, after completing their educational program, Goodwill helps them get a job.

“It’s helping people not just find a job, but helping them find post-secondary education or credentials to help them further their career,” Walker said. This includes assistance for those looking to earn more money, get a promotion, or take on a leadership role.

Ideal candidates for the program are those who have gone through a training at Goodwill, or who are referred from one of the many Goodwill partner organizations. Those working with the C3 program often don’t have any family members who have gone through the college process, and need that extra help.

“They don’t even know where to start,” Walker said. “I’ve had students who actually paid for their FAFSA to be completed, not knowing it was a free application.”

Walker has worked with Goodwill for six years, and has encountered a lot of success stories during her time, including a young man who is now enrolled at Chattahoochee Technical College, with hopes of eventually transferring to Kennesaw State University to study marine biology.

Walker calls his parents once a month to check in on the student and his progress. “That makes me happy every month that he’s still in school,” she said. “It’s important to know that somebody cared and that he wasn’t just a number, and somebody is proud of him.”

The C3 program partners with a variety of local technical college partners, including Athens Technical College, Gwinnett Technical College, and North Georgia Technical College.

With 13 career centers and five dedicated navigators, those interested in working with the C3 program can essentially visit any location to be matched with assistance.  For additional information, please visit www.goodwillng.org/collegecareercatalyst.