Georgia Equine Rescue League: Safe and Loving Care for Georgia’s Horses

In the state of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Equine Division manages and enforces laws which protect the equine population. Through a variety of circumstances, including neglect and lack of proper care, horses are often picked up and impounded by the Department while owners undergo prosecution.

Unfortunately, no state funds are given to take care of the horses in these situations. Luckily, the Georgia Equine Rescue League (GERL) has devoted its work to raising fund and resources to provide the horses with the care and services they need. For those animals who need the love and care they deserve, the Georgia Equine Rescue League provides the critical financial and logistical support.

GERL was started with just $100 by two women in 1993. But the organization has grown to provide necessary support to the state’s equine population and the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

In fact, GERL has provided more than $560,000 in essential outreach and care to these horse rescues. This includes medical care and proper nutrition for the more than 170,000 rescue horses found every year.

Horse lovers can do their part in a variety of ways, including through fostering and adoption. GERL relies on 100% on foster homes to take care of the horses once they are removed from abusive or neglectful environments.

Often, horses that are rescued through the Department of Agriculture are found severely malnourished or starved. Through GERL’s “Feed a Horse” program, funds raised go directly toward providing impounded horses the feed and hay they need to both survive and recuperate.

GERL also offers critical law enforcement training to support the officers who encounter horses in need of rescue. These trainings include the basics of handling horses and signs of cruelty. The classes allow officers to interact with live horses, which gives them the opportunity to practice their demeanor and interactions around equines.

Patty Livingston, President of GERL since 2010, has also developed a five-part plan to go beyond just the essentials of basic horse rescue. These five components include:

  • Reduction of reproduction and the promotion of castration
  • Prosecution and the promotion of enforcing equine abuse laws
  • Disposition and the coordination of horse homes
  • Financial services and the need for sustainable funding sources
  • Education of the public and law enforcement agencies

Livingston believes that these five areas will greatly-impact the substantial problem in the state.

“I saw the need to diversify our mission due to the overwhelming number of unwanted horses in our state,” she said. “I realized then that we were never going to fix our horse problems by rescuing.”

GERL can be found on social media at both Facebook and Twitter. For even more information on GERL, visit www.gerlltd.org or call their hotline at 770-464-0138.

Bringing Home Atlanta’s Children

The numbers for child sex trafficking are staggering. In fact, human trafficking is said to be the fastest-growing criminal activity in the country. Within the United States, it is believed that more than 100,000 children are currently being trafficked.

And, unfortunately, there’s a high-prevalence of trafficking taking place in Atlanta. With frequent conventions, large-scale sporting events, and the busiest airport in the world, the city has become a hub for the trafficking industry.

A 2014 Urban Institute study found that trafficking in Atlanta was a $290 million industry. It has been named one of the top 14 U.S. cities with the highest rate of trafficked children. Conservative estimates find that up to 100 girls in the city are abducted every night.

The statistics are heartbrGood Works Show (1)eaking and dire, but thankfully, for the children, and the city of Atlanta, there is hope.

To combat the problem and bring attention to the issue, Genise Shelton started Our Children’s Keeper. In an effort to end what has been called “modern-day slavery,” Shelton and Our Children’s Keeper seek to recover abducted children, help victims rehabilitate, and raise awareness within the community.

“People don’t know that it’s happening in their backyard,” Shelton said. “We have to raise awareness so we can end childhood trafficking here in Atlanta.”

Shelton, who is on Bravo’s reality show Married to Medicine, wanted to capitalize on her platform and exposure to help create awareness for the issue. A mother of six, she was inspired to act for the city’s vulnerable youth.

In her work, Shelton warns that today’s traffickers don’t always fit the stereotype, and that everyone should be on the lookout. While older men are often seen as the culprits, the changing landscape of the issue now includes women, and even recruitment by young peers. Recruitment and abduction can happen anywhere, including in churches, at school, and online. It is important, Shelton says, to recognized the signs of traffickers, and to be on watch for those being trafficked.

Our Children’s Keeper wants to help the public identify these signs, and help children learn the basics of personal safety. The organization provides tools and resources for individuals and communities at large to take action and be more informed.

Most recently, Our Children’s Keeper held their “Bring our Children Home” event, a day full of activities and informational sessions on child trafficking. It included a family fun day, a 5k walk/run, a backpack giveaway, self-defense classes. Law enforcement officials, medical professionals, and family members of trafficking victim also lead a panel discussion to further inform on the issue.

The revenue from the event, and future fundraising efforts will go toward securing a rehabilitation center for formerly trafficked kids, which will include physicians, therapists, a day-care, and employment services.

To learn more, donate, or volunteer with the organization, please visit www.ourchildrenskeeper.org.

Fighting stigma and promoting mental health-literacy at the Lee Thompson Young Foundation

Often, in addition to dealing with the struggles of mental illness, affected individuals must also face the added challenges of misconceptions, misinformation, and misunderstandings about their disease.

The Lee Thompson Young Foundation (LTY) hopes to eliminate those added challenges by encouraging mental health literacy and understanding through education and advocacy. Working with schools, community organizations, and workplaces, LTY provides training and resources to help educate the public.

The organization is named and in honor of Lee Thomspon Young, an actor who appeared in a variety of movie and television roles. Struggling with mental illness for many years, Young never shared his troubles with anyone outside of his family.

This, according to Young’s older sister and LTY Foundation founder Tamu Lewis, is common among those who deal with mental illness.

“I’m sure there are other people in this situation, and we need to work to destigmatize mental illness so people are ok talking about it and they can let their support networks know,” Lewis said. “We are trying to combat the shame that is associated with it.”

In hopes of removing that shame and stigma, the LTY Foundation offers advanced holistic health treatments and strives to improve the lives of all those who are impacted by mental illness. According to LTY, one in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness, but less than half will seek treatment. Through their efforts, LTY hopes to drastically change these numbers.

Through its MIND Program (Making Informed Decisions About Mental Health), LTY works with K-12 Atlanta schools to inform and educate students about mental health. The program includes providing students with effective methods to cope with stressful situations and issues within their own lives.

Lewis said these programs for young people are critical. “They are facing toxic environments: a lot of stress, anxiety, and pressure,” she said. “They feel pressure differently that we did when we were growing up, and feel a lot more.”

LTY also offers the Needs, Emotional Intelligence, Cognitive Behavior program, or NEICB, which provides tools on emotional and resilience training. Participants work through ways to develop healthy coping strategies that promote mental wellness. The program is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and focuses on each component: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

“We know that in life there are going to be challenges and stressors, but when those come up, we want to teach coping strategies and resilience to handle those challenges in a healthy way,” Lewis said.

LTY’s programs have seen great results, and growing participation. Last year, LTY had 784 individuals take part in one of their programs. By June of this year, their programs had already seen 804 participants.

LYT is a great resource for available research on mental health, and offers the latest findings on their website at www.lytfoundation.org. Individuals can also go online to find ways to volunteer and support the organization.

Workforce and Personal Development with the Great Promise Partnership

For the student participants of the Great Promise Partnership, sometimes it’s the promise part that is the most important.

“With Great Promise Partnership, we realized that so many of these young people have had promises broken to them,” said the nonprofit’s President and CEO Mike Beatty. “When we came up with the name, that’s our promise to these young people that no matter what tough situations or where they are coming from, if they the course and stay in the program, then our promise is that we are going to help them really catapult a career that will be there the rest of their lives.”

So, the Partnership strives strive every day to keep these promises, of working with at-risk teens to help them gain real-world job skills and training, all while still earning their high school diploma.

Working with employers across the state, the program provides a qualified workforce for in-need businesses, while mentoring and supporting the student-employees.

Students involved in the program are identified by their home school district as potentially at-risk of dropping out of high school. With the Great Promise Partnership, they themselves promise to take part in the work program, earning a paycheck and learning critical professional skills.

To keep their job, and their end of the bargain, they must continue to go to school. In fact, on the days they don’t go to school, they are not allowed to work. And if they drop out, they lose their job entirely.

“They are motivated to stay in school and graduate,” Beatty said. “There is something magic about earning a paycheck that makes you feel like you are part of society and you are getting things done.”

The organization partners with 35 different companies, and more than 1800 students take part every year. Students typically work 15-20 hours a week–though some work more–all after school. Beatty says that once they graduate from high school, about one third goes on to college, on third goes on to the military, and one third stays working with the company.

A former football coach, Beatty uses a similar coaching approach to prepare these young kids for their jobs and beyond.

“You kind of have to treat this like building a pipeline for a football team,” he said. “You have to get these folks coached up with the fundamentals of being able to go to work. Once they get that confidence, and they walk out on the plant floor, or into the office, they are prepared. They go in there, and they are going to be successful.”

Beatty says the program works, and improves the students’ attendance, discipline, and provides them the opportunity to learn from mentors and tutors.

“When you provide the mentorship, the life skills, and those opportunities, the young people really thrive,” he said. “That little discipline really makes a difference, when they have people around them that really care.”

To learn more about the Great Promise Partnership, including how you can volunteer or get your company involved, visit them online at www.gppartnership.org.

Westside Future Fund: Bringing Renewed Hope and Focus to the Westside of Atlanta

With the pending arrival of the beautiful new Falcon’s stadium coming soon, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, in partnership with the Atlanta Committee for Progress and Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank, decided to capitalize on the renewed focus of Atlanta’s westside.

So, the idea of The Westside Future Fund (WFF)was born, and the nonprofit was officially up and running in December of 2014. WFF was created to bring the city’s top leaders and organizations together to help revitalize and make a positive mark on a once thriving part of Atlanta.

While the community’s population reached above 50,000 in 1960, it currently stands at around 15,000 and the neighborhoods have long been dealing with high instances of crime, poverty, and lack of education.

WFF sees the promise and history of the westside, and is devoting efforts in an all-hands-on-deck way to preserve and protect the neighborhood and its citizens. WFF has prioritized four main focus areas to do this: cradle to career education, health & wellness, mixed-income communities, and public safety.

Through their research and time in the community, WFF has found that these four focus areas will provide a solid foundation for the community, and will create the transformational change.

To assist in quality cradle to career education, WFF is partnering with the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, Westside Works, and the recently opened Hollis Innovation Academy. They hope to create a pipeline of education for students who will continue to college and career, making the Westside a source of promise and potential.

WFF promotes health and wellness through its partnerships with Vine City Park, Families First Resource Center, and the Healing Community Center, in order to promote safe spaces for active lifestyles and resources for residents to receive the care and attention they need.

Mixed-income communities are also a high-priority focus, as WFF seeks to provide quality housing to the citizens of the westside. Hoping to keep current westside citizens in the neighborhood, these mixed-income housing opportunities will allow residents to take pride in their community, all while boosting local businesses and bringing in new people to the area.

In their last area of attention, safety and security, WFF partners with the Secure Neighborhoods Initiative, Westside Blue, and Operation Shield to help residents feel safe in their homes and on their streets.

With continued attention on these four areas of impact, WFF hopes to increase the Westside population by 33%, decrease the number of those living below the poverty line by 10%, and increase employment of those living in the area by 10%.

Individuals can learn more about WFF, how they can get involved, and how they can sign-up for the upcoming Westside Volunteer Corps “Day of Service,” by visiting www.westsidefuturefund.org. The event will be held in partnership with United Way of Greater Atlanta, on August 26 form 9-12, and individuals can sign up and be matched with a number of Atlanta nonprofits to volunteer their time and give back.

Meet Katie: From Anxious to Confident

Stephen Hawking once said, “Quiet people have the loudest minds.” For Katie Crunkleton, Hawking’s quote speaks volumes of truth. “Quiet people are deep and interesting,” says Crunkleton, who is one of 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety, the most common mental illness.IMG_9051

Crunkleton graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in art, but due to her anxiety considered herself to be ‘unemployable.’ “Overcoming anxiety is not easy,” Crunkleton says. She was referred by her doctor to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Workforce Development Program, which eased her transition into the workplace. “I was excited when she recommended the job training at Goodwill,” she says.

She completed mock interviews, learned about the many aspects of retail stores and how to work with others. “Being able to come somewhere everyday gave me a sense of accomplishment and I felt encouraged,” she says. With the help and support of the Cornelia Workforce Development team and Employment Specialist Velma York, Crunkleton secured her first full-time job 15 miles from home as a cashier at Dollar General. While she was relieved to have a job, Crunkleton hoped for a job closer to home. Two months later, she successfully secured full-time employment at Shoe Show in Toccoa. Crunkleton, who once feared job interviews, phone calls and the judgment of others, now confidently interacts with customers and co-workers on a daily basis.

Having worked at Shoe Show for only a year, Crunkleton is now a key holder for the store, a responsibility held only by the manager and herself. Through volunteering at job fairs with the career center staff and other program participants, Crunkleton stepped out of her comfort zone and gained confidence, as well as a community. “I put myself out there and it gave me the feeling of having a job,” she says.

Though her fear of social situations was once much stronger, Crunkleton’s creative and determined mind has remained constant. She has always enjoyed communicating with people through art and creating merchandise displays at Shoe Show is just one way she is able to express her creativity. “Visual merchandising is something that I want to continue learning about,” she says.

Grateful for a larger support system and a full-time job, Crunkleton looks forward to where her career is headed. With hopes of further using the skills obtained from Goodwill and expanding her creativity, Crunkleton dreams of owning an art gallery consisting of her unique paintings and pottery, as well as teaching art classes to the community of Toccoa.

Traveling on Two wheels: The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition

With just one piece of equipment, you can get from point A to point B, explore the city, and even burn some calories. The bike is the perfect accessory for transportation, being outside, and increased health and wellness.

For more than 25 years, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition has been promoting the benefits of the bike, and accessible bikeways to connect riders throughout the city. The organization’s mission is to transform Atlanta into a city where biking is safe, equitable, and appealing.

While Atlanta is often known for its packed highways and heavy traffic, residents also have the option of traveling the city on two wheels instead of four. The Coalition helps those interested in biking to their destination find the best and most convenient routes for them.

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In fact, it’s increasing these routes that is a top priority for the Coalition. Through the Connecting the City program, the Coalition hopes to create available bikeways within a half a mile of every resident. Making their way through Atlanta street by street, the organization is making sure that bike lanes, trails, neighborhood greenways, and safe crossings are all across the city.

For those who are just starting out on the bike, the Coalition offers classes to get riders more comfortable and acclimated to the new mode of transportation. In their True Beginners class, students learn the basics of riding and safety, including road rules and what riders should have with them at all times.

For those with a little more experience that want some additional training in busy areas, there are the Urban Confidence Rides classes. These courses help riders navigate car-packed streets, teaching safety and tips for dealing with increased city infrastructure and negotiating city throughways. The ride offers bikers a chance to get more comfortable while in a safe, group setting.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition also works with those who aren’t as comfortable with biking. Four times a year, they host the Atlanta Streets Alive event, where streets are shut down to cars for bikers to use. The Coalition’s next Atlanta Streets Alive event will be held on September 24, on Peachtree Street. The route will be centrally located, with five MARTA stations along it. For those not wanting to ride, there are also 40-50 additional activities for participants to enjoy. The Coalition hopes as many as possible come to the event, to promote building community, awareness of the health benefits of riding, and showcasing the demand for streets that are safe for bikers.

In an important legislative year for Atlanta, the Coalition has defined advocacy priorities, including making the future of biking a key tenant of the upcoming elections. They hold rolling town halls to engage with candidates and express their needs. This year has also brought increased construction and traffic, causing an uptick in the Coalition’s and ridership, and in individuals signing up for classes. To meet the additional need, the Coalition has provided a “hack your commute” program, showing riders the best routes to take for their most important trips.

The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is a membership organization, and gets much of its revenue from its members. It also receives support from the City of Atlanta, and corporate and community partners. It’s always looking for new support and volunteers. Those interested can visit them online at www.atlantastreetsalive.com.

Listen to the full episode of the show below.

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.

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.