Finding Strength and Stability One Run at a Time

Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:45am, you can find the team at Back on My Feet Atlanta running the streets. With workouts ranging from one to three miles they are consistent and unwavering with their runs.

But this consistency isn’t just about getting up their heart rate. In fact, the running itself is just an added benefit.

Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit with twelve chapters across the country, including one right here in Atlanta. The organization uses running to help combat homelessness in the city. Through running, Back on My Feet hopes to promote community support, and find new opportunities for employment, housing, and educational resources for those most in need.

“We seek to revolutionize the way our society approaches homelessness,” said Tanya Watkins, the organization’s Executive Director. “We believe that if we first restore confidence and self-esteem, individuals are better-equipped to tackle the road ahead, and move on to full-time jobs and homes.”

Atlanta has seen a significant drop in homelessness from 2013-2016, with numbers decreasing by almost 20%. These are promising statistics, but the problem still exists with 8,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

Back on My Feet partners with four shelters in the area to recruit runners of all skill levels. At the Salvation Army, City of Refuge, Gateway Center, and Trinity House, they meet with potential runners to tell them about the program.

Once a person signs up, they commit to three runs a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, each at 5:45am. This lasts for 30 days, and runners can only miss one run (90% attendance) during that time. From there, they are moved on to the second phase of the program, “Next Steps,” which allows the runners to receive resources on education, employment, and job training.

This initial 30-day period helps participants demonstrate commitment and dedication, skills they will need to get and maintain employment in the future. The nonprofit provides the runner with all the gear: running shoes, socks, and clothes. Much of this gear is collected through donations, including a large partnership with Brooks.

The runs every day are from one to three miles, with an optional longer run on Saturdays. When the 30-day trial period is over, participants can still run, but the additional resources become part of the program. Participants work on their goals for the future, and engage in steps to better their lives. These goals could range from putting together a resume to finding permanent housing. Back on My Feet also offers financial aid for those who have demonstrated commitment and need.

The organization is always looking for volunteers to participate in the morning runs. These runs, combining volunteers and participants bring everyone together, removing the isolation and stigma of homelessness.

Supporters can also give financially to the organization, and raise money for Back on My Feet through different running races. Those interested in learning more can check out atlanta.backonmyfeet.org.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Case You Missed it…Literacy Action and First Step Staffing on The Good Works Show

Last week on The Good Works Show, two local nonprofits shared how they are making lasting impacts on the community. In the first segment, Literacy Action’s Executive Director Austin Dickson said, “Our mission is to teach literacy life and work skills to undereducated adults and help them reach their highest potential wherever we find those adults in the community.” As an adult literacy nonprofit, Literacy Action helps adults learn to read, learn math skills, and even receive their GED.

Dave Shaffer from First Step Staffing joined the show in the second segment to explain the idea that there is more to finding a job, than just finding a job. The nonprofit helps those with barriers to employment find steady work. While most staffing agencies are for-profit, First Step uses their “profits” to provide additional wrap-around services for their clients. In addition to finding employment opportunities, they help with job coaching, mentoring, and transportation to interviews and work. “First Step Staffing seeks to end poverty and homelessness by providing sustainable income and income streams,” he said.

To learn more about the work these nonprofits are doing in the community, listen to the full show here.

Kidz2leaders and Leadership Johns Creek on The Good Works Show

Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

This week, The Good Works Show features two organizations creating those ripples. First, Atlanta’s kidz2leaders works with children of imprisoned parents, teaching them leadership and life skills, and hoping to break the cycle of incarceration. Then, Leadership Johns Creek offers development opportunities for Atlanta’s emerging leaders. Creating a pipeline of effective professionals, the program also provides avenues to give back to the community.

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In the show’s first segment, Executive Director Nancy Staub talks about the 17-year-old kidz2leaders program.

“Kidz2leaders exists to change the direction of the lives of children of inmates,” she says.

The 501c3 was founded by Diane Parrish, who encountered three generations of women from the same family, all in prison.

Leadership Johns Creek board member Todd Burkhalter joins the show in its last segment to talk about the program, and the impact it has on its participants and the community at large.

“We are a series of structured learning environments,” he says. “It’s a pretty unique thing that we design ourselves to create leadership talent and mature our current talent in our community.”

The program selects 25 individuals to go through a nine-month leadership training. They are broken up into groups to also work on a project to help the community in some way.

To learn more about these “ripple effect” organizations, catch the show Saturday at noon on News Radio 106.7 FM or listen at your leisure to the podcast.