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.

The Winning Goal for Atlanta’s Youth

At Soccer in the Streets, it’s about more than just the game. The fundamentals of the sport are important, but so are the building blocks of the player. Pairing the two to teach the essentials of soccer while also fostering the personal development of the individual, the nonprofit works with undeserved youth to foster a love of the game, all while teaching important life skills.

Started more than 25 years ago, Soccer in the Streets saw a need to bring kids off the streets and provide them with something constructive to do. Capitalizing on the U.S. World Cup, the organization started promoting soccer to communities that typically didn’t know much about the sport.

Soccer in the Streets works with youth of all ages, starting their programming for students in elementary school, in hopes of getting kids excited about soccer at a young age. Their Positive Choice Soccer program works with these players, helping them learn how to play, but also encouraging their character and good behavior. In this program, ten life skills are matched with ten soccer skills, and are used to reinforce how to make good choices. The program encourages them to resolve problems in a peaceful and positive way, which can be easily demonstrated with soccer—working in teams, playing hard but fair, and respecting the players and the referees.

Soccer in the Streets

“We train them in soccer, but also try to be a positive influence in their lives,” Soccer in the Streets Executive Director Phil Hill said.

As they get older, players can take part in the Life Works curriculum of the organization, competing in the sport while also learning about opportunities for employment and economic independence. Soccer in the Streets also offers one-day clinics and tournaments for participants to further practice their skills that they have learned for both on and off the field.

While working with Atlanta’s youth, Soccer in the Streets is also making history, facilitating the world’s first soccer field in a transit station. After convincing the city of the idea, and getting the Atlanta United MLS team on board, they funded the field with local partners, and have helped solve the biggest issues for the kids they serve—a lack of transportation or a way to get to their practices and games. Currently in its pilot phase, there are plans to replicate the field in nine more MARTA stations.

With the increased popularity of the sport, Soccer in the Streets has experienced communities receptive to their mission. To continue their work, and make the most of the growing interest, they host four fundraising soccer events every year, bucking the trend of the traditional stuffy, black tie sit-down events. Players and teams can sign up to play, and raise money to compete. Throughout the year, teams play in these events, which include country-affiliated and corporate-based teams. These tournaments are competitive, and raise the necessary funds for the Soccer in the Streets programming.

The fun, everybody-can-play event takes place in October. The Black Tie Soccer Game brings together players dressed in black tie and ball gowns! To learn more about how to participate in one of these events, or to volunteer with Soccer in the Streets, visit www.soccerstreets.org.

Listen to the full episode, here.

The Heart of Life

For a family with a child in need of a heart transplant, getting the call that a donor heart is available can bring a huge sigh of relief. That relief can be short-lived, though, as the longevity of donor organs can be uncertain.

The average lifespan of a donated heart, in fact, is just twelve years. If a child needs a heart transplant at a young age, this means they could possibly require another transplant before they even enter their twenties. This, combined with all the processes and procedures necessary to make sure the donated organ is performing properly, can lead to a long road for the recipient.

For these children and their families, there is hope, by way of Enduring Hearts. “Enduring Hearts recognizes that twelve years is not a lot of time for a child who receives a heart transplant at a very young age,” said Ankur Chatterjee, President and Executive Director of the nonprofit. “We fund research to improve the longevity of those organs and try to make the quality of life for these children substantially better.”

Patrick Gahan and his wife founded Enduring Hearts in 2012. Their young daughter Mya had weakened heart muscles, and was in need of a transplant. While going through the process, they found out that transplants are not permanent fixes, and that Mya would need frequent care and eventually another transplant. They started the nonprofit to address the need and help families in their same situation.

The organization has raised $2.5 million for new research and advanced science. They focus on issues affecting transplant patients, and how to improve their quality of life, placing special attention on conditions facing young children.

Working with the American Heart Association and the International Society of Heart & Lung Transplantation, Enduring Hearts funds clinical research and new technology to increase transplant durability. Priority is given to research conducted on the long-term results of transplant patients, and each organization provides a funding match for selected projects. With multiple projects in the works right now, current research includes stem cell-based therapies, coronary disease in heart transplant patients, and short-term therapies to diminish instances of heart transplant rejection.

For families with children receiving heart transplants, this work is critical, and provides essential comfort. “These families are looking at it as a lifeline for their kids,” Chatterjee said. “This is stuff that can directly impact the lifespan of your own child. It’s great to be able to offer these families that kind of hope.”

Enduring Hearts accepts donations from funders throughout the year, and hosts an annual Bourbon Gala & Auction, coming up on March 30. Auctioning off 16 bottles of hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon, all proceeds go toward funding research.
Grant requests and funding applications for the summer program schedule are due by June 10, with a decision and award granted by November 1. Those interested in learning more about the organization or how to apply for funding can visit Enduring Heart’s website at www.enduringhearts.org.

Love and Dignity, Beyond the Walls in Atlanta

For the homeless population of Atlanta and cities around the world, a place to sleep at night and finding stable housing have the highest priority. Beyond the hardships of not having a place to live, though, there are other, sometimes overlooked aspects that can go straight to the heart of effecting a person’s self-worth and pride. Seemingly simple, every day activities for some, like a man being able to shave his beard, or being able to receive a paycheck, aren’t easy to come by when living on the streets. For those necessities and more, there is Love Beyond Walls.

The organization unofficially started when Founder and Executive Director Terence Lester and his wife hit the streets of Atlanta, giving away clothes and items from their own home. From there, the Lesters started mobilizing their friends and family to help lead service projects in under resourced areas, eventually creating the nonprofit. Engaging the community through social advocacy, Love Beyond Walls advocates for those who are homeless and experiencing systemic poverty.

Lester applies his own “shoe-wearing” philosophy to the work of Love Beyond Walls, frequently walking in the shoes of those he serves. He has lived on the streets as a homeless person, under bridges and in tents, with no access to a change of clothes, to fully experience all that a homeless person endures on a daily basis.

“It’s about– how do I immerse myself into this sacrificial lifestyle in order to build a bridge between those who have and have not?” Lester said.

A 30-passenger bus that was donated to the organization for one dollar, also known as the Mobile Makeover Bus, is One of Love Beyond Walls most successful programs. The inspiration for the bus came from Leonard, a homeless man who had lost his wife and his hope, and hadn’t been able to properly groom or take care of himself for quite a while. Of all the things he could wish for, he said he wanted to be made over.

The bus is a conduit to self-care and other essential services. It holds a barbershop, a hygiene station and a clothing closet. It also offers further resources to help with steps toward self-sustainability. Since opening the bus, they have helped “makeover” more than 1,300 individuals, while also bringing dignity to those who don’t have access points on a regular basis.

Love Beyond Walls

“We are in the trenches every day. Service isn’t an event; it’s a lifestyle,” Lester said. “I’m constantly inspired and in awe. Every time I sit down with somebody who is experiencing homelessness, I am inspired by the stories they tell.”

The organization currently has two tiny homes that they are using for temporary housing for individuals without a place to live, many of whom are just caught in a string of bad luck. Through their Dignity Art Program, using pallet wood, homeless individuals in the program are taught how to take the pieces and turn them into art. They put their life stories and favorite words on the pieces, and then sell them at art shows. In the process, they learn a trade and earn a paycheck for their work.

To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show click here. To find out more about Love Beyond Walls, visit www.lovebeyondwalls.org, or on social media @lovebeyondwalls.

Atlanta’s School of Rock

The Märchen Sagen Academy offers professional-led training for kids in everything from stop-motion animation to voice over work. Led by Executive Director Couleen LaGon, a video and music producer by trade, Märchen Sagen provides hands on programs to inspire local youth. “We develop humans, and their ideas,” LaGon said. “We are teaching these kids that they don’t have to compete for their world—they can create it.”

Märchen Sagen Academy

“I think that’s the most important thing that we do here—to teach these kids that nothing is impossible. If you can believe and have a little bit of applied faith and some personal action, you can do anything that you want to do.” Opened in August of 2016, Märchen Sagen has attracted many of its students through word of mouth and walk-ins off the street. The Academy also has a performing group that does shows at local schools, building even more local interest.

And the attention doesn’t stop there. The kids in the program were recently hired by Leon’s Full Service Restaurant to produce their new local advertisement. The Academy hopes to continue to provide these services to local individuals and businesses to give participants real-life training, all while securing funds for Märchen Sagen.

While the school year is in session, Märchen Sagen holds a daily after-school session from 2:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at their 418 Church Street location, offering students the chance to learn about making electronic music, songwriting, filming on a green screen and video production. Providing snacks for the students while they are there, Märchen Sagen offers a variety of different payment packages for participants, who can come between two and five days a week.

During school breaks, Märchen Sagen holds K.A.M.P, or Kids and Multimedia Production. K.A.M.P. is a full-day opportunity for students to continue honing their craft. The Academy offers day and full-week rates during these school breaks.

In addition to their work with the kids, Märchen Sagen is also available for additional video production and studio space. Offering quality equipment and production tools, artists can rent out the studio for recording and tracking work. With the Artists Development Package, artists get six hours of studio time, which includes one hour of pre-production, four hours of production time, and one hour of mastering.

The Academy is also available for parties and events, offering locals the opportunity to rent out the historic space. Those interested in learning more or enrolling in the summer camp can visit their website at www.marchensagen.org.

To listen to this full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.

A Seamless Partnership

Charles Pace GCPL
Gwinnett County Public Library Executive Director Charles Pace poses alongside Vice President of Career Services Cheryl Cornett and President Ray Bishop at the annual Employer Recognition Event.

Aligning well with the library’s informational and educational objectives, our mission is to put people to work. The mission of the library is to support informational, educational, and recreational interests with convenient, creative, customer-friendly access to materials and services.

“We are all about changing lives through literacy and reading, just like Goodwill changes lives through helping people find employment,” said Gwinnett County Public Library Executive Director Charles Pace.

Through providing valuable resources, the Gwinnett County Public Library has become an appreciated supporter, partner and friend to us. From hosting job-readiness workshops, networking events and career fairs to encouraging the importance of literacy in the community, the library contributes to the many successes of our participants.

Gwinnett County serves as the second most populated county in Georgia and is home to nearly 20 Goodwill stores, career centers and donation centers. As the library looks to strengthen and expand its footprint in Gwinnett County, we look forward to serving more job seekers in order to reach our goal to put 23,000 north Georgians to work before July this year.

Together, we will accomplish both education and employment initiatives. Pace looks forward to what is next for the partnership. “We are really happy to have this partnership with Goodwill and to be able to leverage what Goodwill is doing while also supporting the mission and the goals of the library,” he says.

5 Tips for a Seamless Year-End Giving Process

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 2016 tax year cutoff, which is December 31, there’s a good chance you’ll avoid waiting in lines.

Goodwill shoot on location 8/15/13

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.

Goodwill shoot 7.26.16.

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.

Goodwill shoot 7.26.16.

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.

 

 

Leadership Tip from Chelsea Manning of Philanthropitch

In her role evaluating worthy organizations for Philanthropitch, Chelsea Manning has worked with nonprofit leaders from all over the country. In addition to funding ideas that are making a difference, the Philanthropitch program loves to support organizations with innovative and forward-thinking leaders. She also looks for a little humility from these leaders.

“Honesty and transparency are what we look for when we are talking to nonprofit leaders—someone who can honestly say ‘We don’t quite know what we are doing in this area, so we know we need help here, but we know we have a really good idea.’”

So as a leader, why are honesty and transparency so important?

1. Honesty and transparency creates trust. Employees want to know they are in the loop, and aren’t being kept in the dark. This trust helps promote a sense of stability in the workplace, and ultimately encourages loyalty among the staff.

2. Teamwork is enhanced. Transparency and honesty allows for leaders and staff members alike to show and discuss their strengths, demonstrating how each can best contribute to the work.

3. Problems are solved more quickly. Lack of honesty and transparency often causes a communication breakdown or barrier. When leaders and staff are encouraged to talk about what they need, they become better able to resolve any issues that arise within a project or the workplace.

4. Creativity thrives. An open and honest workplace lets employees feel supported to do their best work, and allows them to be more engaged.

5. Respect is earned. Honesty and transparency keeps leaders authentic. Employees can respect a boss that can both lead by example, and also be willing to admit that they don’t have all the answers.

Spotlight: HomeAid Atlanta

Annual Essentials Drive, courtesy of HomeAid Atlanta
Annual Essentials Drive, courtesy of HomeAid Atlanta

Feeling safe and secure are some of life’s most important necessities. To have the comfort of a warm home, protecting you from the elements and keeping you from the dangers and instability of living on the street. To go to work and to school without fear of threats or peril. To be prepared when life throws you an obstacle or calamitous event. HomeAid Atlanta is an Atlanta-based organization working to help individuals find this safety and security. Its goal is to offer this stability, and this comfort to those it serves. HomeAid Atlanta’s Executive Director Mandy Crater talks about HomeAid Atlanta’s fifteen year history of helping the homeless population find housing. “HomeAid Atlanta’s mission is to build new lives for homeless families and individuals through housing and community outreach,” Crater says. “We were founded in 2001 and we are the designated charity of the Atlanta Home Builders Association. We work with both the residential and commercial building industries, as well as the community to build and renovate housing for nonprofit organizations that work directly with Atlanta’s homeless. To date, HomeAid Atlanta has completed 53 housing remodels.” HomeAid Atlanta helps homeless individuals and families move into more stable housing. “There are approximately 9,000 homeless people on any given night in metro-Atlanta,” Crater says. “Forty percent are women and children, and twenty-one percent are veterans.”

Crater mentions the “invisible homeless:” those sleeping in their cars, extended-stay hotels, and crashing for multiple nights on the couches of friends. This group often includes those displaced after a sudden and unexpected life event. HomeAid Atlanta serves victims of domestic violence, teen mothers, abused or abandoned children, and veterans. “We help somebody that needs some time to get back on their feet,” Crater says. The organization does this by building both individual and multi-unit homes in coordination with local builders and trade workers. Individuals who live in the homes are expected to take classes on budgeting and financial literacy, parenting, and work readiness.

“One of their graduates is a homeowner now,” Crater says. “After being at the Phoenix Pass location for two years, and working two jobs, she was able to apply and qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home. In two years, she went from being on the street to being a homeowner. It’s life-changing.” One of HomeAid’s biggest initiatives is their Essentials Drive, in which they collect necessary items for families and babies. During the drive they accept diapers, wipes, formula, and baby food. Crater says this is a great way for those who do not renovate or build homes to give back.

HomeAid always does the drive right before Mother’s Day, this year from April 25 to May 3, collecting items that get used up and are costly to replace. “Sometimes they are choosing between food and changing their baby’s diaper,” Crater says. In addition to accepting individual donations, HomeAid works with 30 different organizations doing drives throughout the city. These sites and organizations can be found at www.homeaidatlanta.org.

“We are out their building housing every day,” Crater says. “We serve as a bridge, connecting local builders, trades, and suppliers with local nonprofit service providers, providing a unique and meaningful way for members of the building industry to give back. We try to save 50 percent of the construction costs- through donations from national partners, from local partners, from time, talent, and material.”

This cost savings goes back into the programs and services helping the homeless individuals find more stable housing. For individuals and builders alike looking to connect with HomeAid Atlanta, they can visit the website at www.homeaidatlanta.org or call 678-775-1401.