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.

From Rock Bottom, a New Beginning

“I am a recovering alcoholic and addict,” says Richard “Rick” Lang. No stranger to the trials of addiction, Lang is a U.S. Army veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who doesn’t shy away from his past. He meets it head-on, and occasionally uses it to show others what is possible with determination and direction. His road has been one of peaks and valleys, ranging from great success in the corporate world to the low of getting arrested on alcohol-related charges. “I was almost relieved to get arrested because I couldn’t break the cycle on my own,” Lang says. Committed to turning a new leaf following his release from jail and rehabilitation, he set out to find a new job with a fresh perspective on life. RickLang

Lang soon learned first-hand the challenges of job hunting with a criminal record. Despite an impressive career in the Army and later in janitorial management, he struggled to find an employer willing to give him a second chance. Frustrated with his job search he turned to the Veterans Administration (VA) for help. The VA referred him to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Workforce Development program, opening his eyes to a resource he never knew was available. “I didn’t have a clue what Goodwill’s mission was,” he admits. “[While in the program] I got a great appreciation for what Goodwill does.” A standout participant in his program cohort, Lang was identified by April Smith, Goodwill’s regional manager for community engagement, as a top prospect for her new volunteer program.

As a Goodwill volunteer Lang has helped with every part of job search assistance – from résumé building to mock interviews, and even follow-up phone calls to confirm whether job seekers found work. Gaining tips for his own search for employment along the way, Lang was able to connect with those having a really hard time finding work. He uncovered a passion for understanding and helping other people. “I have seen some people the whole way through their job search to finding work,” Lang says. Energized and inspired by his volunteer experience he re-enrolled in college after a 40-year break in his formal education.

Today Lang is a psychology student at Georgia State University on track to graduate in the spring of 2018. He is also a part-time caterer for Proof in the Pudding, and still regularly volunteers his time at Goodwill career centers. Lang hopes to continue to give back to veterans, addicts and at-risk youth after he finishes school. “When I came to Goodwill I was broken,” he says. “But I’ve been blessed because I did the things I needed to and I’ve had some good things come my way.”RickLang2

Lang’s road hasn’t always been an easy one. Throughout his journey he has learned valuable lessons and is grateful for a second chance to reach his fullest potential. An advocate for Goodwill and for others seeking a second chance, he draws on his own lessons to empower and uplift others.

 

EarthShare of Georgia: protecting the environment, one employee at a time

For EarthShare of Georgia, conservation is king. In an effort to protect the air, land, and water, the organization partners with 50 employers from across the state to raise money for environmental nonprofits.

Primarily through workplace giving, EarthShare of Georgia coordinates employee giving campaigns to support more than 60 environmental and conservation organizations. With 30 based in state, and the others nationwide, there is an organization for everyone.

The group started as the Environmental Fund for Georgia in 1992, and then affiliated with the national EarthShare in 2001. In their 25-year history, EarthShare of Georgia has helped raise $6 million for its member groups.

EarthShare of Georgia’s Executive Director Madeline Reamy called into the show first. EarthShare was founded 25 years ago by environmental nonprofits who wanted representation in workplace giving.

Currently, nearly 400,000 employees across the state participate in EarthShare’s giving program, and come from a variety of companies, including Booz Allen Hamilton, Emory University, and MARTA. Employees are able to pick from a slew of environmental nonprofits, like Georgia Conservancy, Trees Atlanta, and Park Pride.

The group remains en vogue, especially as the environment becomes more and more of a hot topic. Many are connecting the dots between the benefits of improving the environment and strengthening communities. This work can also connect companies to volunteer projects in underserved areas.

“That is a new area that we have gotten into that is very exciting, because it brings many more people to the table to have a conversation about the environment and the benefits of a sustainable Georgia,” said Madeline Reamy, Executive Director of EarthShare of Georgia.

Individuals are encouraged to give and volunteer, as it makes such a critical impact on the environment. “The bottom line is those contributions help to conserve land in Georgia, they help to improve air quality, they help to strengthen work and improving the quality of our water,” Reamy added.

EarthShare of Georgia

In addition to the opportunity for employee giving, companies partner with EarthShare for its countless opportunities for employee volunteer engagement. More and more companies are looking for year-round opportunities for their employees to engage and give back to the community.

For them, EarthShare offers a variety of options, including multiple events revolving around Earth Day. The annual holiday is typically used as an entry point for interested organizations, and they can take part in three separate events, including a Corporate Green Day, Earth Leadership Breakfast, and a closing party. Members also receive special invitations to corporate sustainability forums, access to the Green Chamber, and discounted tickets to the sustainability speaker series.

This year’s Earth Day Green Challenge will be held on March 30th and 31st, and the Earth Leadership Breakfast will take place on April 12. Sponsors get package deals to support the different events. This year, Lewis Perkins of Cradle to Cradle will act as the keynote speaker.

More information on EarthShare of Georgia, and how you can get involved, can be found at www.earthsharega.org.

Leadership Tip from Cassius Butts of the Small Business Administration

Go outside and do something you will remember

Cassius Butts, Regional Administrator for the Southeastern Region of the Small Business Association joined this week’s episode of The Good Works Show, and offered listeners his best leadership advice.

“It starts with volunteerism,” he said. “You have to ask what ways can I help to be a part of someone else’s dream and help to bring those to fruition.”

“What I learned through leadership development was that it is important to say that service is important and affects every community and every walk of life,” he added. “Having that type of involvement helps to build leadership and helps to build stamina that to say that we can sustain any type of challenge we may face and we also are huge in network.”

So how does volunteering and serving your community help you professionally?

  1. It shows a dedication to a cause bigger than you. Volunteering means taking time out of your busy schedule to give back to the community around you. Employers recognize this added effort and hard work, and it looks great on a resume.
  2. It gets you out into the community. By lending a hand where it is needed most, you’ll better understand the needs of the community and the people who live there. If your full-time employer happens be in the same community, it’s a great way to increase your familiarity with the neighborhood in which you work.
  3. It broadens your network. Volunteering in the community brings you together with professionals from other organizations and career paths. This will open up your connections in ways you wouldn’t have found within just your company.
  4. It makes you more well-rounded. Volunteering is usually an all-hands-on-deck situation. This means that you will likely do multiple jobs, expanding your experience as you do.
  5. It’s a great way to bond with your team or coworkers. Many nonprofits in need of volunteers coordinate opportunities for large groups. You can complete a project with other employees from your work, further building these professional relationships in a setting outside of the normal office.