Volunteer Opportunities: Ways Atlanta’s Youth Can Better Their Communities
Volunteer Opportunities: Ways Atlanta’s Youth Can Better Their Communities
As school begins, students are faced with more ways to enrich their student experiences via a series of extracurricular activities, including sports, clubs and even volunteering. Volunteering as an enrichment activity allows Atlanta’s youth to explore new ways to improve their communities while gaining valuable experiences and skills. Thousands of non-profit organizations across the Atlanta metro area make volunteering this school year possible for all ages, skill levels and schedules. Below is a curated list of unique nonprofits seeking volunteers.
Mission: The overall mission of Open Hand is to cook, deliver, teach and care. In an interview, Roy Cogdell, Open Hand’s Senior Manager of Volunteer Services, said the goal of Open Hand is to ensure those in need, which includes the organization’s 2,500 clients in Metro Atlanta, receive the meals they require daily.
Background: According to Cogdell, Open Hand began in 1988 when Michael Edwards-Pruitt (now a member of the organization’s advisory board) decided to make an effort to ensure his friends who were suffering from AIDS during the epidemic were receiving proper nutrition.
“They couldn’t get to the store, and they didn’t have enough energy to cook for themselves,” Cogdell said. As a result, Pruitt and his friends began the soup kitchen that would later become what is now known as Open Hand Atlanta.
- AM Building Utility: Volunteers will assist Open Hand employees by loading cars for delivery.
- Delivery Drivers: Deliver meals to clients within the Atlanta area. Shifts begin at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., or noon each weekday. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older and have access to a vehicle. Vaccination for COVID-19 is not required for this position.
- Meal Packing (beginning in July): Package meals that are prepared at the Open Hand facility for delivery. Volunteers must be 16 years or older and must be vaccinated for COVID-19 to work at the Open Hand campus.
Other ways to support Open Hand Atlanta: Open Hand Atlanta accepts donations on their website at https://openhandatlanta.org/donate/. These donations help the organization deliver meals to Atlanta residents in need.
Mission: Court Appointed Special Advocates of Atlanta, also known as Atlanta CASA, strives to “educate the community and educate the community, and to recruit, train and supervise court-appointed volunteers to advocate for the best interest, safety and permanent placement of abused and neglected children in foster care with Fulton County, Georgia,” said Charles Wilbanks, Atlanta CASA’s Advocate Engagement Coordinator.
Background: Wilbanks said Judge David Soukup created CASA in 1977 when a minor arrived at court with bruising and signs of potential abuse. Judge Soukup recognized the need for advocates for these children in the courtroom that could provide recommendations regarding the needs of the child and ensure the child’s safety and sought volunteers to assist him in making this possible.
Soukup’s initial formation of volunteers soon became CASA and has made a difference in cities across the country. The organization is now located in 49 states.
Volunteer Opportunities: Volunteers must be 21-years-old and commit to volunteering at CASA for a minimum of 18 months.
All volunteer opportunities do not require experience as training will be provided. Training consists of a one-hour informational session followed by 30 hours of online training. Fifteen hours are online at the volunteer’s own pace and the remaining 15 hours are classes taken over five weeks. These classes are currently virtual. Volunteers are then expected to attend eight hours of court observation.
Once training is complete, volunteers are assigned a case with a child in the foster care system. Wilbanks describes the program as a “team effort” and said volunteers regularly communicate with an advocacy coordinator who will support and supervise the volunteer throughout the process.
Wilbanks said volunteers are expected to see the child they are placed with at least once a month to ensure the child’s foster placement is appropriate. Volunteers can expect to dedicate between 10 to 20 hours per month on work for CASA, including travel time, writing court reports, court appearances, and seeing the foster child.
Wilbanks emphasized the importance for volunteers to have a devotion to the welfare of children. “This is not always an easy task,” Wilbanks said. “You’re dealing with a lot of trauma that these kids are going through (and) it’s not easy … when a child is experiencing abuse or neglect.”
Other ways to support Atlanta CASA: If unable to support by volunteering, CASA is accepting donations on its website at https://atlantacasa.org/give/ as the organization is a nonprofit and relies on donations and grants for funding.
Wilbanks also urges readers to spread awareness about CASA.
“Not a lot of people know about CASA and … the tremendous help (that CASA provides) to these kids who actually get lost in the system,” Wilbanks said. Therefore, spreading the word, donating or volunteering are all ways readers can support Atlanta CASA and its mission.
Background: Orrin Hudson, founder of Be Someone, said his drive to create this organization began when a robbery occurred in the year 2000, and seven people were shot.
“I said to myself, bad things continue to happen… so I converted my personal home into a training center to teach young people to think it out, not shoot it out,” Hudson said.
Be Someone now uses chess as a metaphor for life and the myriad of decisions one must make daily, encouraging youth to consider the repercussions of their actions.
“Your first crack could be a whack, and you can’t take it back, so think before you act,” Hudson said.
Volunteer Opportunities: Be Someone encourages all to become a part of the organization, regardless of age or availability. A wide range of opportunities exists for volunteers, including assistance with fundraising, organizing, promoting events, construction and social media outreach.
“I’m looking for a Dream Team,” Hudson said. “You could be a part of changing the world one move at a time.”
Volunteer Opportunities: Volunteers can foster pets or assist at adoption sites on the weekends by setting up the site, playing with the pets, and speaking with those interested in adopting pets. Adoption sites are set up at 11 a.m. and adoptions are held until 4 p.m. Volunteers are expected to be dedicated to the cause.
Mission: The Golden Retriever Rescue of Atlanta, GRRA, is a non-profit organization fully run by volunteers that strives to care for Golden Retrievers and Labs in the Atlanta area that need a home. GRRA prepares and matches these dogs with fosters and adopters so that they may find a permanent home.
Background: Deborah Osborn, director of volunteer recruitment at GRRA, said in an interview that the organization began 30 years ago because there was not a specific rescue for golden retrievers within the Atlanta area.
Volunteer Opportunities: Osborn said the organization has a large variety of volunteer opportunities suitable for anyone that is at least 18-years-old and interested in helping the organization. GRRA is flexible and open to receiving any volunteer assistance regardless of availability or skill.
“With an organization as big as we are, you can … spend as many hours as you would like or as few hours as you want,” Osborn said.
The only requirement to volunteer for GRRA is a love for dogs.
GRRA is currently specifically searching for the following positions:
- Adoption Consultants: Volunteers assist adoption applicants by completing home checks and matching dogs with the applicant to ensure proper placement.
- Temporary Fosters: Osborn said temporary fosters are especially important in the summer due to travel and animal medical care that may delay the adoption process. Fosters also assist in the adoption process by describing the needs and characteristics of the dog so that it may be properly matched with an adoptive family.
- Medical Volunteers: This position does not require experience, training will be provided. Osborn said these volunteers follow the dog from intake to adoption and provide medications and book veterinary appointments. She said this job is usually more time-consuming than the other opportunities.
- Assistant: Osborn is currently seeking a personal assistant to help with paperwork and application processing.
Other opportunities include transportation of dogs, staffing of events such as meet and greets and voicemail/email assistance.
Such donations are often allocated to medical costs, which tend to be the greatest expense for GRRA.
“Vet costs are huge,” Osborn said. “I’ll use heartworm as an example. If (a dog) has to be treated for heartworms, it is about $2,000 a dog for that.”
Additional medical expenses include medical procedures such as spaying and neutering.
“We really believe that in the act of doing a service project, kids gain a lot of hard and soft skills,” said Jen Guynn, Executive Director and founder of Pebble Tossers. “You learn about self-awareness, global awareness, (and) can develop a better sense of compassion and empathy.”
Guynn believes these characteristics are essential for children to develop into leaders and well-rounded adults.
“We’re really trying to build kids up at an early age and to give them the tools and resources that they need to be successful as an adult,” Guynn said.
Background: Guynn said Pebble Tossers began in 2008 when she and a friend discussed the difficulties of finding service for her younger children, so they decided to create a resource that would assist families in finding age-appropriate service opportunities.
“We began by identifying certain cause areas that we thought would be of interest to kids,” Guynn said. “Then, we tried to find opportunities with different non-profits … and if organizations did not have projects that were appropriate for kids, (we offered to host the projects).”
These projects have grown popular. Guynn said Pebble Tossers now works with over 65 non-profits and hosted over 200 projects last year.
Volunteer Opportunities: Guynn encourages all ages and experiences to apply to volunteer with Pebble Tossers, which she describes as a dynamic workplace.
“(Volunteers) just (need) a willingness to … roll up their sleeves and get involved,” Guynn said.
- Service Leaders: Volunteers coordinate and assist with hands-on projects.
- Event Assistance: Volunteers help with special events, such as drive-in movies or service project stations.
- Ambassadors: Students can share the mission of Pebble Tossers with their school and help classmates get involved.
- Administrative Work: Volunteers can assist with writing letters, fundraising, taking phone calls, etc.
Other ways to support Pebble Tossers: Pebble Tossers accepts donations via Venmo (Pebble Tossers) or on its website https://www.pebbletossers.org/donate/. Donations are put toward supplies for service projects, such as litter grabbers or snacks. Pebble Tossers can also be registered as a beneficiary on Amazon Smile.