Now that the holiday season is over, life feels like it is getting back to “normal.” The one thing I miss, though, from the holiday season, is the many posts from people being thankful. The holiday season seems to put people in a reflective mood. They remind us to acknowledge the things we are grateful for…everyday things that we can provide our families. If you run out of laundry detergent or toilet paper, you just put it on your grocery list. When you see your child has outgrown yet another pair of shoes, you go to the store and get new ones.
The truth is, some of us are so used to having the everyday necessities we might not always put them at the top of our list of things for which we are thankful. I’m pretty sure I won’t hear someone say they are thankful for toilet paper or shampoo or shoes. My friends and family have the means to take some of these things for granted. Simple Needs GA (SNGA), however, helps to provide some of these everyday items that we take for granted to children and families that really need help filling in the gaps.
In working with SNGA and helping to develop some of its programs, I have become more aware of all the blessings–small and large–I can be thankful for. For example, I am thankful for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives–and for the many people who believe in our organization and support our mission, from members of our board, to a wide range of donors, volunteers, counselors, local agencies and others who are dedicated to helping people in need.
I am so grateful that we’ve been able to develop a program, My Birthday Matters, to help families celebrate birthdays. This is my pet project. When I was a kid, we lived on one very modest income. My family lived paycheck to paycheck with no extra to cover emergencies, never mind something like birthday presents. If I was lucky enough to have my birthday fall on a Friday or Saturday when a new paycheck was cashed, I would get a little present and maybe a cake. But if it fell on a Wednesday or Thursday, when funds were very low, it almost never even got mentioned. My parents were proud people and wanted to provide everything for their children but when they couldn’t, well, it was best to not mention it.
To a child, however, that is like saying they aren’t special enough. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to help children celebrate their special day. My Birthday Matters currently delivers birthday presents to elementary school children in the Marietta City School District, some additional elementary schools in Powder Springs, and some children living in local shelters like MUST. These children are classified as homeless and could be living in a hotel, shelter, a friend or relative’s house or even in a car.
We send every child some essentials which include a handmade blanket, markers, pens, pencils, crayons, socks and underwear along with some special gifts like an art set, football or Lego set. We recently got a thank you from a mom who has a special needs child.
To see the look on his face…because of his autism he loved the markers and crayons and the blank paper. He was up till midnight making pictures. And when I asked him to go to sleep he got the blanket and turtle he also received and slept with them both, and every night since. Thank you guys SO much. He was the happiest little boy I had seen in awhile.
Whenever we receive a little note like this or we see the child grinning ear-to-ear opening their presents, I feel really special. Every package we deliver makes me feel like I’m celebrating my lost birthdays. What better way to help your children understand how fortunate they are than by allowing them the opportunity to share their birthdays with others?
–Kasey Litt, founding board member, SNGA
Happy New Year to you and yours from Simple Needs GA (SNGA)!
Thanks to your kindness and generosity over the past year, we made good progress toward our mission of helping even more people in need in our community. We also laid the groundwork for a productive 2015.
Here are a few highlights:
EXPANDING OUR PROGRAMS
Over the past year, SNGA expanded its Comfort Kits project to add four new shelters—Family Promise of Cobb County, The Extension (men and women), the YWCA of Northwest Georgia and Zion Keepers—in addition to our longstanding relationship with MUST’s Elizabeth Inn.
Our Shoe Them Love program provided, via either $25 gift cards or through in-kind donations, enough pairs of new shoes for more than 275 very grateful kids!
We recognized even more children’s birthdays—50 in 2014—through our My Birthday Matters program. Many of these homeless or disadvantaged children would otherwise have received nothing on their birthday.
In addition to our volunteer days, over the past year SNGA also helped at least 50 families who reached out to us for assistance. These included a single mom with two kids coming out of homelessness; a single dad with three kids; families that had lost everything due to fires and floods; and a woman with five kids (two with special needs).
GROWING SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
SNGA is still a small, locally focused organization, but our reach is growing thanks to our volunteers’ and donors’ generous support of us on social media sites. For example, our website simpleneedsga.org received 7,400 unique views in 2014. We have 614 ‘likes’ on our growing Facebook page and have just dipped our toes into the ‘Twitterverse’ waters with a new Twitter account: @simpleneedsga.
In 2014, we also created an attractive, easy-to-share brochure. It’s available in digital format at this link.
Lastly, board member Kasey Litt created our first informational program video, which you can watch here.
GROWING OUR FUNDRAISING
Late last year, we decided to apply for our first major grant in a request for $10K. We are still seeking matching funds, which will boost our odds of winning this grant significantly. All pledges due by late January. For more information, email us at email@example.com.
We also teamed with Kroger Community Rewards, GoodSearch and AmazonSmile to supplement our fundraising efforts. Individuals helped us as well. For example, an anonymous donor approached SNGA and offered to match the size of any donation (up to $2,500 total) during the month of March, which we dubbed “March Madness.”
On Georgia Gives Day on Nov. 13, we raised $2,780 toward our goal of $5,000, with a total of 27 donors contributing. Thank you so much!
KICKING BACK WITH FUN EVENTS
We had a nice turnout and a lot of fun at our Simply Bowling event on Sept. 28. (We’ll be holding two bowling events in 2015—stay tuned.)
On Oct. 18 of last year, we held our first Volunteer & Donor Appreciation Open House. We dined on some good food, gave tours of our space, met new friends and reminisced with old ones. Our “Gifts in Kind” award winner was Piedmont Graphics (owner of our warehouse space). “Volunteers of the Year” were Scott Denton (photography), Karen Hamilton, Sandy Dame and Darlene Andrews. Our invaluable “truckers” were Jay Schneider, Rick Perry and Yolanda Kingsberry (Yolanda recently joined our board). We also gave a special “thank you!” to Melanie Booker for being on our board since day 1.
In 2015, we plan to continue growing our programs and helping greater numbers of people in need. We would also love your help with our efforts to form specific committees in support of: My Birthday Matters, Shoe Them Love, Comfort Kits, public relations/community outreach, and special events.
GROWING OUR VOLUNTEER DAYS
Over the past year, we were thrilled at the strong attendance during our periodic volunteer days. On Hands on Atlanta Day on Oct. 18, for example, 65 volunteers—most of them from UCB and TSYS—helped out at our Marietta warehouse by assembling Comfort Kits, wrapping presents for My Birthday Matters and doing many other tasks. It was the most volunteers we have had at one time at our Marietta warehouse!
On March 15, a total of 45 people from all over metro Atlanta—including members of local high schools, MUST Ministries, Family Promise, JLL Atlanta and IBM—helped us pack 320 toiletries bags (“Comfort Kits”), assemble shelves, put together a birthday package for a homeless child, organize our My Birthday Matters room, take inventory and more. Then on March 19, approximately 100 volunteers from JLL Atlanta put together 300 duffel bags for us at JLL Atlanta’s office in Buckhead. They even drove the bags to our Marietta warehouse! As a corporation community donation, JLL Atlanta ordered and paid for $4,700 worth of supplies for SNGA’s Comfort Kits program. Largely as a result of this, we were able to expand that program and deliver full-sized toiletries to more than 300 more people living in four additional local shelters. Likewise, volunteers from Foresters, the not-for-profit fraternal benefit society, braved some seriously hot weather in August to put together nearly 150 birthday kits for My Birthday Matters at Six Flags Over Georgia.
Throughout 2014, we received donations and/or volunteer help from a wide variety of organizations, including UCB, TSYS, Wells Fargo, Foresters, EPIC Response, JLL Atlanta, Casa Montessori, First United Methodist Church in Marietta, Piedmont Graphics, IBM, Cakes by Avion, Kroger, and ushers from the Cobb Energy Center, to name just a few. TSYS chose SNGA as the beneficiary of its holiday campaign, collecting donations of items as well as many gift cards. Wells Fargo gave SNGA $1,000 through its Day of Giving program.
COLLABORATING WITH OTHER AGENCIES
At SNGA, we see our work as a collaborative, community-based effort, and so we work hard to help other agencies whenever possible. Over the past year, our donors helped us provide the Cobb/Douglas Community Services Board with all kinds of gently used household items, from bed and bath items to TVs and microwaves, for people coming out of homelessness. Our donors gave lightly used children’s books for distribution by MUST Ministries; provided pet food for a local teenager who has a mission of helping lower-income folks who own dogs and cats; and donated useful items for the Children’s Room at the YWCA of Northwest Georgia. We also collected coats and clothing for the YWCA as well as the Marietta city school district’s clothes closet.
Overall, we had a great response last year from our supporters, who generously provided in-kind donations of winter clothing, camping supplies, bicycles, household items and much more. (See this page for details on the in-kind donations we’ll be collecting in 2015.) By the way, our monthly donation drive is this Saturday, Jan 17, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact us for details and our address. We are currently in need of furniture (larger furniture should not be brought to our space; email us and we’ll coordinate pick up if needed and delivery).
Finally, here are a few quotes from people and organizations we helped over the past year:
“It is difficult to describe how much it means to a person with a mental illness, especially one who has not had his or her own place to live, or who has been completely homeless, to not only be offered a place to call home, but to also be given necessary household items that had been donated by complete strangers!” — Mary Robeck, Cobb/Douglas Community Service Board.
“My daughter said she is beyond excited about her gifts. I mean she looooves her gifts, especially the blanket. Thank you for this; I am so grateful.” — mother of a 9-year-old girl who had a great birthday with help from our My Birthday Matters program.
“It’s the small things sometimes that make a difference. Love and compassion can be shown in so many ways. I want to thank you.” — shelter resident who received a duffel bag of full-size toiletries via our Comfort Kits program.
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT OF PEOPLE IN NEED!
A big shout of thanks to the Sope Creek Elementary Rise Up! 4 Christ chapter! They have chosen Simple Needs GA’s ‘My Birthday Matters’ program as their Compassion Challenge beneficiary. I attended their chapter meeting on Friday to talk about SNGA and MBM.
RISE UP! is an after school program for elementary-aged children with the purpose of teaching Biblical applications in a creative and fun environment that allows each child to feel Christ’s unconditional love. The Compassion Challenge gives $1 to each student, asks them to identify an area where they are talented and use those talents to turn that $1 into more money throughout the month of December.
We are honored and excited to be a part of this effort!
Thanks to you for your support of people in need.
Simple Needs GA (SNGA) is blessed to partner with some incredible organizations. On October 28, some great kids from Casa Montessori in Marietta volunteered at our space. They put together toiletry kits, colored birthday cards, cut and tied no-sew blankets, and organized birthday kits. The group also brought a ton of donations of new kids’ underwear and socks, coats, hats, blankets and games. I worked with the group and was very impressed with the students’ abilities, as well as their interest in hearing about those in need. They had a genuine desire to help other children.
Volunteer and Casa Montessori parent Ashley Nolan had contacted me after finding out about SNGA through a friend at church. “I was shocked to hear that there are people living in the woods right around the corner from me,” Ashley said. “It’s one of those things that you hear and just can’t forget.”
Ashley’s family decided to get involved. They started by organizing a coat drive through Casa Montessori and their neighborhood. “It was easy to give away extra jackets,” Ashley said. “I couldn’t stand knowing someone would be living in the elements freezing, while my jacket was just sitting in my closet unused. Our children were excited their coats would go to schoolchildren whose parents could not afford to spend money on this luxury.”
Next, Ashley organized a Cobb County service project for her son’s Casa Montessori class through SNGA. The students decided to gather items that were of particular need for our My Birthday Matters program. “This program in particular resonated with the children,” Ashley said.
As a parent, she says, one of her greatest hopes is that her child will learn to celebrate differences and honor the uniqueness of every person. “We are cultured to believe that poverty exists over there, in some foreign third-world country. And it does. But, it is also here,” she said. “A few miles away from my home someone may have gotten on the wrong path and needs a helping hand, or maybe they just need someone to tell them they matter. It was an honor to serve alongside an organization that is doing just that: meeting people in their greatest need, and offering them a hand.”
Thanks again to these thoughtful and generous volunteers—and thanks to you for your support of people in need!
“It’s the small things sometimes that make a difference. Love and compassion can be shown in so many ways. I want to thank you.”
Simple Needs GA received this kind note from a shelter resident who received a duffel bag of full-size toiletries via our Comfort Kits program. But, really, this is something SNGA hears all the time in many ways from those we help. As our name says, SNGA does simple things that make a big difference in people’s lives, whether they be for a child who just received his first pair of shoes ever via Shoe Them Love, or someone living in the woods who received essential items through our Simply Sheltered program.
“When I was down on my luck, the tent, tarp and sleeping bag were a blessing and helped me get through a tough winter. Now I have a job and an apartment, but I appreciate what you and your donors did for me when I needed it.”
We wanted to give a big ‘shout out’ to the awesome volunteers from Foresters, the not-for-profit fraternal benefit society, who on Aug. 23 braved some seriously hot weather to put together nearly 150 birthday kits for our My Birthday Matters program.
As Foresters members came to enjoy a day at Six Flags, they took time to make birthday cards for the kids and put together the care packages, which included things like coloring books, crayons, markers, cards, and underwear.
Jessica Heidish, Foresters’ Member Coordinator, read about Simple Needs GA in the newspaper and felt My Birthday Matters was a good fit for the organization’s mission–namely to champion family well-being by supporting charities that benefit families.
Local Foresters member Cleo Sloan said the volunteer event was a rewarding day.
“It was a really great experience working with SNGA during our Foresters Family Day Event at Six Flags,” Cleo said. “Being presented with the opportunity to create awareness and assist in providing school supplies and basic needs supplies for young girls within the Marietta City School System battling homelessness, really enlightened our members as well as their family members about the difference that we can make within our community. It takes working with organizations like SNGA to remind us of how a kind and simple act (assembling care packages or creating hand-made birthday cards) can positively impact someone else’s life.”
A big thanks to board member Kasey Litt for working with the volunteers as well!
Just wanted to give you a heads up about our annual bowling outing. We hope you can come out to AMF Marietta Lanes on Sept. 28 and bowl with us! All proceeds will go toward Simple Needs GA programs that benefit children and families in need.
For all the relevant information, read our press release on the event!