What a great month for SNGA!

While at a local emergency shelter on March 21, Simple Needs GA founder Brenda Rhodes got into a conversation with one of the residents who had received a blue duffel bag packed with full-sized toiletries provided by SNGA’s donors and volunteers. “He said the bag was very useful and appreciated, because many of the residents don’t have anything but garbage bags in which to put their belongings,” Benda said. “He added that this donation was different than other things just dropped off. It was obvious that we put thought into the bags.”

Through your financial contributions, in-kind donations and willingness to volunteer, you make it possible for SNGA to brighten the lives of people facing circumstances many of us could hardly imagine. Thanks so much for all your help!

Below is an update on some of the tremendous support we have received over the past month alone. BTW, you might recall that an anonymous donor pledged to match any donation provided to SNGA in the month of March (up to a total of $2,500). If you were planning to make a contribution, there’s one week left in our “March Madness” campaign!

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March 15 volunteers

On March 15, we had an incredible volunteer day. A total of 45 people from all over metro Atlanta helped us pack 320 toiletries bags, assemble shelves, put together a birthday package for a homeless child, organize our My Birthday Matters storage area, take inventory and more.

“We had a lot of household donations, many of which will go to the Cobb/Douglas Community Service Board, which helps people get set up in apartments,” Brenda said. A few volunteers even came on Friday night to help SNGA get the warehouse ready for the volunteer day. The eclectic group included experienced SNGA volunteers and members of local churches, high schools, MUST Ministries, Family Promise, JLL Atlanta and IBM. A family of five, who had discovered SNGA online, came to volunteer, and another couple popped by for a tour of the warehouse after connecting with Brenda on Facebook. “They came by for just a tour at 11:30 and then ended up volunteering with us until 1:30!” Brenda said. “Our last donation came in at 1:20! We ended up with some great household donations. I cannot thank everyone enough for all their hard work and energy and the great ‘vibe’!”

Then on March 19, more than 100 volunteers from JLL Atlanta put together more than 300 duffel bags for us, assembled 18 no-sew blankets for My Birthday Matters, and even drove the bags from JLL Atlanta’s office in Buckhead to our Marietta warehouse. Click here to see our press release on JLL Atlanta’s important contribution to SNGA.IMG_1827

Earlier this year, JLL Atlanta ordered and paid for $4,700 worth of supplies for SNGA’s toiletries program. Largely as a result of this, we have been able to expand our program and deliver full-sized toiletries to more than 300 additional shelter residents at Family Promise of Cobb CountyThe Extension, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia and Zion Keepers!

“Thanks for donating care packs to assist homeless veterans,” wrote Cassandra Lawson of Zion Keepers, on SNGA’s Facebook page. “Being that many of them come in with nothing, you have absolutely met the needs of many! God Bless!”

What a great March indeed! Thanks so much for your support of people in need!

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‘March Madness’ at SNGA

“Today is my daughter’s birthday. She is nine years old and is really excited and extremely happy on her day. As a parent, I am in tears, because this is so important to a child. It’s absolutely great that there are others who care!”

Simple Needs GA received this heartfelt thank-you letter last month from the parent of a student at Sawyer Road Elementary. This family was the latest to benefit from SNGA’s My Birthday Matters program, which brings items such as brand-new toys, school supplies, no-sew blankets, and cupcakes and candles to disadvantaged schoolchildren celebrating their birthdays. It’s just one example of how your financial contribution to SNGA can make a real difference in the lives of people in need.

We also wanted to tell you about an exciting opportunity to do even more good in your community: Recently, an anonymous donor approached SNGA and offered to match the size of any donation made (up to $2,500 total) during the month of March! That’s right—this incredibly generous individual has pledged to double your gift. We’re calling it March Madness!

(If you’d like to donate now, just click here.)

You could even score a “three pointer”: By some estimates, 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies match donations made by their employees. That means there’s a chance your employer could triple your donation by matching your gift as well. Just contact your HR department to find out about any available matching program.b099Sports-Basketball

Some other quick updates:

1. Next Volunteer Day: On Sat., March 15, from 9 a.m. to noon, we’ll be meeting at our location in Marietta to pack duffel bags of full-sized toiletries for people in need. Thanks to your previous donations, we are excited to expand our duffel project to add four new shelters—Family Promise of Cobb County, the Extension, the YWCA of Northwest Georgia and Zion Keepers—so we need all the volunteers we can get! Let us know if you can help. (The minimum age to volunteer with us is 8; anyone under 18 needs to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.) Just email info@simpleneedsga.org to sign up and receive further details.

2. Needed Items (can be dropped off on March 15): We continue to get lots of requests for basic necessities—especially things that can help people get their start in a new home. If you have any small household items such as towels, sheets (marked with size), countertop appliances, items for the kitchen or bath, etc., please bring them with you on March 15. (You can drop them off if you can’t volunteer.) In addition, we need fleece (1.5 yards of a pattern and 1.5 yards of a matching color) or no-sew blanket kits, birthday candles and new underwear for kids. Lastly, we will be collecting donations of pet food to support The Pet Pantry, a community service project started by a high school student to support the pets of families who rely on food pantries.

3. SNGA Teams with Kroger: Just by swiping your Kroger Plus card, you can generate donations for SNGA—without losing any of your existing discounts or rewards. Just click on our press release for more info!

Thanks for your support of people in need!

An ‘Ellen’ appearance for SNGA? :-D

If you’re a regular viewer of TV’s ‘Ellen,’ you know her sign off is always “Be kind to one another.” Nothing typifies this spirit more than the fantastic nonprofit organization Random Acts, which seeks to promote kindness around the world and even sponsors the Annual Melee of Kindness (AMOK). The global day of kindness takes place this year on Sat., March 1.

Recently, Simple Needs GA founder Brenda Rhodes met with four local college students working for RA/AMOK. They were kind enough to donate eight bags of full-sized toiletries to SNGA’s toiletries program for people staying at a local emergency shelter. The students–Allison Law, Corinne Law, Brancey Montgomery and Kristina Fowler–created a video to submit to Ellen’s segments on AMOK and Random Acts.

“It was wonderful to see young people who are so interested in giving back to the community and who are so inspired by the power of random acts of kindness,” Brenda said. “Last year, the AMOK event had 498 participants who did 156 acts of kindness in 18 countries.The Random Acts/AMOK concept is so inspiring!”

When new guests arrive at the shelter, they often do not have much with them, sometimes only the clothes on their backs. In the video, Brenda explains the basic idea for SNGA’s program: To help people feel more comfortable–and “de-stress” a little–SNGA provides them with a duffel bag containing toiletries and other items they will need during their possible six-week stay at the shelter (all larger-size toiletries, not the travel or sample size). “Each year, we need lots of bags–approximately 1,000 or more,” Brenda says. “They currently contain about 15 items in the men’s bags and about 21 in the women’s.”

If you or your church or other group would be interested in helping with SNGA’s duffel bag project, either by purchasing items, donating money, or buying all the items and putting the bags together, please contact us at info@simpleneedsga.org. A small or large contribution will really make a difference to the residents.

So will Brenda be on TV when Ellen airs AMOK videos from around the world? Stay tuned!

Thanks for all your support of people in need!

Getting Results: An Update from SNGA!

“My kids have not had new shoes in a long time. Now they can run and play and their feet don’t hurt. Thank you to everybody at this place. God will bless you, too.”

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UCB vols and SNGA founder Brenda Rhodes (right) on Hands on Atlanta Day, Oct. 5.

Simple Needs GA received this heartwarming thank-you card, which included a kid’s drawing of a pair of sneakers, a few weeks ago after our new Shoe Them Love program provided the kids in this disadvantaged family something they would otherwise have gone without—new pairs of clean, well-fitting shoes. Another child who received new shoes told his mom he wanted to stay inside to avoid getting dirt on his first pair of shiny new sneaks!

Meanwhile, SNGA has started delivering birthday presents to homeless children via our My Birthday Matters program. One of the first recipients, a little boy staying at a local emergency shelter, was thrilled with his new football. “I play with it every day!” he said. Through a pilot program at Sawyer Road Elementary, a 7-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl received new books, basketballs, toys, school supplies, underwear and even cupcakes and candles!

It’s so exciting to see how our new programs are getting off the ground—and getting results. And of course, none of this would have been possible without the amazing generosity of our donors and volunteers. Thank you so much!

Next week, there’s a great opportunity to help us continue in this work: Simple Needs GA will participate in Georgia Gives Day, an annual event sponsored by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits in which people from across the state pull together to support organizations and causes they believe in. On Nov. 13, more than $200,000 in prizes will be distributed to participating nonprofits. By going to SNGA’s Georgia Gives Day page and making a donation, for example, you could be randomly selected for a “Golden Ticket,” adding an extra $1,000 to your gift!2013 GGD Logo

We hope you’ll check out our Georgia Gives Day page and make a donation—and feel free to spread the word about SNGA’s participation in the event!

In other news, we wanted to thank the 50 volunteers—33 volunteers from UCB Inc. and 17 from SNGA—who helped out at our Marietta warehouse on Hands on Atlanta Day, Oct. 5! These generous folks wrapped presents for My Birthday Matters, put together 300 bags of full-sized toiletries for people experiencing homelessness and wrote notes on 112 holiday cards for friends of SNGA! The volunteer day was a great success!

UCB vols assemble toiletries bags on HOA Day!
UCB vols assemble toiletries bags on HOA Day!

We also wanted to thank the eight-or-so donors who were kind enough to drop off new toys, winter supplies and other items. As the cold weather sets in, the winter supplies will be extremely helpful for people experiencing homelessness. As you know, SNGA continues to provide tents, tarps, sleeping bags, candles and other useful items through our program for people living in the woods.

Lastly, our fall donation drives are in full swing. We’re collecting winter supplies, toys and other useful items at our Marietta warehouse on Sat., Nov. 9. Please join us if you can! We’re also collecting items for a great cause: the new children’s room at the YWCA of Northwest Georgia. For more on the stuff we need, click here.

We’ve got lots more planned for the year ahead. Please visit this blog and our Facebook page for regular updates. More information about our programs is also available at SimpleNeedsGA.org.

Thanks for your support of people in need!

Ways you can help SNGA in October!

_SCD6763Greetings, everyone!

Our next volunteer day will be Sat., Oct. 5, from 9 to 12. We’ll be meeting at the warehouse to put together duffel bags full of toiletries for people experiencing homelessness. We’ll also be getting started (early!) on our holiday cards for SNGA supporters and taking inventory of toys and school supplies for My Birthday Matters. This SNGA program, which we launched over the summer, brings new birthday presents, school supplies and other useful items to homeless kids enrolled in the Marietta school system.

 Oct. 5 also marks the start of our fall toys and winter supplies donation drives! Please consider stopping by the warehouse on Oct. 5 to drop off winter items, and/or new toys and school supplies for My Birthday Matters!

For My Birthday Matters, we’re in greatest need of art supplies, board games, handheld electronic games such as “Bop It,” jewelry-and craft-making kits and generic sports equipment. We’re also making blankets for the kids, so we need bright-colored fleece—it would be great if people could donate two yards of print and two yards of solid—and lots of scissors and, especially, wrapping paper!

With regard to winter supplies, we’d like to collect blankets, sleeping bags, sheets, tarps, tents, camping supplies, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, candles, boots and long underwear to help those who live in the woods.

Oct. 5 also happens to be Hands on Atlanta Day. We’ll likely have a big turnout, and so it would be great to have some of our regulars at the warehouse to assist the HOA Day volunteers. (Kids 8 years old and older are welcome, but must be accompanied and supervised by an adult.) If you plan on attending on Oct. 5, please let us know by emailing us at info@SimpleNeedsGA.org, or letting us know via the wall on our Facebook page.

We’ve got another volunteer day planned for Nov. 9, so mark your calendar. And of course, we’re planning a lot more for the coming year as well. Please visit this blog and our Facebook page for regular updates.

Thanks for your support of people in need!

Fire-displaced families get help via ‘Simple Household Needs’

All of us shudder at the thought of our homes burning to the ground, but imagine what low-income families go through after they are suddenly displaced by a fire.

Over the the past few months in Marietta, 47 adults and 24 children were forced out of their homes by a blaze that destroyed 15 units at the now-condemned Marquis Place apartments, and another fire heavily damaged the Ashley Mill apartments, displacing all residents of the 90 percent-occupied building.cleaning_products

But thanks to your support of Simple Needs GA, some of these families received help in the form of cleaning kits provided through our new Simple Household Needs program. The kits included items that many of us take for granted, such as cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, toilet paper and other necessities. After assembling several dozen of the cleaning kits during a volunteer day at our warehouse, SNGA gave them to social workers in the Marietta school system, who distributed the kits to fire-displaced families with school-age children.

“With help from some great partners, we were able to provide some of these families with much-needed clothes, food and, thanks to Simple Needs GA, cleaning kits,” said social worker Kristin Hanfland. “It was nice to be able to add the cleaning kits to the food supplies we gave the families. Replacing, repairing and cleaning items can be a costly endeavor, and so the families were very appreciative to have the basic supplies needed to get started in their new locations.”

We occasionally assemble these kits during volunteer events at our warehouse in Marietta. For more information, email info@SimpleNeedsGA.org, or leave a note on our Facebook page. You can also support Simple Household Needs by making a financial contribution to SNGA. Each of the kits costs approximately $20, so a donation of just $100 can provide cleaning supplies to five families. To donate, use the PayPal link at SimpleNeedsGa.org, or send a check to:

Simple Needs GA, Inc.
P.O. Box 670265
Marietta, GA 30066

Thanks so much for your support of people in need!

Bring shoes—and smiles—to kids in need!

When Milena Skollar handed a box of new shoes to a disadvantaged elementary school student, she was surprised at the little girl’s overjoyed response. “She opened it up in awe, as though I had just given her something precious,” recalls Skollar, a social worker in the Marietta school system. “She immediately took off her old shoes—theykids-shoes had holes on the bottom—and put on the new pair right there in the parking lot. Then she looked at us and said, ‘I am never taking these off!’ ”

Far too many children in Cobb County make do with hand-me-downs and never go to school with a new pair of clean, well-fitting shoes. But by donating gift cards from Walmart or Payless Shoes to Simple Needs GA’s “Shoe Them Love” program, you can give disadvantaged kids the uplifting experience of having new shoes of their own. Just a $25 gift card, in fact, will pay for shoes for a needy child.

When most of us think of the plight of the poor, we imagine what it would be like to be without food or to live in a car or a shelter. But Kristin Hanfland, a Marietta City Schools social worker, says new shoes are among those simple needs that struggling families often must do without. This is particularly true when they have suffered hardships such as losing a job or being made homeless as a result of an eviction or a fire.

“When families experience these hard times, the ‘extras’—shoes being one—often get put aside,” Hanfland says. “When the choice is, ‘Am I going to pay my rent/utilities or can I get my child a new pair of shoes?’ the immediate needs get prioritized. It’s not that these families don’t care that their children’s shoes are too small or have holes; they simply have to focus on keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table.”

Donating to Shoe Them Love can therefore help to ease the burdens of struggling parents. “It means they don’t have to feel badly for not being able to provide those ‘extras,’ ” Hanfland said.

New shoes also happen to make kids happy and boost their self-esteem. “In a perfect world, kids wouldn’t be judged on what they wear to school, but we know that is simply not always the case,” Hanfland explains. “Kids notice differences; they notice the kids whose shoes have holes; they notice the kids whose shoes are too dirty, too big, or too small.”

And as social workers see firsthand, the positive effects on the child’s mood can seem much larger than the gift itself. “It really can make a huge impact on a child,” Hanfland said. “Besides, it’s just fun! There’s nothing like a brand new, never-been-scuffed-up pair of shoes. How awesome it is to open a box, pull back the paper, and slide into a pair of shoes that are all yours! Brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.”

Hanfland and her colleagues will be working to identify kids who could benefit from Shoe Them Love during the 2013-2014 school year, which begins Aug. 7. Please consider buying $25 gift cards to Payless or Walmart and mailing them to:

Simple Needs GA, P.O. Box 670265, Marietta, GA 30066. You can also make a direct donation via Paypal at SimpleNeeedsGA.org. For more information, call 678-266-3344 or email info@SimpleNeedsGA.org

Thanks for your support of people in need!