The idea that you can’t make a difference is seductive given the need in our community, but a 3-year-old effort called Sam’s Blessing Bag Project shows that it’s possible to make a bigger impact than you might think.
It’s a joint effort by Andrew Hartman, founder and partner at Hartmanlaw, 145 Towne Lake Parkway in Woodstock, and his 10-year-old son, Sam.
Andy, whose boutique law firm specializes in real estate closings, came across the concept of “blessing bags” for the homeless back in 2016. He decided to more publicly launch “Sam’s Blessing Bag Project” at the insistence of some other parents and friends. Part of the goal was to further teach Sam both the value of giving back and the skills necessary for organizing complex projects, Andy says.
“The concept with a ‘Blessing Bag’ is to give people experiencing temporary or long-term homelessness a small kit with beneficial items such as a refillable coffee mug, a snack, some protein, toothpaste, a toothbrush, a pair of socks, a stocking cap and gloves,” Andy explains. “These gifts from a stranger also send a message to those who receive them: Someone cared enough to make this little pack of gifts for me.”
Andy says he knows the homegrown effort can’t solve the global issue of homelessness. “But this is a way to show children how to begin to think in a charitable way, and organize a project,” he said. “That is one of our primary goals. And the fruits of their labor will help someone through a difficult, short period of time.”
In the first couple years working on the project at home as a family, the Hartmans would fill 80 to 150 of the bags to distribute to the homeless. Then in 2018, they took the program to a new level. “Along with our extremely generous friends, we put together more than 600 bags along with over 100 blankets for distribution to people in need across Fulton, Cherokee, Cobb, Bartow, Pickens and Paulding counties,” Andy explains.
This past December, participants at a “Blessing Bag party” at the Woodstock law office put together about 600 bags! “We had snacks, had some prizes for the kids and made it fun,” Andy said.
Simple Needs GA was touched and honored to receive about 90 of the bags for distribution to people who live in the woods in Cobb County, said SNGA Founder Brenda Rhodes. “Give Homeless Hope, a local nonprofit that works closely with this population, is distributing the bags and blankets,” Brenda said. “Thanks so much to the Hartmans and everyone who contributed to this awesome project. It’s amazing to see how Sam’s willingness to give back is blossoming into something that deepens’ others involvement as well. Way to go!”
“I’ve been in tears all day knowing my children will get gifts for Christmas thanks to your organization.”
–Mom whose kids will be getting gifts through our Spirit of Christmas program
“Thank you to the people of Simple Needs GA for helping me furnish my first home with furniture and appliances. You took such a big load off my shoulders! I am so grateful for your help!”
–SNGA furniture client who just moved into a house built by Habitat for Humanity
NEXT DONATION DRIVE IS DEC. 15!
We’ve had such a rewarding and busy couple of months, with our open house, Santa visit/pics for clients’ children (see article below), a huge GAgives/Giving Tuesday event, ramping up for our Spirit of Christmas program and more. Did we say Christmas? See our article below on how you can sponsor a child!
Let’s keep the momentum going: Our next monthly Donation Drive is Sat., Dec. 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at our Marietta warehouse.
If you can’t make it on Dec. 15, we’ll have drives next month on Jan. 5 and Jan. 19. Mark your calendars!
In addition to winter outerwear for people of all ages and sizes, our clients need:
BRAND NEW: kitchen garbage cans, mops and brooms, boy’s socks for ages 5 and up, books for tweens, small “shopping” bags to put smaller items in for kids who are in pre-K or younger (older kids get backpacks), Amazon Fire 7 tablets (when you see them on sale).
NEW OR GENTLY USED: microwaves, DVD players, baking pans/cookie sheets, large serving bowls, hand towels, bath rugs, sheets (esp. full and twin), blankets and comforters (all sizes), air mattresses, mattress pads (all sizes esp queen), dish sets (no random needed), water pitchers, shower rings.
CURRENT FURNITURE NEEDS (NEW OR GENTLY USED): mattresses and box springs, kitchen tables and chairs, couches, dressers or chests of drawers, TV stands, nightstands, coffee tables, small desks and bookshelves.
If you would like to donate larger (essential) furniture, please email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can deliver, GREAT! If not, include address as well (pick up in Cobb County only).
One of our goals for our furniture clients is for them to not spend too many nights sleeping on the floor. We do not receive enough donations of mattresses and box springs, so we often need to purchase them.We welcome financial contributions toward the purchase of those.
Additional donor resources:
SNGA client Amazon Wish List
Our updated list of client needs
List of small household items SNGA clients are offered
SANTA DAY AT SNGA!
All of us remember going to the mall and having our pictures made with Santa as a kid. This year, we thought it would be great to give our clients’ children the same opportunity. On Dec. 8, local Santa Dean Rowan dropped by our warehouse to pose for pictures with client children of all ages. Everyone had an absolute blast, said SNGA Founder Brenda Rhodes. “Our Santa was amazing, the decorations were beautiful, and the client families really enjoyed themselves doing arts and crafts, eating some food and seeing Jolly St. Nick,” she said. “We definitely want to do this again next year and welcome those who would like to come by and experience this wonderful event!”
Special thanks to Scott Denton, our photographer, as well as all of the volunteers who made Santa day happen. Several of our regular volunteers helped out as well as some of Brenda’s Leadership Cobb C16 classmates. And a shout out to Lisa Majeski for the wonderful and creative decorations!
[PICTURED: SNGA board members Jen Sypeck (with Santa) and Alicia Putnam (elf ears) and Brenda (antlers)]
VOLUNTEERS AND DONORS NEEDED NOW FOR ‘SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS’
Our Spirit of Christmas program relies on referrals from school social workers and others to make the holidays brighter for children and families in need. We’re kicking into full gear now with a burst of activity that will last right up until Christmas Eve. That’s because we help families that, for any number of reasons, were unable to sign up for other programs earlier. We want them to experience the Spirit of Christmas just the same. In 2017, we supplied Christmas gifts to 158 Cobb County kids from 54 families, and these numbers will likely climb again this year.
Our goal is to provide children with three or four gifts worth $100 per child in total. Each child will also receive a hat, gloves and a scarf. Every family will receive at least one board game suited to the number of children/ages of the kids. And the parent(s) receive a $25 Walmart gift card.
You as the sponsor of the child or family can provide these additional items, or Simple Needs GA will. Or for a $100 donation, you can sponsor a child and we’ll do the shopping.
Click here for a rundown of how you and/or an organization that you’re a part of can help! Email Brenda@simpleneedsga.orgfor more info.
THANKS FOR SUPPORTING US ON GA GIVES/GIVING TUESDAY!
We were blown away on Nov 27 when 64! donors stepped up to support Simple Needs GA during the annual ‘GAgives on #GivingTuesday’ event. Our Facebook fundraiser brought in $7,415 (including $2,500 from the incredible parents of one of our board members) to support people in need in Cobb County. The fundraiser started by our board member Jen reached $460, we raised $495 on the GAgives website, and another $400 came in via PayPal on our website at SimpleNeedsGA.org. That’s a whopping $8,770 to provide our clients with birthday presents, new shoes, full-sized toiletries, cleaning kits and so much more! Thanks again for your amazing generosity!
We love it when children get involved in SNGA. Recently our friend Becca’s daughters [PICTURED: Ella (left) and Savannah] made a large number of no-sew blankets for children in our My Birthday Matters program. So thoughtful! Thank you so much, girls! These blankets will definitely be greatly appreciated by the kids who will be receiving them!
THANKS TO MELANIE FOR A FANTASTIC OPEN HOUSE!
Founding SNGA board member Melanie Booker did a fantastic job organizing our highly successful open house this past Nov. 17. We can’t say thank-you enough to Melanie for her hard work on the food, decorations and logistics. A big shout out as well goes to all of the volunteers who helped us in so many ways. They whipped the warehouse into shape, gave tours that Saturday, and made our guests feel welcome.
By our count, we had record attendance with at least 75 guests stopping by, plus several clients (five adults and 13 children) who were there to talk about how we made their lives better. We made short work of the sandwiches and salads generously donated by Newk’s Eatery in Kennesaw, along with donuts, coffee and other goodies.
Special thanks to Krista Williams for the awesome design job she did on our new signs, which looked great hanging in different spots at the warehouse, and for the professional printing of the signs by our board member Mike Yalen.
We were also excited that two government officials from Powder Springs—City Councilmen Henry Lust and Patrick Bordelon (Mayor Pro Tem)—were kind enough to stop by the warehouse to learn more about what we do.
“I was very impressed with your group of volunteers and the kindness which they bring to their efforts,” Bordelon said. “It is important to continue to raise awareness of the needs of those members of our community who may have fallen on hard times and can use a little help getting back on their feet.”
Slated to serve as President of the Cobb Municipal Association in 2019, Bordelon even invited SNGA to speak at an upcoming meeting of the group, comprised of all the elected city officials in the county as well as the city managers and clerks. We’re greatly looking forward to it!
Thank you so much to these elected officials for taking an interest in our nonprofit!
HOLIDAY SHOPPING? DON’T FORGET ABOUT AMAZON SMILE!
No doubt about it—ecommerce is bringing about huge changes in the way people shop during the holidays. Fortunately, there’s a great way to support SNGA as you sit on your couch and knock out your Christmas shopping on your iPad. Just go to smile.amazon.com, sign up for the program and choose Simple Needs GA from the list. After that, AmazonSmile will donate to SNGA each time you make a purchase! Just remember to go to the smile.amazon.comportal before you do your shopping!
RECURRING DONATIONS – BE PART OF OUR SIMPLY CARING PROGRAM
If you regularly make donations to Simple Needs GA (or would like to!), we’d love it if you would consider making your donation automatically recur each month. Just go to SimpleNeedsGA.org, click one of the “donate” buttonsand then check “make this donation recurring (monthly).”
You can use your credit card or a PayPal account for these donations. However, if you plan to routinely donate online to SNGA, you might consider signing up for a PayPal Giving Fund account. PayPal Giving Fund charges no fees to enrolled charities, so all of your donations will go to SNGA!
Of course, you could also just mail a monthly check to:
Simple Needs GA
P.O. Box 670265
Marietta, GA 30066
THANKS SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT OF PEOPLE IN NEED!
At Simple Needs GA, our supply of candles to distribute to people who live in the woods is running quite low. If you have extra candles at home or would be willing to buy some for us, our clients would greatly appreciate them! Consider suggesting a candle drive to your place of worship, school, business, book club, Girl or Boy Scout troop. Most any candle will do other than tea lights. The best are pillar and tapered.
Why are candles so important?
People living in the woods have a difficult time keeping raccoons, rats and other critters away from their tents and campsites. Believe it or not, a burning candle or two will keep rodents away. In addition to emitting light, candles are also a surprisingly good heat source. Their warm glow is reassuring–a bit like having a little campfire inside your tent.
But of course, they don’t last all that long. People living in the woods tend to burn through them very quickly.
And the need is great: Hundreds of people shelter in tents in Cobb County. You might not see them because they deliberately pitch camp in wooded places that are out of view from the road. But most likely, when you drive up a ramp to I-75, someone is living close by. The circumstances in which these folks live can vary tremendously: Some work regular jobs and have spent years cultivating clean, safe camps. But a great many others have next to nothing–maybe a tent, sleeping bag and a few other possessions–and face all kinds of uncertainties and challenges.
To donate candles to our Simply Sheltered program, bring them by our space on the third Saturday of the month between 10 and 1. For the address, email me at email@example.com.
They also like candle holders of any kind, especially for the tall taper candles, and can make good use of coffee-type cans (clean only) in which to burn candles.
Our Simply Sheltered program also provides tents, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows and other essential items to people living in the woods. In the winter, we collect and distribute underwear, hats, gloves, scarves and other cold-weather items. In fact, we’re running low on blankets right now and could use some more blankets, for sure!
If you’d like to make a financial contribution to help Simply Sheltered, just click this link!
You could also mail a check to:
Simple Needs GA
P.O. Box 670265
Marietta, GA 30066
All your contributions to our 501(c) 3 non-profit organization are tax-deductible. Any support is greatly appreciated and will help us improve the lives of those who are struggling.
Thanks so much for your support of people in need!
It can all be a little confusing.
What’s the difference between GAgives and #GivingTuesday? Where should you go to make a donation? When should you donate? And what’s so special about Tues., Nov. 27?
GAgives is an initiative of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits that has raised more than $21 million since its start in 2012. The idea was to help nonprofits across the state by catalyzing donations during peak giving season.
To participate in the GAgives campaign, nonprofits like Simple Needs GA set up a fundraising profile through GAgives.org. Our donation link is live now.
#GivingTuesday, on the other hand, was started by different organizations and bills itself as “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.”
Since #GivingTuesday actually happens during the GAgives annual campaign, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits a couple of years ago rebranded the effort as “GAgives on #GivingTuesday.”
If you use our GAgives link on Nov. 27, you can boost SNGA’s odds of winning prizes that could help us reach even more people in need. Info about the prizes is available here.
Another option—and possibly a better one for our clients—would be to make a donation to SNGA via a Facebook fundraiser on #GivingTuesday. That’s because Facebook is partnering with PayPal to match #GivingTuesday donations made on Facebook to nonprofits, up to a total of $7 million.
Facebook/PayPal will start matching donations at 8:00 a.m. on Tues., Nov. 27. The matching offer will expire when $7 million in donations is reached or at 11:59 Pacific time on Nov. 27.
So which approach is better for SNGA’s clients, the GAgives route or Facebook?
Our guess is that our clients will see more benefit through the matching funds provided by Facebook/PayPal.
In theory, if enough people give to Facebook fundraisers right out of the gate on Nov. 27, the $7 million in matching funds could run out early. So you might want to set a reminder on your phone so that you can give at 8 a.m. or soon after.
Of course, using our GAgives link on #GivingTuesday would be perfectly fine for those who would prefer to do that.
A third option might be to make two donations and split the gifts between a Facebook fundraiser and the GAgives.org link.
We hope all of that makes sense! Thanks so much for your support of people in need!
On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, GAgives on #GivingTuesday provides a great way to keep the season of gratitude going by “showing your love” for your favorite Georgia nonprofits.
This Nov. 27 you can donate to Simple Needs GA by visiting the following link:
Last year, GAgives on #GivingTuesday raised $6.8 million for 3,000 Georgia nonprofits!
GAgives, an initiative of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, has raised more than $21 million since its 2012 start.
Our GAgives donation link is live now, and people across the state are already making GAgives donations.
However, by waiting to use the link until #GivingTuesday/Nov. 27, you can boost Simple Needs GA’s odds of winning prizes that could help us help even more people in need in Cobb County. Information about the prizes—Power Hours, Golden Tickets, Leaderboards and more—is available here. (Thanks to sponsors Cureo, Gas South and Arby’s Foundation for making them possible!)
Thanks for all you do to support people in need!
“I wanted to thank you and your organization for the household and baby items we received on Saturday! Special thank-you to Ms. Jen! She was such a great help assisting my mom and my 2-year-old (he got two toys and he loves them). The items are such a blessing to have to start out with. Thank you!”
“Thanks for the birthday items. The boys are very pleased! [A.] is ready to go to GameStop to use his gift card. [T.] is admiring his new book bag and goodies. [S.] is already snuggled in his throw watching the game. Thanks again for everything, including the furniture!”
Our open house is Sat., Nov. 17, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at our Marietta warehouse. We hope you can stop by the warehouse to chat, grab a bite to eat (including sandwiches and salads generously donated by Newk”s Eatery in Kennesaw), meet some clients and talk about our mission.
The open house coincides with a donation drive as well.
“We’d like to encourage everyone who comes by to spend some time at the warehouse meeting others who are a part of SNGA,” Brenda said. “It’s also a great opportunity to visualize what we do for our community and how you can be involved. Those who take the tour always learn something new about our programs.”
In addition to outdoor winter wear for people of all ages and sizes, our clients need:
BRAND NEW: mops and brooms, boy’s socks for ages 5 and up, books for tweens, small “shopping” bags to put smaller items in for kids who are in pre-K or younger (older kids get backpacks), Amazon Fire 7 tablets (when you see them on sale).
NEW OR GENTLY USED:Kitchen garbage cans, bath rugs, DVD players, dish sets (no random dishes needed), crockpots, toaster ovens, baking pans/cookie sheets, large serving bowls, shower curtain rings, trivets, water pitchers, hand towels, blankets of all sizes, comforters (esp. twin, queen, king), air mattresses, mattress pads (all sizes esp. queen).
CURRENT FURNITURE NEEDS (NEW OR GENTLY USED): mattresses and box springs, kitchen tables and chairs, dressers or chests of drawers, TV stands, nightstands, coffee tables, end tables, small desks and cable-ready TVs (nothing too large and heavy).
If you would like to donate larger (essential) furniture, please email photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can deliver, GREAT! If not, include address as well (Cobb County only).
One of our goals for our furniture clients is for them to not spend too many nights sleeping on the floor. We do not receive enough donations of mattresses and box springs, so we often need to purchase them. We welcome financial contributions toward the purchase of those. Donate here.
If you can’t make it on Nov. 17, we’ll have drives next month on Dec. 1 and Dec. 15.
Email Brenda@simpleneedsga.org if you have questions or need the address!
We hope to see you there!
A FEW THANK-YOUS!
Donors and volunteers are the heart of Simple Needs GA. Thanks so much for everything you do for people in need in our community! Here’s a sample—incomplete for sure—of some recent contributions to SNGA’s clients.
Oct. 13 was the Local Day of Service for the Marietta First United Methodist Church, 56 Whitlock Ave NW. Thanks so much to the volunteers who stopped by our Marietta warehouse to help with a variety of tasks. In other news, the church’s Open Door Sunday School class recently supported SNGA’s clients by collecting cleaning kits (pictured) for clients of our Simple Household Needs program. The kits are a huge help for our clients. Thanks so much!
The ushers at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centrecontinue to support SNGA in amazing ways! We are so grateful! Most recently, they held a donation drive for us that brought in a huge number of items (pictured, below).
Did you know that Cobb Energy Centre is always looking for volunteers who have a strong interest in serving their community and some extra time? Those with previous volunteer experience in this field are especially welcome to apply. For more information, contact the Centre by phone at 770-916-2828 or by email at email@example.com. Written inquiries can be mailed to 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30339. Download an application here.
Little Helpers is at it again! Last month, these awesome volunteers (pictured, below) collected 350 new pairs of socks and 350 pairs of underwear for SNGA. It was all part of Little Helpers’ Trevor’s Toes and Tushies Socks and Underwear Drive. As noted by the Marietta Daily Journal, the drive honors Little Helpers’ member Trevor George, who passed away at the age of six in August 2014. When they delivered the items, members of Little Helpers wore superhero outfits and mismatched socks, which were Trevor’s trademarks. They also sorted donations, made no-sew blankets and did other helpful tasks. You can read more about Little Helpers in our blog post about this fantastic organization.
Thanks so much to the volunteers from the American Medical Students Association of KSUfor their help at our warehouse on Nov 3. This organization helps people studying to become doctors, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dentists and more. Members lobby on various issues as well. So nice of them to volunteer their time to help people in need in their community!
Members of Boy Scout Troop #797chartered by The Episcopal Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Marietta (East Cobb), helped to organize and move donations and assembled about 75 toiletry kits at our Marietta warehouse on Nov. 10. Thanks to Belinda Vogel, a Troop Committee member, and Scoutmaster Chris Durkee for their help during the event. Troop 797 participates in a variety of volunteer activities, including Eagle Scout projects at local schools, churches and parks, and conservation projects such as working with the Trail Club at Kennesaw Mountain. “Eagle projects can include a wide range of activities, such as building picnic tables at Chattahoochee Nature Center, constructing a retaining wall at our sponsoring church, and most recently building a food pantry for a Cobb elementary school,” Belinda said.
The Scouts were impressed with the services SNGA provides—particularly My Birthday Matters. “It felt like a productive service project; we did a lot in a short period of time,” Belinda said. “As a leader I appreciate that it’s a project a Scout of any age can assist with. If we returned with either a larger or smaller group of volunteers, we could be helpful and not run out of things to do.”
BRENDA WINS ‘EAST COBB CITIZEN OF THE YEAR’
Just in case you didn’t see it on Facebook, last month the East Cobb Area Council of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce named Brenda its “East Cobb Citizen of the Year” (PICTURED:Brenda with Cobb Chamber of Commerce CEO Sharon Mason, left, and East Cobb Area Council chair Tammy Palmgren.) You can read all about it in articles in The Marietta Daily Journal and the East Cobb News. “I was thrilled and honored to receive the award, but I accepted it on behalf of all of the dedicated volunteers and donors who have made SNGA possible,” Brenda said. “This was really about all of us and the work we’re doing on behalf of others! Thank you so much!”
For: Simple Needs GA
Marietta, Ga. For Immediate Release
SIMPLE NEEDS GA RECEIVES $5K GRANT FROM WELLS FARGO ATLANTA
–Generous disbursement of funds will help Marietta-based nonprofit support families and children in need across Cobb County.
MARIETTA, Ga. (10/23/2018) — The Atlanta office of Wells Fargo has awarded Simple Needs GA (SNGA) a $5,000 grant to help people in need in Cobb County.
The Human Services & Basic Needs grant will go toward SNGA’s Simple Household Needs program, which provides furniture, household items and cleaning kits to people transitioning out of homelessness or escaping from domestic violence.
“We are deeply honored to receive this generous grant from Wells Fargo’s Atlanta office,” said Brenda Rhodes, Founder and Executive Director of SNGA. “This will help dozens of children and families in need in Cobb. It will translate directly into people moving from the floor or air mattresses to real beds, or finally having kitchen or bath basics that most of us take for granted.”
The Atlanta office of Wells Fargo is proud to support SNGA’s commitment to the community, said Tai A. Roberson, Vice President, Senior Community Development Officer, Wells Fargo Government and Community Relations. Each year, she noted, local offices of the national bank provide similar grants to a wide variety of community organizations across the country.
“At Wells Fargo, we believe that grant-making decisions are more effective when made locally,” Roberson said. “That’s why Wells Fargo is actively involved in the communities where we live and work, and why our team members are leaders in helping our communities succeed.”
SNGA’s Simple Household Needs program provides all-new cleaning kits to help families sanitize and dignify their surroundings. The new laundry baskets are filled with more than a dozen cleaning products and tools—supplies not covered by food stamps. “Social workers help us distribute these kits to families,” Rhodes said. “They also go to our furniture clients and to several agencies who shelter clients in apartments, such as LiveSAFE Resources.”
Via the program, SNGA also relies on donations of household items, including dishes, linens, silverware, microwaves, vacuums and cookware for clients and collects donations of gently used furniture such as beds, tables and chairs, dressers and more. “It’s all the essential items you would need if you had nothing in a new home,” Rhodes families. “Struggling families are typically overjoyed when we drive up in the delivery truck and also when they see all the household items from which they can choose during their appointment at our space. Most leave with no room left in their car. This program helps them live with greater ease and dignity.”
For more information about SNGA or Simple Household Needs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Simple Needs GA (SNGA)
SNGA’s mission is to meet the simple needs of children, people experiencing homelessness, and others in need, while inspiring our community to do the same. The Marietta, Ga.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit offers several community-based programs. Donors and volunteers provide full-sized toiletries and other useful items to people living in homeless shelters. They furnish tents, sleeping bags, tarps and other essentials to those living in the woods or on the street, and supply families with furniture, appliances, cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other household necessities. Other initiatives include providing schoolchildren with required school uniforms; helping social workers buy kids new shoes via gift cards; bringing new presents and other items to homeless children celebrating their birthdays; and providing Christmas presents for children in need. For more info, visit SimpleNeedsGA.org.
Media contacts: At SNGA: Brenda Rhodes, Founder, Brenda@SimpleNeedsGA.org, 678-266- 3344.