The Citizen Community of W-Underdogs

Some things are harder to learn than others. I literally had to get hit by a car and
subsequently lose my dog for a few days (spoiler: he came back!) to learn what it
means to be a citizen. It was a very valuable lesson paid for handsomely in actual
blood, sweat and lots and lots of tears.

We all know what that's like, right? That hopeless sinking feeling where you just know
things are not going to be ok. That's how I felt when my dog was missing. We were
underdogs and needed rescuing. Luckily, several of my neighbors banded together in the blazing summer heat to help me find my best friend, taught me that a citizen looks out for the underdogs.

Enter Grace Hamlin, resident underdog rescuer.

Hamlin, 42, grew up in an orphanage in Costa Rica and has been a friend to both
child and animal for as long as she can remember. Her and her merry band of "W-
Underdogs" led what felt like the most monumental search effort in the history of
southeast Atlanta. It was overwhelmingly awesome.

grace.jpg

“We fight for a humane Atlanta and for safer communities for all...”

-Grace Hamlin, W-Underdogs

For those 'wondering', W-Underdogs is an innovative grassroots nonprofit that pairs
underserved and at-risk youth in the Peoplestown and South Atlanta neighborhoods with animals in need. The program empowers these children to gain leadership, life skills, responsibility and compassion as they use teamwork to learn how to train and care for animals. Through advocacy efforts and direct action, they are empowered to make positive changes at school, home, and in their communities.

Hamlin teaches kids all the necessary skills for caring for animals while also teaching the kids to how to care for and respect each other. The W-underdogs care for stray dogs and cats that have been surrendered to her or found on the streets; “they help save each other.”

The youngest and newest kids do chores like cleaning up after the dogs and walking them. As their skills improve, so do their chores. The kids are able to take their newfound skills ‘on the road’ and, under Hamlin’s supervision, secure odd jobs in the neighborhood. “No job is too big or small,” says Hamlin.

The money they earn as a W-underdog goes into a fund to help pay for animal care and supplies. The older kids are able to put their money towards an account set up by w-underdogs for their college education.

And how does one become a W-underdog? They have to want it. “These kids have to earn the privilege of joining the program,” she says. Each child must write an essay on what it means to be a ‘w-underdog.’

A group of W-Underdogs at a recent trip to the georgia aquarium

A group of W-Underdogs at a recent trip to the georgia aquarium

But it’s not all work and no play, at the end of the day, they’re still kids. Hamlin rewards their hard work with educational and fun field trips, last month they took a trip to the Georgia Aquarium.

Hamlin hopes that this program encourages these kids to look beyond their circumstances and explore their own interests so that they go on to college. “These kids are underdogs and they work hard to turn themselves into ‘w-underdogs,’” she says.

“We fight for a humane Atlanta and for safer communities for all,” says Hamlin.
That's Hamlin's definition of 'citizen' -- someone who works to deal a better hand to those that need it. But not all citizens have to be founders of nonprofits. Or out in the streets where everyone can see them. A lot of my neighbors became social media sleuths.

Posting and cross posting about missing dogs, making sure no lead went cold.
Whatever it means to you, be a citizen. Act. Don't hold back because one day you might
be the the underdog in need of help.

Me and my best friend, Reggie.

Me and my best friend, Reggie.

Kaboom! Play Everywhere Challenge Comes to ATL

A couple weeks ago Kaboom! announced their Southeast Play Everywhere Challenge with a kick-off event, right here in Atlanta. They provided general info and best practices for a successful application (their giving away $720,000 in grants to nonprofits in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Miami) and our team was there to learn everything so you'll have a great shot at a successful application. Hopefully this is helpful and encourages you to apply. Good luck!

HOW IT WORKS

Kaboom! is now accepting applications for grants that integrate “play” into everyday life and unexpected PLAYces - sidewalks, vacant lots, bus stops, open streets and beyond - encouraging more families to get active and play together.

Grants will be distributed for projects ranging from $2,ooo - $30,000 - noting that the smaller grants (less than $10,000) will have a much higher chance of being accepted.

SUBMITTING A GREAT APPLICATION

You’ll want to include the following details in your application:

  • Who your project will serve
  • Specifics around how kids and families could play more
  • Where the project would take place
  • Get granular here. Not just the city/neighborhood, but the exact location and elements around the location. Nearby hubs, bus/train stops, community places, etc...
  • The changes you plan to make with the project
  • There needs to be a physical “thing” built or created. Programs or events will NOT be accepted.
  • Pop-up play areas, painting landscapes, etc...
  • Community partnerships - THIS IS IMPORTANT
  • Name drop! List your notable board members, corporate partners, network of nonprofits or individual donors (and why they’re a great partner), and partners you have that can help make your project possible
  • Showcase how you plan to incorporate education elements through play

The Playbook

Click here to view/download the playbook that highlight and detail the following elements that should all be included in your project. Make it:

  1. Inviting
  2. Wonderous
  3. Challenging
  4. Shared
  5. Unifying
  6. Convenient

Learn more at https://kaboom.org/challenge

Turning Good Intentions Into Action

As CEO of Hands On Atlanta, I spend my days thinking about the future of volunteering and community service. A few months ago I had chance to share some of those thoughts with a group of enthusiastic business undergrads, as part of Georgia Tech’s Impact Series.

My talk was centered around a core belief -- that the most overlooked and underutilized resource in the world today, is that of people's good intentions. I see several trends which have the potential to completely disrupt the volunteering landscape, and in doing so, turn those good intentions into meaningful action: 

  1. Nonprofits no longer hold a monopoly on doing good: Over the next 5-10 years, there will continue to be a convergence of for-profit and nonprofit organizations. It is already difficult to tell them apart, and this trend will continue as legal structure loses its status as a competitive differentiator.  Nonprofits are going to find themselves competing directly with for-profit organizations for the social license to "do good". Image the good that will be unlocked when companies start using their billion-dollar marketing budgets to directly engage people in their sustainability or corporate social responsibility efforts. 

  2. Volunteering goes virtual: When you imagine someone volunteering…do you picture them in front of a laptop or doing it on their mobile phone while in line at Starbucks? There are currently an endless number of ways to give money today using a tweet or SMS. And there are an infinite number of ways for someone to do good if they are willing to invest a few hours or a few days. But in the middle, there is a huge, green space…a blue ocean for innovators and entrepreneurs to dive into. I believe innovations in this space will be made possible by technology. Much like Amazon is disrupting big-box retailers, online volunteer platforms will disrupt big-box nonprofits. Over the next 10 years, I predict that the number of hours volunteered online will surpass traditional volunteering. This will further reduce the friction associated with volunteering today, and allow it to become more integrated into our daily lives.  
  3. Investing is the new philanthropy: People are revisiting the relationship they want their capital to have with the world. They are seeking a role for capital to play beyond just maximizing profits, and thinking about the social and environmental issues that can be addressed through investment. And it isn’t just wealthy individuals. It is also ordinary citizens who are asking their 401K and pension fund managers to respond to local and global issues. There is roughly $375 Billion donated to charity in the US every year. But we are dealing with Trillion-dollar problems. Basic math shows us that we must find a way to unlock new sources of capital if we are truly going to move the needle on poverty, homelessness and hunger. The World Economic Forum has predicted that the impact investing market will grow to $500 Billion over the next 5 years. As new models emerge, we are going to see a tremendous increase in the amount of money that is being invested in "doing good".
  4. What it means to "volunteer" is evolving: Volunteering itself is evolving to keep pace with changing business models. New engagement models will come from collaborative consumption, the sharing economy, crowdfunding, virtual reality and other innovations. And in doing so, we will need to change our language and the definition of volunteering to keep pace. The word “volunteer” will either need to evolve, or it will be supplanted by terms like “activist” and “change maker”.

I believe we will see these trends show up in our daily lives more and more and I hope that by highlighting them, you will be able to recognize and leverage them when they do.

What trends do you see and how might they change how people currently give back to their community?

Keeping Their Hands On Atlanta, Meet Cindy and Kevin Abel

Cindy and Kevin both started their careers at Anderson Consulting before founding their own technology consulting company, Abel Solutions Inc. Cindy and Kevin Abel, long time Atlanta residents, have supported Hands On Atlanta since its founding days. In fact they attended the second volunteer orientation of the organization at the Days Inn on Buford Highway, a standing room only, packed affair that put Hands On Atlanta on the map. 

Cindy and Kevin’s company, Abel Solutions, was a generous supporter from the beginning, sponsoring Hands On Atlanta Day year after year, bringing their employees, spouses and children to painting and planting projects perennially. Cindy served on the Board of Hands On Atlanta for 6 1/2 years and was Vice Chair during the latter 2 years of her term. Cindy continued as member of the Advisory Board.

Last year (2015-2016) Cindy agreed to serve as interim CEO of Hands On Atlanta while a search for a new CEO took place.  Soon after Cindy’s tenure began, the Development Director moved to a new organization, leaving Cindy with not only her chief executive role, but also that of fundraiser in chief.

Kevin and Cindy Abel.jpg

In 2011, Cindy and another partner co-founded Liv2bgirl, a positive place online where all girls feel comfortable being themselves, where they can connect with other girls that have common interests, goals, and concerns, and where they can safely share the ideas, thoughts, and images that define them.
 
Cindy and Kevin have three young adult children.  Cindy has served as president of the high school PTO for the last three years, and is the past board chairperson of the Vibe Performance Company where one of her daughters danced throughout middle and high school.  Kevin is vice chair of the board of New American Pathways, a refugee resettlement agency that helps refugees in Georgia thrive.