Almost 30 years ago, a busy Elise Eplan, was a newly minted investment banker, having trouble finding time to volunteer at service organizations. Her and her friends’ work schedules clashed with nonprofits’ 9-5 weekday programs. So, she and 11 acquaintances came up with a more organized and flexible business model for volunteering.

It was the end of the ’80s with ‘greed is good’ and all of that and there were many of us who were rebelling and saying that is not us. We still have a heart and a soul and we care about this city.
— Co-founder, Elise Eplan

The 12 volunteered as a group. If an agency needed a weekly volunteer, rather than one person having to make a weekly commitment, the group worked together to fill that slot. That gave them flexibility. They also offered to work weekends, promising agencies they could supply a number of people.

The idea, which began with an informal meeting back in 1989 has become a one-stop shop to bring together Atlanta volunteers and nonprofits.

After determining their system worked, they invited friends to join them. Their numbers went from 12 to about 60. They began to get a few small grants to help with postage, phones and other costs. With success came new problems. They were growing beyond what they could manage out of Eplan’s apartment and began looking for someone to run the organization.

We had heard about this great young woman, Michelle Nunn, who was considering going to law school but had her heart in nonprofits.
— Cofounder, Deva Hirsch

Michelle Nunn was weighing going to law school and a Peace Corps assignment, but when offered the opportunity to lead Hands On Atlanta, she didn't think twice, and the rest is history. 

It was Michelle's vision, tenacity, and spirit that helped grow the organization from 12 friends to another with international impact and tens of thousands of volunteers. 

-This is an excerpt from an article by Christopher Quinn, originally published in the AJC.


It all started right here, in Atlanta, with citizens who cared deeply for our city and for each other. Learn more about the changemakers continuing this work on our blog.


Our Mission


At Hands On Atlanta, we tackle greater Atlanta's most pressing needs by igniting a passion for service and creating life-long community volunteers.


Our Values


Civic Engagement 

Meaningful volunteer service is essential to creating a vibrant democratic society. The power of each person taking action changes the world.

Pursuit of Excellence 

We believe in fostering an environment of quality and continuous improvement in everything we do. 

Respect and Inclusion 

Diversity of serving together builds bridges and creates a platform for mutual respect.


Community Partnerships 

Maximizing our collective talents and resources creates sustainable change. 





Hands On Atlanta is proud to join hundreds of affiliates across the globe as a member of the HandsOn Network