our blog

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader – Teen Leadership Program: A mid-year review by Ben Deignan


As we reach the end of an unquestionably difficult year, it’s a positive thing to be able to say that the first Teen Leadership cohort is reaching the program’s midpoint. While no one could’ve predicted that 2020 might not be the ideal year to launch a brand-new program, perhaps the timing is actually somewhat serendipitous for a program such as this one to come into existence.

As we’ve witnessed, factors invisible to the naked eye can bring life to a screeching halt on the local and global scale.

In these moments, we depend on our appointed leaders to make swift and responsible decisions that will certainly affect us, our loved ones, and those within our communities. We also look to the people we see as leaders in our personal lives to guide us through times of uncertainty as well.

The 32 teens that makeup Pebble Tossers’ inaugural Teen Leadership Program are cultivating emotional intelligence at a time in history where the negative impacts of leadership, in the absence of emotional intelligence, are felt almost immediately and prove more costly to society than life as usual.

Now, more than ever, and in real-time, we can witness the fallout that results from global leaders who lack the self-awareness to question their own motives, the social awareness to practice human decency, the self-management skills to inspire discipline, and the relationship skills to establish and maintain trust.

These are the tenets of social-emotional learning (SEL) and the foundation upon which the Teen Leadership Program is built. These concepts fuel the TLP mission to Serve, Lead, Succeed.

Now, as we stand at the halfway mark and can see where we’re headed, it’s good to reflect on where we’ve been…

Sunday, August 23rd, the program officially launched. Woodruff Arts Center Director of Recruitment & Employee Engagement and motivational speaker Alex Desiderio kicked things off with a Volunteer 101 presentation.

“It’s about establishing a personal presence.” -Alex Desiderio
On leadership and service project planning

For our second meeting we had the great honor of welcoming Licensed Therapist and University of Southern Mississippi associate professor, Dr. Leslie Anderson. Dr. Anderson put the students in the frame of mind where they were encouraged to interrogate their true motivations behind their acts of service.

“Service is more than “helping the needy” or attempting to capture an Instagramable selfie. It’s about being able to see yourself in the eyes of those you seek to serve.” -Dr. Leslie Anderson
On motivations behind volunteering for community service projects

We were then joined by retired NFL player (New England Patriots: UGA Football), author and founder of Share the Magic Foundation, Ind. Malcolm Mitchell, for our October meeting. Mitchell shared with us the degree to which reading has impacted his life and how education has informed the leader he’s become now, off the field, as an author and entrepreneur.

“Reading unlocks potential. It’s as simple as that. I promise you that if you read every single day, you will grow; it’s impossible not to.” -Malcolm Mitchell
On the powerful benefits of reading

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, we welcomed Bank of America Community Relations Manager and service project veteran Cherie Wilson. Growing up, while other kids were playing sports, Cherie volunteered her time and effort to help her community. Her passion for community service lasted through college, her professional life, and even to this day. Cherie’s presentation may have been the most relevant to the Pebble Tossers’ cause as a whole and comes at a perfect time as the teens enter the program’s service project phase.

“You have to learn how to tell your story. If you want to inspire others to get behind your cause, sell them on the narrative that inspired you to get behind this cause.” -Cherie Wilson
On using your personal “secret weapon” and “super powers” as a guide for service and career paths.

The caliber of speakers willing to share their wisdom with us is certainly felt within the program, even in the virtual format.

“I love all of the different speakers. I feel like I’ve learned so much already, and we haven’t even been together in person. It’s really amazing.”
-Gracie Rosenberg

“The program and the speakers have definitely challenged my mind to think about things that I wouldn’t normally think about.”
-Ainsley McCaa

Now that the teens have put their heads together and decided on three service projects, they’re in the process of dividing themselves into groups based on where they think their interests and talents will be the most useful. This is really the reason many of them joined the program in the first place.

“I know for me I just wanted to get to know new people and get to find new service opportunities, and just grow my leadership skills as a whole, and this seemed like a really great way to do it.”
-Gracie Rosenberg

“I really want to find like-minded people who want to address issues within the community and improve my leadership skills.”
-Alex Farquharson

Ultimately, this group of young adults have an altruistic fire that burns within them. No one is forcing them to be in a leadership program; they all found their way here by their own means. What they’re learning through the curriculum, they already possess; but the time they spend together working on their own service projects will further uncover and strengthen these leadership skills.

“This program is a wonderful training ground for young, compassionate, and brilliant leaders. As an advisor, I am thrilled to see the creativity and drive in the young hearts & minds. Our current project is focused on planting trees in the memory of those who passed away due to COVID. Besides the raw power of the central theme, the team came up with great ideas – like a type of flora specific to the local region with flower colors symbolizing hope.  

Outcome driven meetings wonderfully curated guest speakers and reflection writing – Jen & Ben have made this program a powerful part of kids’ leadership toolkit.  Thank you, Pebble Tossers!”

-Anand Sathiyamurthy, Teen Leadership Program advisor

Happy COVID Halloween

Your guide to Halloween, trick-or-treating and COVID-19

Good news: It’s OK to decorate your COVID-19 mask

By Page Leggett

As chief safety, quality and epidemiology officer, Dr. David Priest is Novant Health’s top expert on COVID-19. He has helped lead COVID-19 treatment and prevention efforts throughout the Novant Health system. He gets nonstop, complex questions around the clock on the ongoing pandemic. He spoke to Page Leggett to answer the one question that a nation of children and parents are asking …

Q: Is it safe to trick or treat this year?

A: “I think some variation on Halloween celebrations, or trick or treating, can be created, as long as people adhere to the rules we all know: Avoid having large groups of people congregating together. Avoid indoor settings for parties. Make sure you’re masking. And it’s always safer to be outside.”

Q: Good! No one wants to have to tell kids Halloween is canceled. What about from an adult perspective? Is it safe to give out candy with a cluster of kids at your door?

A: “That’s something I’d avoid. Getting creative about how you give out candy is the best way to approach it. Consider individual plastic bags with a set amount of candy and maybe have candy set out on a table where people walk by and pick them up as they go. Or find a way to give it out without having people congregating and yelling “trick or treat” on your doorstep. Having a better way to dispense candy is preferable to having a group of kids on your doorstep.”

Q: Should children not go trick or treating with their friends? Should they go with just one adult?

A:“I think they can go with a small group of friends, although they all should wear masks. You’ve got to keep the group smaller – three or four friends outside wearing masks. And while walking down the street, they should try to stay socially distant. I think that’s a reasonably safe approach. Just avoid big groups and unmasked folks.”

Q:A lot of Halloween costumes have masks, but they would generally have an opening. I’m assuming that is not sufficient protection.

A: “That’s true. Kids should use masks that inhibit the spread of COVID. There are some Halloween costumes that would be more authentic with a mask, right? Stick to the kind of mask that helps prevent the spread of COVID rather than, say, a Darth Vader mask.”

Q: So, dressing as a nurse or doctor would be a good call this Halloween? Is it safe to decorate those cloth masks or “doctor up” a surgical mask with Sharpies, glue and glitter?

A: “Yes, I think that’s a way to be creative and still wear the appropriate mask. Remember: Bandanas and the gaiters you pull up your neck to cover the lower half of your face are not as effective as the surgical-style or other cotton masks.”
Is using a Sharpie on your mask OK? Is there any chance kids could be poisoning themselves with the decorations?
“Minimal risk – nothing you need to worry about.”

Q: You mentioned not having kids come up to your door but instead putting something out in the yard where they can grab candy. If somebody chooses not to do that, do they need to be disinfecting the doorbell after every ring?

A: “I don’t think so. As long as you’re washing your own hands, there’s little need to be wiping down door handles and doorbells. I don’t want to discourage people from cleaning things, but I would say hand hygiene is more important than wiping down surfaces.”

Q: Should kids wear gloves as part of their costume?

A: “Not necessarily. Hand hygiene is better than glove wearing as a preventive strategy. Now if you’re Batman, you’ve got to have gloves, right? Don’t avoid gloves – but don’t go overboard trying to make them part of the costume.”

Q: Do parents don’t need to wipe down individual pieces of candy?

A: “I don’t think so. Just wash your hands.”

Q: How would you recommend talking to kids who balk about wearing a mask with their costume?

A: “Remind kids about how masks keep them safe. Promote the idea that it’s a cool part of the costume. If a child wants to dress as a ninja, the mask fits in perfectly as part of the costume. Let this be the year you find a costume that incorporates the right kind of mask. With little, little kids, it’s tough. Try as best you can to keep the mask on them. If they don’t, then stay outside and stay socially distanced as best you can.”

Q: What about corn mazes, pumpkin patches and other common fall activities that take place outdoors?

A: “I’m personally OK with that. You need to avoid congregating at the entrance to the corn maze or the ticket booth or anywhere else. And I would make sure those places have some parameters to keep the lines spread out and to help people maintain a safe distance.
I would be concerned about haunted houses if they’re enclosed. Avoid them unless you can find one that offers a drive-thru option or that strictly limits the number of people who can come in at one time.”

Q: Should neighbors come together and put out sanitation stations for trick-or-treaters?

A: “I don’t think, as long as people are doing their own hand hygiene and masking and being socially distant, that a station like that is necessary.”

source: https://www.novanthealth.org/healthy-headlines/your-guide-to-halloween-trick-or-treating-and-covid-19

What Your Service Signals to Others

What your service signals to others

Contributing your time, effort and energy to a community service organization like Pebble Tossers is rarely (and should never be) about resume building.  It should be about serving the community, building traits like compassion and empathy, and ultimately making the world a better place.  That being said, we all have personal goals like wanting to go to college and get a good job, and it is natural and smart to consider how time spent towards community service might help us reach those goals.  

I am beginning my fifteenth year as a professor at a large university.  During my career, I have evaluated hundreds (if not thousands) of applications for academic programs, scholarships, internships, etc.  With this post, I will share some insight on what your community service means to those of us who make these decisions.  Three factors stand out.

First, your service shows that you care about something bigger than yourself.  These are precisely the types of people we want to support, but it is very hard to differentiate between selfish people and those who care about others.  Volunteering provides evidence that you care about others.  Take a look at the Pebble Tossers Board of Directors and Advisory Council for a moment.  We see lawyers, health professionals, web designers, accountants, financial advisors, and many more high-level, powerful positions.  These are busy people who find time to give back because they care about something bigger than themselves.  These are the type of people we want in our programs, and these are the types of people our donors want to support through scholarships.  By serving, you signal that you want to become one of these people someday – you will set lofty personal goals like becoming a lawyer or CEO, but you’ll also stay grounded and use your talents to make the world a better place.

Second, serving demonstrates the type of work ethic that will allow you to reach your goals.  Rest assured that being a college student, arguing a legal case, running high-level meetings, and working with investors is rarely like what you see on TV.  Sure, parts of these jobs can be a lot of fun, but much of what we do as professionals is a grind.  Similarly, serving your community by planting trees, delivering meals, and picking up trash can look like a lot of fun in pictures, but anyone who has done these knows that they are mostly just hard work.  Most do not reach their goals because they cannot dig down deep and grind it out when difficulties arise.  Your service tells me that you can.  

Third, serving signals that you understand the importance of working with a diverse team to accomplish big goals.  This is what all successful organizations do, and the workforce desperately needs servants and leaders who can bring people together to reach goals.  Seeing Pebble Tossers on your resume tells me that you are one of these types of people.  You understand that people have diverse talents and skills, and you understand that we can accomplish great things when these people come together effectively.  

Ultimately, you should volunteer and serve because you care about others and want to make the world a better place.  However, never discount what you are signaling about yourself when you serve.  Youth with high GPAs and ACT/SAT scores are a dime a dozen.  Serving sets you apart as not only a high achiever, but also a high achiever who cares about others.  These are the type of people we want on our teams.


Written for Pebble Tossers by Clayton Thyne, a Professor in the Political Science department at the University of Kentucky. He currently serves as the Department Chair, having previously held positions as Director of Graduate Studies and as the co-founder and Director of the Peace Studies certificate program. His research currently focuses on domestic conflict/instability, coups d’état, regime types and democratization, and international education.

7 ways to lead your business, your team, or even your family during COVID-19

written for Pebble Tossers by Jeff Hilimire

This is a scary time for all of us. None of us were prepared for a crisis of such magnitude, and we’re all working hard to keep our families, our companies, and even our sanity together.

I wrote my book, The Crisis Turnaround, in an attempt to help people navigate through these uncertain times. While the book is focused on leadership (of a team or a business), the principles can be applied to many areas of life, including raising a family or overseeing a nonprofit.

Here are seven of the concepts that I lay out in the book that might help you persevere through this pandemic:

#1 – Have open conversations

One of the first things I’ve had to remind myself while running my business, Dragon Army, through this crisis has been to have open conversations with my team. My thinking is: you cannot communicate enough with your team when times are hard.

This goes for my family as well. I have five children (ages 8 – 15) and, as you might expect, they all have different concerns and questions. I’ve found that the more we talk, and the more honest my wife and I are, the more they can process their feelings and be prepared for what’s to come.

#2 – Focus on the foundation

In business, there’s a saying that “cash is king”. What this means is that cash is the lifeblood of your business, and without it, your business will dissolve. Some companies, mine included, would argue that culture is just as critical as cash. While each business is different, they are all similar in that they have certain basic needs that must be met for them to function.

For a family, that foundation might be things like family dinners, Friday night pizza and game nights, worship & faith, etc. You know, the good stuff that brings your family together and provides unique connection points. Every family has them and during a crisis, it can be easy to lose sight of those foundational elements.
Take a moment to pause, step back, and remember to ensure your foundation is on a strong footing.

#3 – Optimize your time

When our schedules are thrown into disarray, and our normal lives are disrupted, it can be easy to fall prey to a lack of motivation or ambition. This is true for businesses and for families.

In The Crisis Turnaround, the characters in the book work at a business and are forced to find ways to manage their time and workload in an entirely new situation: working from home, by themselves. They reschedule their days, look for tricks and tips to optimize their time, and rely on each other for accountability.

For families, time optimization is critical. As parents, you’re forced to manage not only your calendar and to-do’s but also your children’s schedule. When doing so, I find the following good things to focus on:

Be purposeful and deliberate
Allow for freedom within the schedule
Focus on consistency
Create opportunities for rewards (achievements for completion)

#4 – Listen, but not too much

It’s important to stay on top of the news, especially during the time of a health-related crisis. Being informed is critical as you navigate your day and attempt to stay safe.

That said, it can be easy to fall into the trap of information overload, especially during times like these. Too much negative data can lead to a sense of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and anxious.

Carve out time to check the news, see what’s happening in your social feeds, and then…put it away. There are even apps that can help you by monitoring your activity and putting thresholds on how much time you spend on certain sites/apps. However you do it, don’t get sucked into the seemingly minute-by-minute deluge of news we have access to today.

#5 – Learn to pivot

In business, a pivot is an action that a business takes to change its course, usually when it realizes a change needs to take place for it to survive. Oftentimes this is required during a particularly difficult time.
Change can be scary, but leaning into change can help a business, and a family, weather the storm they find themselves in. Look for ways to shift your S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure) in order to be more effective, both while working and also with your family.

For instance, you likely don’t have to get up as early as you used to since no one is rushing to catch the bus in the morning or fight traffic to get to work. So perhaps you’re sleeping in, and maybe that’s causing you to feel lazy (since sleeping later is what you do on your ‘day off’). That’s ok! Now you have a new time to get up, just make sure you embrace that and officially start your day when you wake up.

#6 – Find ways to do some good

Everyone likes to help others – it’s part of what makes us human. However, we can fall prey to taking our do-good efforts and putting them on the sideline while we make our way through a tough time.

I would argue that doing good during difficult times is just what the doctor ordered. In The Crisis Turnaround, the characters decide that they will take a day to help several nonprofits in their area, even while they are struggling to maintain a profit. The result is massive: the team is energized and motivated, and their community is better off for it.
Find a way to allow your family to do some good during this crisis. I promise it will help in ways you can’t even imagine.

#7 – Stay positive

It can be hard to stay positive during difficult times. But as the leader – of your business, your team, or your household – you should work hard to focus on the positive things that are taking place. And in almost all cases, there are positive aspects to your struggles.

For example, while during this particular crisis we are restricted from going out into our communities, the positive might be that you are able to spend more time together as a family. Or that you were able to clean out that closet (which you’ve been putting off for years, haven’t you?). Or that you’re eating healthier foods because you can’t eat at your favorite restaurant right now.

Your team (or family) is looking to you to see how to respond to this crisis. Show them that there are bright spots and that, all things being equal, you have it pretty good right now.

In conclusion, I think you’ll find that if you’re more purposeful about your time and more focused on how to lean into these changes vs. fighting against them, you just might come out of this crisis better than when you entered it.

About the author:

Jeff Hilimire
CEO | Author

Jeff Hilimire is an accomplished entrepreneur who has launched multiple successful for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and who has successfully sold two companies. His current business, Dragon Army, is one of the fastest-growing digital agencies in the nation. Over the course of 20 years, Jeff has applied his knowledge of entrepreneurship and innovation to help guide leaders from some of the most well-known global brands to mobilize growth using an entrepreneurial mentality. He is also the co-founder of 48in48, a global nonprofit that produces hackathon events to build 48 nonprofit websites in 48 hours.

When Jeff isn’t running Dragon Army, mentoring, or volunteering at 48in48, he is working hard as the founder of Ripples of Hope, a collection of for-profit and nonprofit organizations focused on business as a force for good in the world. Jeff is also an accomplished author, and his books, The 5-Day Turnaround & The Crisis Turnaround, are a reflection of his drive and personal purpose to have an outsized, positive impact on the world.

Jeff lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his lovely wife, Emily, and their five children.
See the many other ways he’s worked to help leaders increase their satisfaction and success via his personal blog, jeffhilimire.com.

Atlanta Area Production Company Partners with Pebble Tossers for Their June Volunteer Project

As we continue to experience the challenges with the ongoing health climate, Pebble Tossers is working to curate volunteer opportunities for you and your family to continue to safelyserve from home. Several of the available opportunities include a virtual element such as a Zoom Cooking Classes with Two Thumbs Up.

This past week The Atlanta Community ToolBank hosted a Virtual Workshop via Zoom for Pebble Tossers Volunteers. They showed basic hammering techniques while showing those attending how to build a small Keepsake Box. This project was perfect to show kids how to use a hammer (with adult supervision).

Pebble Tossers was excited when they heard that Brownieland Pictures, a full-service production company in the Atlanta area who partners and supports nonprofits throughout the Atlanta area, chose this event as their June volunteer project. We received several pictures from their participants with big smiles on their faces. Be sure to check out what they had to say about this project by visiting Brownieland Pictures blog.

To see pictures of this volunteer project and many more, be sure to follow us on bothInstagram and Facebook.

together for justice + equality

As a community service organization, Pebble Tossers provides opportunities for youth to develop compassion and empathy. These traits are needed now more than ever. Our hearts break over the senseless murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many black men and women before them. Our community needs to come together to listen to each other and to actually hear the voices of our black brothers and sisters. Our country has work to do to eradicate racial discrimination and inequality and a first step can be to speak out and condemn these situations and indifference to suffering when we see it. Our country has the opportunity to learn from past mistakes and never make them again.

The Pebble Tossers mission is to equip and empower youth to lead through service. By service we mean providing help and assistance to our community, to our environment, and to people – regardless of racial, economic, social, ethnic backgrounds. We work side by side with youth and families of all colors, backgrounds and faiths. We want to empower youth with the opportunities and resources to help others. The nationwide protests are scary for kids and difficult to process, but this is a time when honest, authentic conversations can provide life lessons and help mold kids into compassionate, resilient, and unbiased adults. Open conversations with families can start with the current protests but should also discuss root causes of systemic racism, oppression, overt and covert racism. We can start by looking within ourselves and honestly assessing our own biases. We believe in the power of youth and know that teaching kids about justice, humanity and inclusivity is a step in the right direction. In the words of Pebble Tossers’ President of the Board, Rebecca Sandberg, “the most important things we can do right now are listen, learn, reflect, and then act.”

During presentations, we often explain that through service to others, you see things that cannot be unseen. When you interact with someone experiencing homelessness, you get to know them and learn they are just people in a rough situation. You make a connection and that affects your heart. That situation cannot be undone. Watching the tragic video of the officer pushing his knee into the neck of George Floyd cannot be unseen and the world is forever changed.

What can we do as a community?

~ we can remember names;
~ we can educate ourselves on history + root causes;
~ we can listen to all sides of an issue;
~ we can vote for justice + equality;
~ we can use our voice to speak out against acts of inhumanity;
~ we can shop local + minority-owned businesses;
~ we can serve;

~ and we can treat others the way we would want to be treated

Pebble Tossers has compiled a list of resources to provide families with tools, books, videos and experts to help us learn and take action and for families to have open, untempered discussions. It is our desire that our nation comes together to affect change, bring justice, and promote equality.

In solidarity,

The Pebble Tossers Team
Jen Guynn, Lisa Gill, Beth Freeman and Eric Greenwald

Pebble Tossers has compiled the following list from our own research and posts by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein, and our friends at
Doing Good Together.

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children


Articles to read:

Videos to watch:

Podcasts to listen and subscribe to:

Books to read:

Films + TV series to watch:

  • 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
  • American Son (Kenny Leon) — Netflix
  • Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 — Available to rent
  • Clemency (Chinonye Chukwu) — Available to rent
  • Dear White People (Justin Simien) — Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler) — Available to rent
  • I Am Not Your Negro (James Baldwin doc) — Available to rent or on Kanopy
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins) — Hulu
  • Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) — Available to rent
  • King In The Wilderness  — HBO
  • Talking Race With Young Children – NPR
  • See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol) — Netflix
  • Selma (Ava DuVernay) — Available to rent
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution — Available to rent
  • The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) — Hulu with Cinemax
  • When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix

Organizations + people to follow on social media:

More resources to check out:

Leaders Are Artists

Leaders Are Artists

written for Pebble Tossers by Denard Ash


Leaders are artists.
We (leaders) create new ways of seeing the world and living in it.
We are needed most during times of crisis. 

During crisis, people look to us to redefine reality. This is what the great ones do.

  • King
  • Churchill
  • Fauci
  • Greta
  • Malala
  • Teachers 
  • Healthcare workers

We all have the ability to create a new reality.
We create with our words.
We create with our attitudes.
We create with our service.

In the end, the question is never whether we succeeded or failed, but “What art did we create?”

Denard is a leadership coach and trainer with the John Maxwell Team and Movement Director for Be The Church Network. He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Chawanis, and their two rescue dogs, Brewster and Sasha.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/denardash/

50 Years of Earth Day: The Health of Our Planet and Our Own Health are One and the Same

by Our Friends at LiveThrive Atlanta

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

On April 22, 1970 – the first Earth Day in history– over 20 million Americans took to the streets to protest America’s inaction to combat the damaging effects of 150 years of industrial development. It was a uniting cry for all Americans, regardless of zip code or political affiliation, realizing the health of our people mirrors the health of our planet. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in over 190 countries, connecting us globally to promote human behaviors and policies that protect and enrich our natural resources, combat our climate crisis and realize a zero-carbon future.

A series of events sparked the first Earth Day, galvanizing the nation into action. The 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller ‘Silent Spring’ exposed the dangerous effects of pesticides to environmental and human health. Soon after, a 1969 record-breaking oil spill in California received national attention as it killed thousands of birds and sea mammals, leaving even more doused in oil. Later that same year, Cuyahoga River in Cleveland erupted into flames, exposing the dire state of the pollution of the waterway. Within six months, people all over the country were rallying for change on Earth Day.

Earth Day was the catalyst for the modern environmental movement. This directly led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 1970 as well as the Clean Air Act, Water Quality Improvement Act, Endangered Species Act, Toxic Substances Control Act, and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act– all passed under a Republican administration in the 1970s.

On the 50th anniversary of this important day, Live Thrive and CHaRM are more committed than ever to create real, positive environmental change. Every item you bring to CHaRM helps ensure that hazardous materials do not poison our lands and waters. Every conversation you start about something you learned through Live Thrive ignites a fire in someone else to make a change, find a solution, and fight for stronger protections. As we celebrate this milestone in the environmental movement, it is a reminder that this is everyone’s fight – and that the health of our planet and our own health are one and the same.

Executive Functioning + Volunteering

“Executive Functioning + Volunteering”

written by Mary Ulmer-Jones, Pebble Tossers Board of Directors, Associate GC & SVP Bank of America

Shelter in Place provides us the time and energy to focus on meaningful things.  It is meaningful to me that Pebble Tossers has given my son a platform to practice executive functioning.  Jamie is a junior in high school and was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder in seventh grade. At the time of diagnosis, I didn’t worry too much. But, what I realize now is that I underestimated the impact ADD has on the brain’s ability to utilize executive functioning.

The ability to take an assignment and break it down into orderly, actionable steps is a critical skill that we all need. For instance, if you are planning a dinner party you make a to-do list that flows in a logical order. Upon completing each task, you will then be ready to host a successful dinner party. But, if your executive functioning ability is impaired by ADD, you might get overwhelmed by hosting such an event. You may forget to pick up flowers for the table. Or even worse, you fail to properly sequence the cooking of your side dishes and entrée. Oh Lord, your meal isn’t put on the table until 11 p.m. That is a result of your executive functioning not being fully developed. But, good news, if you practice executive functioning you can develop this skill to its fullest extent.

So, back to Jamie and Pebble Tossers. It took me until this spring to recognize that Pebble Tossers provides me the opportunity to help Jamie practice executive functioning.  From the Pebble Tossers website, Jamie chooses the organization he wants to support or the project that he wants to complete.  Together we read the service opportunity description.  Then we write down and verbally discuss each of the steps Jamie will need to accomplish to complete the service successfully.

For example, Jamie has provided meals to Kate’s Club on a regular basis. Now, let’s practice executive functioning. First, determine the menu. (sandwiches, chips, cookies and fruit) Second, decide how to shop for the items on the menu. (Amazon delivery, Publix, Walmart for paper products) Third, set a timeline for shopping. (Place Amazon order a week or so in advance, go to Publix and Walmart one day after school) Forth, set aside time for preparation of the lunches. (over a two or three-day period assembly line style prep on the dining room table, use the basement fridge to store the sandwiches, use old Amazon boxes to package the lunches for delivery) And, finally, deliver a complete meal on time for as many as one hundred Kate’s Club clients and volunteers. (leave for Kate’s club at 9:30 am Saturday morning so the meals are delivered by 11:00 am.)

So, thank you Pebble Tossers for giving me this opportunity. And, thank you Shelter in Place orders for giving me time to reflect on what is really important.



Ten Atlanta Teens Awarded $1,000 grants to help those in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Pebble Tossers announced grant recipients from a pool of nearly 50 applicants

(Atlanta, GA, April 7, 2020)…Pebble Tossers, Atlanta’s leading youth development nonprofit organization, awarded ten $1,000 grants to greater Atlanta teens. Each grant is being used to provide immediate assistance to low income/at-risk youth and their families in greater Atlanta affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pebble Tossers selected ten grant recipients from 48 applications and each winner developed a concept encompassing an innovative, goal-oriented project. Based on grant guidelines, each project will be developed and executed rapidly to ensure immediate impact on the community.

“The creativity and ingenuity presented in all of the projects was inspiring. This opportunity came up quickly and our local youth continue to amaze us with their passion and commitment to helping their community,” said Jennifer Guynn, Founder + Executive Director, Pebble Tossers. “Our youth want to have a voice in providing solutions during this COVID-19 crisis. These ten grants provide them with a platform and an opportunity to make a significant impact in their community.”

The winning projects range from creative food drives and care packages to 3-D printing of masks and software tutorials. All recipients of donated items are at-risk community members and organizations hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. A complete list of winning projects is available on the Pebble Tossers website, www.pebbletossers.org.

Announced only ten days prior to awarding the grant, Pebble Tossers quickly mobilized its community of nonprofits and youth volunteers to spread the word of the opportunity. The original $10,000 grant was provided to Pebble Tossers by Halle Tecco.

To learn more about the Pebble Tossers COVID-19 Youth Impact Grant and its winners please visit: www.pebbletossers.org/COVID19grant

About the Grant

The grant program, quickly organized by Halle Tecco beginning March 19th, started as an initial investment of $50,000 by Ms. Tecco and quickly grew to $400,000 as additional donations poured into the fund. Within days, 362 applications were submitted and Pebble Tossers was one of 36 nationwide recipients. The proposals were based on the following criteria:

  • The non-profit is solving an emergent problem created by COVID-19 vs. supporting ongoing operations stretched by COVID-19.
  • The use of funds is clear, compelling, efficient, and measurable.
  • The non-profit has a leadership team and board which is diverse and representative of the population they are serving.
  • The organization has already shown commitment to ameliorating the impact of COVID-19 (e.g. this isn’t a new program they invented to get a grant).
  • The non-profit is a registered 501(c)3 or is working with a registered fiscal sponsor.
  • More details: https://medium.com/@halletecco/supporting-the-helpers-during-covid-19-7cd506ec219d

About Pebble Tossers

Pebble Tossers is the premier local youth service organization focused on providing families with a comprehensive path to youth development through service to others, from preschool to graduation, or “nap to cap.” Customized programming empowers youth to lead by providing them with resources and age-appropriate opportunities. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers sign up, show up, and serve to start a ripple of giving® in their community.