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Atlanta-based nonprofit presents prestigious National Award to Ananya Uddanti

Youth Volunteer Receives President’s Volunteer Service Award
Atlanta-based nonprofit presents prestigious National Award to Ananya Uddanti

Atlanta, GA: Pebble Tossers, a youth development organization, awarded Ananya Uddanti the President’s Volunteer Service Award (PVSA) for her outstanding service and contributions to her community.

In 2003, the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation founded the President’s Volunteer Service Award to recognize the important role of volunteers in America’s strength and national identity. Pebble Tossers, Inc., a PVSA Certifying Organization since 2014, confers the awards to recognize the outstanding achievements of their youth volunteers.

Ananya has served in many different capacities and provided needed service in areas and with organizations closely tied to her interests and beliefs. She far exceeded the required hours for school or civic requirements set forth by the PVSA and served more than 700 hours in a two-year period. These hours provide thousands of dollars worth of value back into the community. In addition to service projects offered by Pebble Tossers, Ananya is actively involved in leadership positions with the American Red Cross, local chapters for national nonprofits, local communities, and hospitals. 

“That is amazing work,” says Jen Guynn, Pebble Tossers Founder + Executive Director. She continues, “The example of service and leadership that our PVSA recipients provide to their peers is just as important as the impact they have on the community. Pebble Tossers is proud of their accomplishments and proud to recognize Ananya on behalf of our country.”


About Pebble Tossers

Pebble Tossers is Metro Atlanta’s top local youth service organization focused on providing families with a comprehensive path to youth development through service to others, from preschool to graduation. Customized programming empowers youth to lead by providing them with age-appropriate service opportunities infused with a unique service-learning curriculum focusing on social-emotional learning, positive youth development, social justice, and positive psychology. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers sign up, show up, and serve to create a ripple of giving in their community. For more information, visit www.pebbletossers.org.


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Thoughts from the 2023 Point-In-Time Count

Credits: Intown Collaborative Ministries

Anticipation grew in my heart as I added another layer of clothing and wondered who I would talk with. The temperature for January 23rd was expected to drop below 30 degrees overnight, and I knew we would not be stopping anywhere to get warm as we walked the streets of downtown Atlanta from 9:00 pm to 3:00 am.

The Point-in-Time count sends volunteers onto the streets across the country to determine the number of unsheltered people. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities that receive federal funds to conduct an annual count of all unsheltered people in the last week of January. The timing of the count is intentional. The weather at the end of January is typically very cold, and, for some, any financial assistance they had will be depleted by the end of the month, so they likely will not have sheltered housing.

Working towards ending homelessness across the country, the Point-in-Time counts help determine the scope of homelessness in communities and inform policymakers and program administrators of which programs are working or where there are gaps in services. The PIT count began collecting data in 2005, and the results have increased public awareness and directed resources to the unsheltered. 

The Atlanta PIT count, organized by Partners for Home, brings together volunteers from numerous nonprofits who focus on those experiencing homelessness, community members, and local officials. “This gives us better insight into the number of people experiencing homelessness on one night of the year, on their length of homelessness, their history of homelessness and some other challenges and barriers that they might be facing,” says Cathryn Vassell, CEO of Partners for Home. “It’s a data snapshot that helps inform our work.” 

Volunteers head into the city armed with $10 Chick-fil-A gift cards and seek out unsheltered people to answer questions about their time on the streets. We start by introducing ourselves and asking their names. We quickly ask questions about how long they have been unsheltered, if they have any chronic illnesses or disabilities, if they have served in the military, and other demographic information. The questions are personal and invasive. We ask for forgiveness with the Chick-fil-A gift card, but most people don’t mind answering the questions. They are brutally honest and straightforward.

Carrying backpacks filled with blankets, coats, caps, gloves, socks, hygiene kits, and snacks, we were a welcome sight to those we encountered. I was surprised that most of the people I spoke with were men in their 50s and 60s who had been chronically homeless with absolutely no source of income or public assistance. During the 2022 PIT count, I encountered more men in their 30s who were just recently homeless. When I asked one man if he would like to go to a Warming Center, he responded with a smile, “Why? I’ve got a nice tent right here. I’m fine.” He graciously accepted a warm blanket.

Others shared stories of domestic abuse, drug addiction, and job loss, leading to their life on the street. We listened and smiled and tried our best to let them know they were valued. Our team of seven was led by Matthew Reed, a social worker specializing in Homeless Outreach for Intown Collaborative Ministries. Matthew knows the area we canvassed and reached out in advance to several people so they could expect us. He warmly embraced people, and it was clear there was a relationship built on trust. Matthew shared, “It was very humbling to observe the grace and kindness that radiated from our team. Interacting with folks during the PIT can be odd at times. Yet being prepared with gifts and a gentle spirit, I found our meetings to be dignified and restorative.”

Our team was the last to return back around 2:30 am. We were tired, cold, and very grateful that we had a warm bed to return home to that night. I anticipated falling asleep immediately, but my mind raced with questions and concern. There are so many circumstances that lead to chronic homelessness. The lack of affordable housing, the lack of adequate and accessible health care (both physical and mental health), education inequalities in low-income areas, and a lack of jobs that pay a livable wage are systemic issues facing the country. 

The next day, I picked up more blankets donated by a Pebble Tossers family and set off to find a few people who had not received a blanket the night before. While I could not find those people we met, I found others who were excited to have warm blankets. One woman exclaimed joyfully, “My dog and I were so cold last night – thank you!”  

It is easy to feel helpless when it looking at the broader issue of homelessness in our country. But if we approach things one issue at a time, it is easier to see a path that may end this crisis. What is next, and what can we do? 

  • We can advocate for a shift in federal and state resources toward funding affordable housing that provides supportive services. 
  • We can donate resources and time to nonprofits that work with those experiencing homelessness. 
  • We can research and support organizations that provide a coordinated approach by offering temporary housing, rapid rehousing, job training, and life skills training. 
  • We can educate ourselves with factual data and eliminate bias based on stereotypes. 
  • We can see and talk to people who are experiencing homelessness and not avoid them. Learn their name and say it back to them with a smile.

Additional resources: 

Pebble Tossers’ Nonprofit Partners Serving Those Experiencing Homelessness

Journal Prompt:

Read this quote and think about what it means and what you can do to “start in our own homes” to remedy poverty.

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” — Mother Teresa

2023. Written by Jennifer Guynn, Founding Executive Director of Pebble Tossers

Congratulations to Pebble Tosser Sheza Merchant for being named a 20 under 20 honoree by Atlanta Intown and Reporter Newspapers



Pebble Tossers was honored to nominate Sheza, and are so proud of her accomplishments in our community. A Pebble Tossers volunteer since 2015, Sheza has participated in and led numerous projects to help those in need worldwide. Read more about her accomplishments and the rest of these amazing young people here.

Read More about Sheza and Others

Pebble Tossers hires Rebecca Sandberg as Finance and Administration Director

From volunteer to board president to staff, Sandberg continues a ripple of giving.

pebble tossers board of directors rebecca sandberg(Atlanta, GA, October 31, 2022)… Pebble Tossers, Atlanta’s leading youth leadership development nonprofit, has named Rebecca Sandberg as Finance and Administration Director. In this role, Sandberg will oversee all fiscal matters, including annual and long-term planning and forecasting, accounting, budgeting, and HR. She will also provide oversight on IT matters to ensure that Pebble Tossers has the right tools, systems, and technology to support a robust membership experience and a culture that promotes growth and innovation. Additionally, Sandberg will help track and identify key metrics to further the organization’s work and impact.

“Rebecca brings a passion for Pebble Tossers’ mission which sparked as she volunteered with her family. Her visionary leadership has proven invaluable to our Board of Directors. She brings a focus on data-driven decisions and a high energy level with a can-do mindset,” says Guynn. “We are excited about the future with Rebecca and her commitment to developing the next generation of servant leaders.”

Sandberg joined Pebble Tossers’ Board of Directors in 2018 and served as its President from 2019-2021. In her new role, Sandberg will report to the Founding Executive Director, Jennifer Guynn, as a critical strategic partner. She has 20+ years of diverse experience as a social sector nonprofit leader and community organizer, management consulting leader, senior leader in corporate finance, and assurance and consultative experience in a Big 4 accounting firm. Sandberg is a cross-functional collaborator across all levels of internal and external stakeholder organizations, a strategic thinker and problem solver, and a persuasive verbal and written communicator.

“I am excited to continue working with Pebble Tossers to achieve its mission to develop next-generation leaders,” said Sandberg. “My work with the Board of Directors and years of experience in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors have given me the expertise needed to help grow the organization in a structured and strategic way.”

Kelly Weber, President of Pebble Tossers Board of Directors, said, “Rebecca understands the vision and goals and is committed to helping Pebble Tossers achieve them, a true accountability partner. This new role will allow Pebble Tossers to continue to scale and grow and to support the needs of our members, nonprofit partners, and the communities we serve.”

About Pebble Tossers

Pebble Tossers is the premier local youth service organization in Metro Atlanta focused on providing families with a comprehensive path to youth development through service to others, from preschool to graduation. Customized programming empowers youth to lead by providing them with age-appropriate service opportunities infused with a unique service-learning curriculum focusing on social-emotional learning, positive youth development, social justice, and positive psychology. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers sign up, show up, and serve to create a ripple of giving in their community.


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Pebble Tossers Board of Directors welcomes Tifany Gilmore and Emmie Berberick

The 2022 board focuses on amplifying next-generation leaders
through service-learning and leadership skills.

(Atlanta, GA, October 5, 2022)…Pebble Tossers, Metro Atlanta’s leading youth development nonprofit organization, is pleased to welcome two new board members, Tifany Gilmore, VP Market Leader of Consumer Banking and Investments for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, and Emmie Berberick, Project Manager, NCR Corporation.

“Our board is committed to expanding Pebble Tossers’ reach and influence throughout the community,” said Kelly Weber, Pebble Tossers Board President. “The experience, enthusiasm, and knowledge Tifany and Emmie bring to the board and our team will help us meet our goals and move into the next year.”

The new board members will jump in quickly with Pebble Tossers as programming offerings expand with more in-person opportunities, the third cohort of the Teen Leadership Program kicks off, and the organization begins its 14th year of empowering and equipping youth to lead through service.

“I am elated to join the Pebble Tossers Board and engage in service work from a new perspective. I hope to offer my skills and experiences to grow the organization,” says Berberick, who grew up volunteering and is committed to inspiring the next generation of youth leaders.

A committed supporter of youth and service, Gilmore shares a quote from Tony A. Gaskins Jr., “On the other side of fear is success. Don’t let fear hold you captive and keep you from your dreams. You were born to be more. Be ok with that and don’t doubt the process,” and believes this applies to youth volunteering for the first time. 

“I’m very excited to be part of Pebble Tossers, said Gilmore. “I love that the organization is  able to develop and connect youth with the community and instill the importance of serving at a young age.”

Gilmore and Berberick join a committed board of directors who include:


2022 Board of Directors, Pebble Tossers

Kelly Weber, Board President OneDigital
Brandy Brock, Board Vice President Google Cloud Business Solutions
Brian Sengson, Board Treasurer Bennett Thrasher
Neal Chatigny, Board Secretary WebMD
Matt Carr Amazon Web Services
Aaron Dixon Alston & Bird
Kris Manning Retired Teacher/Orton Gillingham Tutor
Elizabeth Rasberry ABB
Dana Redler H&R Block
Asher Royal Centria Healthcare
Rebecca Sandberg, Past President Management Consultant


About Pebble Tossers

Pebble Tossers is the premier local youth service organization in Metro Atlanta focused on providing families with a comprehensive path to youth development through service to others, from preschool to graduation. Customized programming empowers youth to lead by providing them with age-appropriate service opportunities infused with a unique service-learning curriculum focusing on social-emotional learning, positive youth development, social justice, and positive psychology. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers sign up, show up, and serve to create a ripple of giving in their community.

Click Here To Download PDF

Eight Books about US Troops and Veterans for children and teens

For Younger Children: 

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Soldier and his Service Dog
by Luis Carlos Montalvan, Bret Witter, and Dan Dion 

Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood
by Valerie Pfundstein and Aaron Anderson 

H is for Honor: A Military Family Alphabet
by Devin Scillian and Victor Juhasz

Hero Mom
by Melinda Hardin and Bryan Langdo

Hero Dad
by Melinda Hardin and Bryan Langdo



For Teens: 


American Road Trip
by Patrick Flores-Scott

Beneath Wandering Stars
by Ashlee Cowles 

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two
by Joseph Bruchac 

Heroism Begins with Her: Inspiring Stories of Bold, Brave, and Gutsy Women in the U.S. Military
by Winifred Conkling and Julia Kuo


If you do wish to order these books, please contact or visit The Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. This charming local buiness specializes in youth and teen books and their Booksellers would be happy to order any book from this list. 


Five Ways to Educate Yourself on Veteran Resources in your Community: 
  • Job Training Programs available through the Veterans Affairs Office
    • The VA partners with various major companies in the US to provide job training and employment opportunities to returning service members. Here is a list of the different programs offered by the VA; partnered companies include AT&T, General Dynamics, Prudential, and more. 
  • PTSD Service Dogs and Veterans
    • This is an informative and helpful article on the importance of service dogs for many veterans. Learning more about this topic is an excellent avenue to teach your children about the sacrifices many veterans make and the close bond they share with service dogs. 
  • Infographic on Veterans Experiencing Homelessness
    • This infographic is a good representation of the statistical facts about veterans facing homelessness. It includes information on the differences between subcategories of homeless veterans as well as presenting writeups on the most prominent challenges facing these veterans. 
  • Visit a Military Museum, Monument, or Memorial Park
    • The Metro Atlanta Area has a wide variety of Military Attractions to see. There are parks, memorials, and museums of all sizes. Taking a trip to see these is a great way to educate yourself on Veteran history in your community. Here is a list of Military Attractions in the Metro Atlanta Area. 
  • Learn the effects Military Service has on the families of Veterans
    • Family members of active-duty troops and returning service members have to make significant life adjustments. The temporary loss or drastic behavioral change of a parental figure can be extremely challenging and confusing for children. Educating yourself on the strain military service can sometimes put on families can help you be as supportive and understanding as possible. Here is an article that addresses situations like this. 

Service-Oriented Summer Arts and Culture Events in Metro Atlanta

Looking for a way to expose everyone in the family to some of the fantastic arts and culture of Metro Atlanta? Pebble Tossers has put together a list of some of our favorite concerts, festivals, events, and performances that are unique to Atlanta! We have included a variety of summer events with the hope that everyone can find something that interests them. Check out some of these recommendations for a unique and fun day of learning from the perspective of some of Atlanta’s most talented musicians, artists, and storytellers.

Ways to Make a Positive Impact in Metro Atlanta while Enjoying Arts and Culture this Summer: 

  • Bring a small trash bag to every event you attend this summer. Festivals and concerts often draw a large crowd, and even larger piles of trash left behind. Help your community by staying after for a few minutes and picking up some trash.
  • Carpool with friends and family to events! Going to an art exhibit at the park with some friends? Why not carpool! Not only does it save money on gas, but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Research the causes the summer event supports. Many of the summer events listed above benefit a nonprofit organization or charity. Educating yourself on the missions of local nonprofits is a great way to learn the specific needs of those less fortunate in your community.  
  • Donate your time or money to the causes supported by the Summer Event! Nonprofit organizations like Pebble Tossers are vital to many people and community efforts in Atlanta. The surest way to ensure we can continue to serve Metro Atlanta is by helping out for a few hours on a weekend volunteer project or contributing whatever you can. Here is a link to our Service Calender and our donation page
  • Bring a reusable water bottle! Eliminating the need for disposable bottles and cups on those hot summer days is an easy way to be a responsible attendee of any summer event.
  • Pack some care packages for anyone experiencing homelessness at the event. Many of these free events, like summer concert series, attract a few members of the community experiencing homelessness. Having a few homemade care packages to distribute is a great way to support those in need in your area. Here is a link to an article detailing what to include in a Care Package.


Pebble Tossers’ Arts and Culture Book Recommendations

Picture Books for Children:

Books for Teens:

If you do wish to order these books, please contact or visit The Little Shop of Stories in Decatur. This charming local business specializes in youth and teen books, and their Booksellers would be happy to order any book from this list. 


Six Reasons Why the Performing Arts in Atlanta are worth Supporting:

1) Adult and Child-focused Classes offered by places like the Spruill Center for the Arts introduce ways for anyone in Atlanta to become involved in the Arts!
Why not learn a new artistic skill or bring the family to a workshop or event? Here are some ways to support the Spruill Center. 

2) Atlanta has one of the most distinct and well-known hip-hop communities in the world! They also love giving back to the communities where they grew up.
Rappers like Lil Baby and Gunna have made a major difference in Atlanta with their various charitable efforts. Atlanta native Lil Baby has helped refurbish a basketball court in Oakland City Park and gifted over 200 bikes to children in the neighborhood. He also hosted a back-to-school drive where he gave out much-needed laptops, clothes, and school supplies. Gunna opened up a needed items closet at his old high school, Ronald McNair High, containing food, clothes, toiletries, and more.


3) The Woodruff Center Hosts three of Atlanta’s most exciting performing arts productions: The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Alliance Theatre.
The Alliance Theatre has put on musicals, children’s theatre, hosted Ballet Companies, and many traditional plays! Just this year, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is performing the music of John Williams, the Polar Express, and is also hosting famed conductor Nathalie Stutzmann! Supporting your local performing arts organizations is vital to the continued success of the Atlanta Arts Scene. Here is a link to the various volunteer opportunities available at the Woodruff Center.


4) Atlanta has venues for all kinds of Performing Arts!
In the mood for something funny? Visit the Whole World Improv Theatre, Dad’s Garage, or the Punchline Comedy Club. Want to be blown away by the skill and dedication of local dancers? Enjoy a night at the Atlanta Ballet. See a high-profile visiting performer at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center or enjoy a timeless classic at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company


5) There are many Performing Arts productions featuring youth performers!
Metro Atlanta is home to a variety of youth-focused choirs. Notable groups include the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra, based out of the Woodruff Center. There are also the Atlanta Young Singers, Gwinnett Young Singers, and Georgia Boy Choir. Enjoy a show from one of these groups, or consider encouraging your child to try out for one of the many local choirs! 


6) The Atlanta Film Community is supportive of each other and are Atlanta’s biggest cheerleaders.
The Atlanta Film Festival is an excellent place to meet talented local filmmakers and crew members working to bring Atlanta’s unique neighborhoods to big and small screens. Prominent local film studios like Tyler Perry Studios and indie studios alike encourage young actors and filmmakers to visit Atlanta, which in turn brings revenue to local businesses. Plus, who doesn’t want to see a street or building they walk past every day featured in the next big Marvel movie? 

Eight Educational Resouces on Metro Atlanta’s Arts and Culture

This month’s cause area, Arts and Culture, can be applied to so many different artistic styles, movements, and nonprofit organizations. That is why Pebble Tossers has put together this list of resources covering as much of Atlanta’s broad arts and culture scene as we could. We hope you enjoy looking through these articles, infographics, and videos; and that you can learn something new about the importance of the arts! 

1. Understand the Unique Makeup of the Atlanta Art Scene

Artbase’s Dan Ketchum discusses why Atlanta is critical to the American Arts Scene in a recent article and showcases the importance of the Atlanta art scene. He provides some great recommendations for places to visit in the city as well as ways to support local artists and museums. 


2. Familiarize yourself with Local Artists

This article from Atlanta Magazine shines a light on three prominent artists in the metro Atlanta area. It also shows some examples of their work and where to see some of their displayed art. Jezebel Magazine provides another piece showcasing the work of seven additional Atlanta-based artists.


3. Maximize your Museum Trips

Going to a large Museum for the first time can be overwhelming or intimidating. This article contains some great tips on getting the most out of your Museum trip and provides an insider tip from Nick Gray, founder of Museum Hack, to “Walk the space, understand where things are, what you might be interested to come back and see, and then, go to the cafe.Try out some of these suggestions at Atlanta’s excellent Art Museums! 


4. Find out how Public Art Benefits your City

Can the arts help your mental health? Yes! Magazine provides an interesting discussion on the importance of Public Art for community well being. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, Atlanta has a wide variety of murals and public art to check out. Read up on the positive benefits that impressive artwork provides to help you feel inspired and envigorated. You can also watch this short video on the career of Atlanta-born muralist Alex Brewer. 


5. Educate yourself on the Arts throughout History

Familiarizing yourself with Art History may seem complicated and time-consuming, but understanding the story behind what you’re looking at can vastly improve the experience of a Museum visit. This infographic from Lori McNee tracks the different art movements throughout history starting with Prehistoric art from 40,000 B.C. and hopefully will give you a better idea of what to look for on your next visit.  


6. Visit some of Atlanta’s best Street Art

Atlanta has been developing a reputation for amazing street art. Pebble Tossers’ section of the Atlanta BeltLine has two outstanding examples. Atlanta Magazine provides a great list containing the best street art in Atlanta, organized by neighborhood. It also includes some helpful information about the artists responsible for the artwork. This would be a neat article to go over before planning a trip to any of Atlanta’s neighborhoods. Pebble Tossers has been proud to work directly with local artist Wallace Kelly on public art projects with Livable Buckhead.


7. Reflect on why Art is Important to You 

This is an interesting opinion piece from Tunedly on the importance of Art and individuality in our society. While some of these points were brought up in previous Pebble Tossers blogs, the writer also makes some excellent new points that “art helps us emotionally, financially, psychologically, and even helps to shape individual and collective personality”


8. Check out more resources from Pebble Tossers

You can visit the June Cause Area section of our website for more ideas on ways to benefit your community through acts of service. It is updated monthly with new resources relevant to the monthly cause area.