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October Cause Area: Working with Animals and Wildlife is a Mutually Beneficial Experience

Volunteering with animals is one of the most enjoyable forms of service. Kids love interacting with animals and animals thrive off of their high energy levels. It empowers and inspires individuals to influence their community in a positive way. The experience helps volunteers, especially young individuals, develop empathy and patience. Helping animals in turn gives back to the community as they are able to become stress relief and service animals to interact with individuals in need. Interacting with friendly, well-socialized animals helps reduce cortisol levels, thus reducing stress. In addition, it increases the release of oxytocin which is another chemical that helps reduce stress in both the body and mind. Studies have also demonstrated that interacting with service animals helps calm aggression and hyperactivity in troubled children. source:newportacademy. This is why working with animals as well as animal-assisted therapy is so important. 

Though there are many benefits to positive interactions with animals and wildlife, unfortunately, many individuals abuse this privilege. Annually in Georgia, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals receives 150, 000 reports of animal cruelty annually, out of which only 1500 cases are sent to the courts for further consideration (https://idfi.ge/). Not only is animal abuse a serious problem in Georgia and America as a whole, but it also has much more serious implications. According to the humane society, researchers found that pet abuse had occurred in 88 percent of the families under supervision for physical abuse of their children. Therefore, it is important to look out for signs of animal abuse and alert the correct authorities who will take it seriously as it could save a child’s life. W-Underdogs is a local animal advocacy organization that works with the City of Atlanta police department. They train the department to recognize and investigate signs of animal abuse that may otherwise be overlooked. 

With a majority of staff and volunteers being pet owners, Pebble Tossers strives to advocate for animals and wildlife not only during the month of October but year-round. Below is a multitude of avenues and organizations that are dedicated to serving animals and wildlife in need:

How We Can Help: Animals in temporary living need clean towels, newspapers, and proper food to eat and prosper. Ultimately, they need permanent homes full of love and protection. We can serve to make their temporary living more enjoyable, and better set them up for a permanent loving home. 

Action Steps: 

  • Always check Pebble Tossers’ service calendar for updated volunteer opportunities!
  • Wash towels for animal shelters.
  • Provide newspapers and other necessities to shelters in need.
  • Spend an afternoon playing with unsheltered and sheltered animals.
  • Many shelters allow kids to practice reading and other language skills by sitting outside of kennels and reading to attentive animals. The calming voice is helpful to the animal and builds the child’s confidence.

Highlighted Organizations: 

  • Zoo Atlanta: Boo at the ZooPebble Tossers has been participating for over 6 years. Volunteers dress up and are assigned to a certain animal exhibit. They give out candy and inform visiting families about said animals. Boo at the Zoo starts in late October. More information can be found at zooatlanta.org
  • Georgia House Rabbit Society: This organization takes in rabbits from foster families, individuals who can no longer care for them, and those that need socialization. Calm, young volunteers are able to help socialize and interact with some of the rabbits. Learn more at Georgia House Rabbit Society 
  • Furkids: Furkids operates the largest cage-free, no-kill shelter for cats in the Southeast and Sadie’s Place, a no-kill shelter for rescued dogs. Representatives from Furkids bring puppies to assisted living centers. A program we participate with them on is Pet Therapy with the elders at A.G. Rhodes. Our volunteers invite residents to come down and play with the puppies. This experience is great for both younger volunteers and seniors; it elicits positive conversations, brings joy and fulfillment, and keeps seniors young. Learn more at Furkids.
  • Lifeline Animal Project: LifeLine Animal Project is the largest animal welfare organization in Georgia. We work with LifeLine on a variety or projects as well as supporting their efforts to provide accessible pet care and end pet homelessness. Learn more at LifeLine Animal Project.

Metro Atlanta Teens selected for 2021-22 Teen Leadership Program

Pebble Tossers congratulates 32 teenagers selected for its 2021-22 Teen Leadership Program

(Atlanta, GA, September 27, 2021)…Pebble Tossers, Atlanta’s leading youth development nonprofit, has kicked off the 2nd year of its Teen Leadership Program (TLP). In line with the Pebble Tossers mission to empower and equip youth to lead through service, the program provides opportunities for service-minded teens to cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves and their impact on their community and the world. 

The Teens

  • 32 students 
  • 22 Metro Atlanta high schools 
  • Twelve (12) freshmen, eleven (11) sophomores, five (5) juniors, and four (4) seniors
  • Who are they?
    • Musicians, Artists, Athletes, Cooks, Philanthropists, Girl Scouts, Eagle Scouts, and more!
  • What do they believe in?
    • Supporting their friends during times of need;
    • Caring about mental health;
    • Making a difference in their community;
    • Being willing to make a change;
    • Feeling good about themselves and their actions.

This exceptional group of young people will work with the Pebble Tossers’ leadership team to improve their personal and practical life skills such as self-awareness, self-management, growth mindset, social awareness, healthy relationship skills, and responsible decision-making skills. The program’s scheduled activities cover the ways these skills apply within the three tenets of the program: Serve, Lead, Succeed. 

“A leader is someone who makes a change by being different. They have to be confident enough to stand up and stand out,” said Nupur D., a 2020-21 TLP Member.

The nine-month program includes monthly meetings, special guest speakers, and a service project that participants will create and implement as a group. The TLP supplements valuable experiences in the lives of these passionate young people and builds the sense of self-esteem and self-efficacy that our world needs in the leaders of tomorrow. 

“I am inspired. The applications submitted by these teens reflect how much good there is in our community,” said Jennifer Guynn, Founder + Executive Director, Pebble Tossers. “These teens are well on their way to being successful leaders.”

Teen Leadership Program Information

Website:
www.pebbletossers.org/teen

 

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. Customized programming empowers youth to lead by providing them with resources and age-appropriate service opportunities. With Pebble Tossers, volunteers sign up, show up, and serve to create a ripple of giving in their community.

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Teen Leadership Program 2021-2022 Members

Abigail B.       Freshman     North Gwinnett High School

Sofia C.          Freshman     Sprayberry High School

Zoë C.            Sophomore  Sprayberry High School

Joey C.          Junior            St. Pius X Catholic High School

Zeke D.           Freshman     The Paideia School

Neil D.             Junior            The Westminster Schools

Shaan D.       Freshman     The Westminster Schools

Gavi D.           Sophomore  The Weber School

Nina D.           Senior            St. Pius X Catholic High School

Virgina E.       Sophomore  The Lovett School

Alex F.             Freshman     The Paideia School

Michelle G.    Sophomore  Tucker High School

Parker H.        Sophomore  Woodward Academy

Lily H.              Senior            Riverwood International Charter School

Jane H.          Senior            Mount Vernon School

Sam J.           Sophomore  Chamblee Charter High School

Sanaa K.        Freshman     South Forsyth High School

Michael M.    Sophomore  Grovetown HS

Grace M.       Freshman     Johns Creek High

Cait M.           Sophomore  The Walker School

Riley N.           Sophomore  The Lovett School

Nikhil P.          Freshman     Woodward Academy

Claire P.         Freshman     Johns Creek High School

Jazmin P.       Senior            Baylor School

Joe P.             Sophomore  St. Pius X Catholic School

Eva R.             Junior            DeKalb School of the Arts

Leila S.           Freshman     Community Christian School

Omkar T.       Junior            Lambert High School

Audrey T.       Sophomore  The Mount Vernon School

Maddox T.     Freshman     Roswell High School

Ella W.            Freshman     Notre Dame Academy

Ameena W.   Junior            DeKalb School of the Arts

September: Pebble Tossers advocate for our elderly community

Our Elderly are some of the most overlooked and underappreciated members of our community. Currently, around one million Americans live in some type of senior living community, and that number is expected to double by the year 2030. Unfortunately, many family members do not live near their relatives and/or do not have adequate time to visit as often as possible. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, visits have been impossible. However, it is important to remember how amazing and important the older generation is in the lives of younger generations and how keeping those connections strong is beneficial to everyone. At Pebble Tossers we strive to make as many older members of our community feel needed and cherished. Not only does increased interaction brighten their lives, but it gives them the opportunity to instill wisdom on those volunteering. 

One organization worth noting is A.G. Rhodes Health and Rehab. A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab participates in a weeklong camp called Generation Connect, where high school kids are paired with a senior citizen. They spend the entire week eating lunch with them, going to classes within the facility, and also bringing in career coaches for the kids. Lastly, the kids participated in a dementia simulation where they were better able to understand the physical effects of such a terrible disease. The kids developed a deeper sense of empathy for their older buddy and at the end of the week, they gave a report on their life. The expression on their faces as the kids explained their lives demonstrates how much this week means to them. A.G. Rhodes facilitates connection and relationships between vastly different generations. It is mutually beneficial as the elder feels connected to society and the teen learns more about the past along with nuggets of wisdom.

There are many other ways to brighten our Elderly populations’ day. This can include participating in a ”fur kids” event where a local shelter brings puppies into the assisted living center. It is scientifically proven that puppy therapy lowers stress and releases oxytocin in the brain. There is also “Toy Day” where kids bring in their favorite toy and introduce it to a member of the facility. The kids get to hear about toys from older generations and compare their interests. Then, the kids get a list of questions to ask their person so they can have a longer, more in-depth conversation. Talking about their lives helps seniors with memory longevity and processing emotions. We also have teens come in and educate seniors about technology so they can connect with family that may live further away. 

Overall, interacting with senior citizens is a mutually beneficial relationship. Volunteers learn to respect their elders and just walking through the door and being present brightens their day immensely. There is so much to be learned whether they are a family member or not; family history, historical world events, life lessons, generational culture, and much more. The transfer of knowledge between these generations is so important. There are many ways to start volunteering and below are a few organizations perfect for getting started: 

Highlighted Cause Area Organizations
A. G. Rhodes
Elmcroft Senior living
Mount Vernon Towers Elevated Senior Living
Trinka Davis Veterans Village

Benefits of Serving Goes Full Circle

It’s more than just hours: many serve for the smiles. Service equates to smiles! No matter the situation, when you walk into a room, someone smiling at you instantly helps you to feel at ease. That same smile offered to those whom we serve can make their day! When Pebble Tossers volunteered at My Sister’s House, two of the teens shared their experience in serving. They learned that you can do something as small as saying thank you and it can make someone’s day. Being a friendly face makes those in need feel at ease and, in turn, makes volunteers happy seeing them happy. Smiles come from knowing your actions and words helped someone. These smiles start a ripple of smiles and culminate in our tagline:- #startingarippleofgiving

Community service is commonly defined as voluntary work intended to help people in a particular area. However, anyone who participates in community service understands that the benefits are not only one-sided. Serving the community is a mutually beneficial process; those served receive much-needed supplies and resources while those serving develop social and emotional skills that last a lifetime. Developing relationships with those in need teaches compassion, empathy, and brings communities closer. 

Communities enjoy benefits far beyond the financial aspects when youth contribute to service projects. Youth who volunteer just one hour or more a week are 50%  less likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, become pregnant, or engage in other destructive behavior. Youth who volunteer are more likely to do well in school, graduate, and vote (ucnj.org). Young people involved in community service are more likely to have a strong work ethic as an adult. When youth volunteer, adults tend to volunteer also, resulting in a lifelong volunteer community (yumpu.com). The community also gains a generation of young people who care about where they live and are willing to make a commitment to improvement. Teens say the benefits received from volunteering are: 

  • learning to respect others;
  • learning to be helpful and kind;
  • learning to understand people who are different;
  • developing leadership skills;
  • becoming more patient;
  • better understanding of citizenship. (ucnj.org). 

Overall, youth volunteerism in their communities is a tremendous win-win situation for the young volunteers, the organizations, and the communities they serve. The benefits are reaped now and in the future. 

More specifically, there are numerous volunteer opportunities that prove just how beneficial these interactions can be. Youth who work with the elderly develop a deeper sense of empathy for a generation they would otherwise be wholly separated from. It is mutually beneficial as the elder feels connected to society and the teen learns more about the past along with nuggets of wisdom. Volunteers learn to respect their elders, and just walking through the door and being present brightens their day immensely. There is so much to be learned whether they are a family member or not; family history, historical world events, life lessons, generational culture, and much more. The transfer of knowledge between these generations provides new perspectives and creates lasting relationships.

Those who volunteer within the education/literacy area are also able to develop an increased sense of empathy. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes and begin to understand the diversity of childhoods present in their community first-hand. They develop gratitude for the opportunities they had growing up and connect with members of the community they may otherwise have had no communication with. Volunteering with animals is one of the most enjoyable forms of service. Kids love interacting with animals and animals thrive off of their high energy levels. It empowers and inspires individuals to influence their community in a positive way. The experience helps volunteers, especially young individuals, develop empathy and patience. Helping animals in turn gives back to the community as they are able to become stress relief and service animals to interact with individuals in need. The animals also become better socialized and are more likely to be adopted. 

Overall, it is essential to remember that volunteer work benefits both those serving and those being served. Keeping this in mind leaves both groups feeling respected and supported. The skills and developmental assets gained by people who volunteer translates to future benefits for them personally, professionally, and for society. Eighty-one percent of Americans who have volunteer experiences when they are young give to charitable organizations as adults (blog.xap.com). Pebble Tossers is honored to play a part in such a special relationship that brings so much joy to communities experiencing hard times. As members of the Pebble Tossers family, we thank you for serving alongside us and inspiring those around you to get involved. It only takes one individual with a smile to inspire a ripple of giving. 

August: Pebble Tossers cares about improving Education and Literacy for our community! 

As our students head back to school, our cause area centers around education & literacy. Education is the backbone of any successful community as it is the gift that keeps on giving. When children are given the opportunity to flourish in school, they are then equipped to educate their community and loved ones, creating a beautiful chain of knowledge. Youth deserve to learn without impediments such as lack of resources and technology; all children should have equal access to high quality education. 

Did you know that one in four children in America grow up without learning how to read?* In addition, students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school and over 70% of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level (dosomething.org). It is statistics like these that exemplify how important it is to improve education at a community level. Many schools have limited access to the internet and diverse libraries which greatly affects the quality of learning. For years past and to come, Pebble Tossers supports the education system of the greater Atlanta area in a number of ways. As our membership and volunteers continue to increase, our community is able to make a larger impact in the lives of underprivileged children. 

Pebble Tossers’ Book Nook program provides mini-libraries for four homeless shelters in Atlanta. The Book Nooks allow children to access new books on a monthly basis as we restock the books during Activity Nights. The children are encouraged to keep one favorite book to foster a love of reading. As children move on from the shelter, they will take the book with them as a gift. Studies show that children who grow up with an abundance of books tend to progress further in school. This will help develop a sense of responsibility and ownership in caring for their books.

Another imperative organization we work alongside is Breakthrough Atlanta. They are reaching out to youth from the greater Atlanta area’s BIPOC community to teach them about becoming an educator. This operation provides students with a wonderful opportunity to envision themselves as a teacher. Eventually, more underprivileged children will have access to educators that come from similar backgrounds, giving them someone who exemplifies their own potential to look up to. 

Teens and youth who volunteer within the education/literacy area are able to develop a sense of empathy. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes and begin to understand the diversity of childhoods present in their community first-hand. They develop gratitude for the opportunities they had growing up and connect with members of the community they may otherwise have had no communication with. How to get started: 

Easy Action Steps:

  • Check out our education-related nonprofit partners
  • Volunteer as a tutor or to help a child read with one of our nonprofit partners 
  • Donate books to Pebble Tossers to restock our 4 mini-libraries at shelters
  • Dresden Elementary School Back to School Supplies Drive.
  • SCHOOL SUPPLIES ARE AN ONGOING NEED; Keep a look out for backpack and school supply drives every fall as well as individual donations based on ability

Highlighted Cause Area Organizations: 

*WriteExpress Corporation. “Literacy Statistics.” Begin to Read. Accessed April 16, 2014

July: More Than Ever, What You Do Locally Impacts the World Around You.

Now that the world is slowly emerging from the global pandemic, it is more important to implement positive changes to prevent history from repeating itself. A common buzz phrase used by many environmentalists and humanitarians is, “act locally, think globally.” But what does this look like from a more concrete perspective? Millions of lives are devastated every year by disasters on both a local and global scale. Without the selflessness and courage of those willing to help, even more lives would be lost. 

One of the most important factors when mitigating the effects of a calamity is preparation. Many organizations continually prepare in case of emergency; they gather food, medical supplies, shoes, clothing, books and educational responses. After feeling trapped and helpless during one of the most formidable events in recent history, it is essential to take action and help victims. 

Pebble Tossers strives to support the greater Atlanta area in a myriad of ways, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to take this time to thank you for being an active member of our community and supporting those in need. Below are ways you can support individuals in need, both locally and globally. We hope you will join us in giving during this tumultuous, transitional period: 

Pebble Tossers Volunteer Portal: Empowering and equipping youth to lead through service.

• Action Ministries: Volunteers are needed to help Action Ministries fight hunger and house neighbors. Click here for Projects.

• Soccer in the Streets: This great nonprofit reaches kids through soccer play, work-readiness training, hands-on experiential activities and youth leadership councils. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Soccer in the Streets is offering coach-led at-home writing and soccer activities as well as hundreds of free meals each week. Click here to Help.

• Blood Donation Centers: The American Red Cross has an urgent need for blood and platelet donations. To find a Red Cross blood drive or center, click here. For independent blood centers, search the America’s Blood Center database here.

What to know about the Coronavirus and Blood Donation: American Red Cross faces a severe blood shortage due to an unprecedented number of blood drive cancellations during this coronavirus outbreak. Healthy individuals are needed to donate now to help patients counting on lifesaving blood. Blood Donation Link.

America’s Blood Centers | It’s About Life: America’s Blood Centers is a national organization bringing together community-based, independent blood centers. Learn More 2021 ADRP Annual Conference Find a Blood Center ABC member blood centers serve communities across the United States. Find a Location Near You Connect. Learn. Excel.

June: Arts and Culture: The Catalyst for Youth Development?

In June, Pebble Tossers highlights arts and culture, specifically how the arts positively impact youth development. It seems ever-more essential to focus on practical career paths to secure a sensible future in today’s society. Yet, more than ever, children and young adults are developing anxiety about said future without an avenue to relieve stress. The solution? Immersion in arts and culture. Arts and culture have been proven to have a positive effect not only on mental health but school achievement.  

Culture goes hand-in-hand with the arts. Students who experience their own culture and the cultures present in their community gain a better understanding of what it means to be human. Culture is essential to self-worth and confidence during the most impressionable years of growth. Pebble Tossers acknowledges the diverse population of the greater Atlanta area and is proud to serve its communities. 

Active participation in the arts also has a wide variety of positive effects. For example, students who participate in the arts are more likely to find school engaging and have a longer attention span than those who do not. As a result, they are more likely to enjoy school, go onto postsecondary school, and achieve a college degree. Youth within the arts are also less likely to deal with social infractions on school grounds, likely due to the release of creativity/energy that the arts provide. In addition, scores on standardized tests are consistently higher with students who participate in the arts than those who do not. 

Tapping into the creative vein of the arts generates a pathway for youth to connect to their deepest, most authentic emotions. Students connect with their authentic selves through reflection and the expression of creative mediums. They develop healthy coping habits to apply to real-world situations, better equipping them for their future. Avenues like dance, art, music and writing are building blocks for knowledge, outlook, value, and self-regulation necessary to succeed as they develop. An increase in artful citizens means a brighter future for the upcoming generations. 

Pebble Tossers passionately advocates for the arts, especially when it comes to youth development. Serving with Pebble Tossers exposes young volunteers to various cultures and opportunities that may otherwise be overlooked. During these last few weeks of June, we hope you join us in celebrating the arts and the positive impact they make on our community. 

Memorial Day: How to get involved to support our troops and veterans

The members of our military serve 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. They tirelessly defend the interests and security of our nation. Many individuals put their lives on the line to uphold the values of our nation. Once they return home, their fight is not always over; many veterans continue to face battles and wounds that come with such a great responsibility of service. We at Pebble Tossers work with a variety of organizations to support active and retired members of our military. From sending cards and care packages to supporting active military members, veterans, and their families in day-to-day activities, these efforts can have a significant ripple effect in their support and transition home.

Every May Pebble Tossers celebrates National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM). It is a declaration that encourages citizens all around the U.S. to observe the month as a symbol of unity. NMAM honors the current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those who have died in the pursuit of freedom.

Pebble Tossers not only supports this declaration, but also understands that action and awareness go hand in hand. This month contains a variety of wonderful opportunities for you and your family to serve together and benefit the military members of our community in need. So, how can you honor our Troops and Veterans during this Memorial Day weekend? Partake to demonstrate your support:

check out these ways to pay tribute to our veterans on Memorial Day weekend:

Memorial Day Tribute at Brook Run Park Veterans Memorial
Cauble Park at Patriots Point
City of Woodstock
Salute to the Troops in Stone Mountain Park
Memorial Day Parade in Dacula

visit these virtual avenues of support:

National Memorial Day Concert on PBS
Take a Virtual Tour of a War Memorial
Virtual Memorial Day Tribute Hosted by Alpharetta and the Rotary Club
Roswell Remembers
Fly a Flag at Home: One of the simplest ways of celebrating Memorial Day at home is to place an American flag outside your home. Take note: Memorial Day has its own flag etiquette. The American flag should be flown at half-mast from sunrise until noon, then raised to full mast for the rest of the holiday.

There are also a number of ways to get involved outside of Memorial Day weekend. Please reference our service calendar and cause area page for a number of service projects such as Operation Gratitude, Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO), and Atlanta VA Medical Center (VAMC). These organizations serve current and former members of the military in a variety of ways and need many volunteers to assist with their efforts. Pebble Tossers members can click here to register.

We hope that you decide to join Pebble Tossers in honoring our military not only in the month of May, but year-round. Serving those who serve our country represents the core values of the Pebble Tossers community.

Pebble Tossers stands with the Asian and Asian American, Pacific Islander community

Pebble Tossers stands with our Asian and Asian American, Pacific Islander family members, friends, partners, volunteers, and members. We despise the violence and racism directed at them and are especially horrified by the murders of the Asian-American women on March 16th in our community.

The anti-Asian hate crimes, harassment, and discrimination that have increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic are disturbing, but they are not new. The tragic loss of these lives should remind us that we, as Americans, have a long way to go towards true equality, inclusion, and justice.

No child, youth, or family can thrive or should live with the threat of violence. In honor of the lives lost to racist violence, Pebble Tossers recommits to the important work of developing youth who embrace a sense of civic responsibility to our community, and we strive to provide opportunities where this sense of responsibility leads to a feeling of inclusion and belonging.

When youth and teens volunteer at Pebble Tossers projects, they introduce themselves and meet those they serve with as well as those they serve. They work alongside people from a variety of cultures, races, genders, and ideologies, yet they all work towards a common goal of helping our community thrive. We strive to cultivate a welcoming environment at our projects, which leads to an inherent sense of belonging and desire to serve with us again.

We, at Pebble Tossers, will not tolerate discrimination of any kind. As an organization, we will provide intercultural assessments for our staff, board members, and advisory council in order to build and strengthen intercultural competency. We will continue to work with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations that serve the most marginalized of our brothers and sisters. We will continue to offer high-impact projects serving diverse populations. We will continue to develop educational curriculum based on social-emotional learning and positive psychology while incorporating leadership and social justice initiatives.

We hope you stand with us against this violence and work with us to equip and empower youth to lead through service. This summer, Pebble Tossers will host “Toss Up Dinners”, where we gather families together virtually (and hopefully in-person) for civic-minded conversations about relevant topics such as social justice, racial equality, gender equality, and our 12 service cause areas. If you are interested in serving on a planning committee or hosting a dinner, please contact us at outreach@pebbletossers.org.

Jennifer Guynn
Founder + Executive Director, Pebble Tossers
March 18, 2021