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Positivity Touch Points part 2

Positivity Touch Points

written by Michelle Schroeder – Lowrey for Pebble Tossers (part two of a three-part series)

Michelle Schroeder-Lowrey is an artist educator specializing in music, movement and drama at Columbus Academy. Michelle is a CAPP certified Positive Psychology Practitioner and recently completed certification as a Resiliency Trainer at The Flourishing Center in NYC. Her love of learning has taken her as far as Australia and as close as downtown Columbus. Michelle is passionate about educating people about the benefits of living life with purpose using the principles of PERMA-V and the VIA Character Strengths. She is a proud wife and mother and a founding member of Available Light Theatre and holds a BA in Theatre from The Ohio State University.


Part Two:

What do we do when our uncertainty, fear and anxiety start to overwhelm us?

In real-time when the big feelings start to overwhelm our brains and bodies we must start with calming – 3 Deep Breaths. It has to be 3 – it could be as many as 6 or 8, but always at least 3. Research tells us that these deep breaths send a signal to your brain that the “danger is passed” and we don’t need to fly, flee or freeze. (This kind of breathing is actually good for your brain and body on a regular daily basis, not just in times of crisis.)

Next: remind ourselves that all feelings are valid– this includes the painful emotions: fear, sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, boredom and the more pleasant emotions: joy, awe, interest, pleasure, happiness. There are not “good” and “bad” emotions. Right now, the world is a roller coaster of emotions and it so important to notice and name how we are feeling and allow that emotion or emotions to flow through us – not get stuck in our brains and swirl around in an endless loop churning into anxiety. Often the simple act of NOTICING and NAMING an emotion allows us to get more in touch with the source of our discomfort and provides an opportunity to choose a strategy to NAVIGATE our emotions and remind ourselves what we can control (how I think, how I feel, what I do.)

For our children, they are definitely noticing the emotions and the discomfort that the uncertainty is bringing up – it’s the naming of the emotion that is tougher and then the navigating requires our help. The next steps might sound like this: “I see you. And I see in is moment these feelings are overwhelming you. What’s going on?  Tell me more.” And once you say “tell me more” JUST LISTEN. Don’t attempt to fix. Don’t attempt to add your own story. Just listen and say “tell me more.” This is hard for those of us who keep our cape handy for all circumstances – but I assure you, it is more helpful in this moment to listen. When my teen is sharing, I often have to put my hands up to cover my mouth as a reminder to me that it is not my turn to talk, fix or tell a story. I am listening. After a while, I might say “are you asking for help or venting?” And right now, the answer is almost always: “I’m venting. Thank you.” In fact, she often works out her own solution just in talking out loud. Offering to listen (and actually doing it!) allow our children and teens the opportunity to use their strengths and skills and feel a sense of agency and autonomy – which we are all looking for in these uncertain days.

Positivity Touch Points part 1

Positivity Touch Points

written by Michelle Schroeder – Lowrey for Pebble Tossers (part one of a three-part series)

Michelle Schroeder-Lowrey is an artist educator specializing in music, movement and drama at Columbus Academy. Michelle is a CAPP certified Positive Psychology Practitioner and recently completed certification as a Resiliency Trainer at The Flourishing Center in NYC. Her love of learning has taken her as far as Australia and as close as downtown Columbus. Michelle is passionate about educating people about the benefits of living life with purpose using the principles of PERMA-V and the VIA Character Strengths. She is a proud wife and mother and a founding member of Available Light Theatre and holds a BA in Theatre from The Ohio State University.


Part One:

It is something we often talk about in a longing way… “I wish we just had time to slow down and be together.”  Or “We are never all home at the same time!” And now, EVERYONE is home. Only, this isn’t the “slowing down” we were talking about, right? So, what do we do now that we are all home- TOGETHER- in new, uncertain, unplanned for circumstances with so many questions, feelings and fears running around in our heads and hearts?

In Positive Psychology we talk a lot about the parts of our life we can “control.” It’s a short list really – I can control: what I feel, what I think and what I do. That’s it. That is the list. Some research suggests that up to 40% of our overall happiness is controllable by what we feel, think, and do. Keep in mind that it’s not what happens to us that affects our thoughts, feelings and actions – it’s how we interpret what’s happening.  Our brains are wired to go negative. It’s how our species has survived thousands of years. Negativity bias keeps us questioning, it’s our “spidey sense” that reminds us that maybe walking into that dark, tiger infested forest or eating those red berries isn’t the best idea. In our modern world, there are fewer tigers and many apps that help us understand the dangers of our world – but our brains still want to protect us. So, reframing our natural tendency towards pessimistic thinking to an optimistic thinking style lays a foundation for positive problem-solving. Instead of: “We are all stuck at home forever and I’m never prepared for situations like this. I will never get any work done.”  SAY: “This is a tough, temporary situation. I’ve survived 100% of the stay at home, unexpected sick days in my life. I can handle this.”

Giving ourselves and others “permission to be human” is what positive psychology is all about. This may sound silly, but under extreme circumstances, many of us immediately put on our capes and fly around attempting to leap tall buildings (or teen angst) in a single bound – and the reality is: we are human not superheroes.  And humans have feelings. Humans make mistakes. Humans lose their patience. Humans cry. Humans need rest. Humans need exercise and good food. Humans are humans. So, start here: I give myself permission to be human. AND I give my child, partner, loved ones and others in my world the same permission. By granting ourselves this permission we are able to generate compassion for others and for ourselves. And boy howdy, do we need some compassion for ourselves and others right now. The others include our partners, children and loved ones as well as grocery store clerks, postal workers and healthcare providers. Patience with ourselves and others will go a long way right now.

Coronavirus + College

written by Lauren Alexander, Georgia Tech business student, Pebble Tossers Intern

Hi! My name is Lauren, and I am intern with Pebble Tossers this Spring helping with various initiatives like the new Teen Leadership Program. I am a third-year business student at Georgia Tech, and in the last two weeks I (like many others) have experienced my life turn completely upside down for the time being. I wanted to share some of the experiences and responses I have had thus far with you!


The last week and a half have been a whirlwind. One day I was attending class, engaging with friends over coffee and meals, participating in my normal activities, and looking forward to all of the plans I had made for the coming months. Quickly, I watched all of the expectations and certainties I clung so tightly to vanish one after the other. A slush of emotions followed, including fear, guilt, disappointment, inferiority, confusion, and anger. And yet, not all was wrong: I got to spend time self-quarantining with a loved one who lives far from me, my mom and I could cook and bake in our kitchen like we used to when I lived at home, and many leaders around me found incredible, innovative ways to adapt and carry on in the midst of social distancing.

Navigating your emotions, thoughts, and actions is hard on a regular day, not to mention in the middle of a global pandemic that is possibly the most impactful event of your lifetime. There are few important ideas that my friends and I are constantly reminding ourselves of. The first being that it is OK to feel afraid. There is so much unavoidable uncertainty in everyone’s lives that fear can feel inescapable. Along with this, though, it is important to TALK about your fear. I turn to my family, close friends, and mentors for a simple conversation, so that fear does not start to control my life. In doing so, I am able to stay grounded yet hopeful at the same time.

The second idea I keep reminding myself of is quite the opposite: it is OK to feel joy. Many people have expressed guilt to me about experiencing good things during this extremely challenging time globally. In a world filled with so much hurting and need, I say we need to relish in every joyful moment we can get our hands on (of course, we must also remain compassionate to all around us). Now is the time to find joy in the smallest of things: the chance to make blueberry scones with your mom, celebrating success in using unfamiliar virtual/ online tools, and extra time to catch up with people who feel incredibly distant. To acknowledge your joy is not to diminish the pandemic, but it is to bring a little light into this climate.

The final idea I will share is simply this: YOU MATTER. It is easy to feel small. Like nothing that you do has an impact. This could not be farther from the truth. We all must take responsibility for our responses to this crisis. We must choose to self-isolate when appropriate. We must choose to fill our extra time at home in a positive way: investing in family, completing at-home service projects, practicing self-care and love, and exploring new technologies and innovations that can benefit your community or the activities you normally partake in. You matter to your close loved ones and to the global population (and everyone in between) – and you cannot lose sight of the privilege and opportunity that comes with that.

Keeping all three of these concepts in mind, I find myself able to navigate my feelings and thoughts so that I can continue to lead and partake in the many initiatives that are important to me and those in my community.

The Opportunity for Growth, Found in the Instability of COVID-19

written by Amanda T. Parrott, MSW, LISW-CP for Pebble Tossers

“You have power over your mind – not outside events.
Realize this, and you will find strength.”
Marcus Aurelius

COVID-19…How will you show up for yourself during a monumental event in history?
I pose this question to remind you of the power that you hold when managing this and other stressful events you will encounter in life. Comfort and strength come from the awareness that you have control over your actions or response, not control over the situation itself. The truth of the matter is that by nature, life is uncertain. As humans, we fight this simple fact on a regular basis, as we prefer the illusion that we can somehow predict and control our circumstances.

During times like these, we face the uncertainty of life, our actual reality. We feel vulnerable with stress and worry resulting from the lack of predictability, security and familiarity we typically rely on. It is natural for our thoughts to turn to all of the negative consequences and to feel emotions of anger, overwhelm and anxiety/fear. However, if we allow our thoughts to fixate on the negative, then we will miss the opportunity to develop skills to cope with our world in its natural, unpredictable state. The strength from within is always with us, so it is imperative that we get to know our true capabilities by pushing beyond what we feel is possible when life gets tough.


“Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”
Maya Angelou


I challenge you to consider the opportunity that presents itself now…choose to cope in a way that will serve as an example of strength and perseverance for years to come when you consider how you showed up for yourself during a difficult time. Resist remaining stuck and look for what may be possible. Consider the question “What good may come from my new reality?”


“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
William James



What does it mean to choose one thought over another?
You begin by acknowledging your emotions and understanding that they are not good or bad, but simply neutral….and incredibly helpful! Your emotions are your data source. They provide you with the information necessary to understand what matters to you at any given time. When things around us feel uncertain, we naturally are more vulnerable to our emotions and can become stuck or overwhelmed. With curiosity, not a sense of judgment, ask yourself what emotions you are noticing, and check in with yourself often. “What is my emotion telling me is important?”

Once you know what is important, you free yourself to take action in a way that is meaningful to you. For example, if you notice feeling helpless, it may help you to consider what actions are within your area of control that would allow you to feel you are of help. You may decide to call elderly family members who are not able to receive visitors, or set up video calls with friends you are not able to see because of social distancing. We choose one thought over another, when we see opportunity amidst adversity. We choose one thought over another when we decide to acknowledge the power we hold in our response, the action we take. “How can I find benefit in my new situation?” To know what action is necessary, you must know your unique values and needs.

I would encourage you to consider reflection on your personal needs. Ask yourself “What are my needs in a given day-emotional, physical, spiritual, relational, academic, etc.?” How have these needs been impacted by COVID-19, the need for social distancing etc.? Are any of my personal needs completely ignored due to this disruption? What options could I consider to remove barriers to meet my needs? Am I able to problem solve and find resolutions on my own, or are there resources that may be able to help me? Do I need any supports to help me feel more secure? Identifying your personal needs and any current barriers, will allow you the opportunity to develop an understanding of the elements that will be necessary as you establish your new routine. Your needs will not be identical to those of your friends or family. You have to respect your individuality and create a support plan that provides you a sense of security, knowing it is unique to you. Routines are important because, once again, we humans like a sense of predictability. Make sure to incorporate positive activities during times of stress. See below for some beneficial activities to reduce stress.

During this unprecedented historical event, you have the opportunity to move beyond your perceived limitations. When you choose to pay attention to your emotions respectfully, you take power away from the event, and give it back to yourself. You begin to recognize, “I cannot control the world around me, but I can control how I respond by taking care of myself when times are challenging”. You have the ability to consider opportunities during times of adversity. What will you do with this opportunity?

How do you want to remember 2020 and your response to the stress of a global pandemic?
My hope is that, despite the disruption and undeniable fears associated with COVID-19, you will dare to seek opportunity, and develop fortitude, by challenging yourself to attend to your unique emotional needs with compassion and kindness, seeking support from others when challenges feel too cumbersome to manage alone. You are not alone, and if you feel you need support, talk to a friend or family member, or consider resources such as the Crisis Text Line, by texting TALK to 741741 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-TALK. For additional information about how to cope, please check out NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) or the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). There are also many helpful apps, including Headspace, Mindshift, Breath2Relax and ReliefLink.

While respecting the need to have “social distance,” try your best to not close your hearts to others. Find ways to connect with friends, family and your community. We do not have to be in physical proximity to feel the power and benefit of social relationships. Get creative and remain united!


“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
J.K. Rowling


Activities to calm uneasiness during times of stress:

    • Journal about how you are feeling or coping with the recent changes in your life.
    • Get outside: Make an effort to notice your environment. Pay attention to your senses. What does the air feel like on your face? What does the air smell like? Can you describe your surroundings with descriptive words, as if you were a reporter?
    • Play a comforting or soothing playlist.
    • Have a screen-free day.
    • Limit how much you watch the news or mindlessly spend time on social media.
    • Go for a walk.
    • Take a bath or shower, adding essential oils or even bubbles.
    • Talk with a friend or family member.
    • Do something creative.
    • Learn a new skill (a new hobby or interest, or even a foreign language or instrument).
    • Focus on breathing.
      • Try the box breath technique: Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4, and repeat.
      • Try belly breathing by placing one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen. Take a deep breath in, careful to only activate and fill your abdomen (your hand on your belly should rise, hand on chest should not move), exhale release with pursed lips (hand on your belly should lower and can gently push in to help release all the air). Repeat 3-10 times.

Maintaining Mental Health in a Crisis

Choosing Peace in the Midst of Uncertainty

 written by Olivia Kemp, MSW, Pebble Tossers Program Manager

Over the last several days, I have spoken with many people in regards to our current health state with COVID-19. Statements that I continue to hear from friends and family sound like this, “I’ve never experienced a situation like this,” or “I wonder when we will finally be in the clear?” Living in this unknown state that we are in, can not only be anxiety-provoking but isolating. Because of those reasons, it is important to take care of our own mental health during this time while also supporting others in theirs as well. 

Up onto this point, the CDC has done a great job providing virus prevention information like washing hands, using hand sanitizer, social distancing, and even routinely disinfecting different surfaces. Without taking these types of measures, we all would be in a much worse state of physical health. A similar process can be considered for our mental health too. Being a social worker, I would love to provide you all with different suggestions that you can implement into your daily lives that keep you mentally strong.

Pebble Tossers’ Mental Health Tips for COVID-19:
Social Connection

As humans, we are wired and created for community with others. The reality of our normal routines that consist of going to school, work, sports, and clubs being postponed can be hard to accept. So how do we fill this gap of connection and belonging in a new way? First, we can set up designated times to check-in with friends or family on the phone each day. We can play board games, set up video chats, start a virtual book club, and even create a craft that can be sent to your friend via mail. By keeping our communication going, but in different ways, it can reduce loneliness and stress.

Emotional Health

Watching the news and or logging onto social media accounts daily to see COVID-19 updates can drain our emotional capacity. By creating healthy boundaries, a family or individual can limit their exposure to COVID-19 news and decide how often they will watch TV, be on social media, or even discuss the topic with others. If your children express fear or anxiety around the topic, validate what they are feeling and let them know it is okay to be upset or confused. Share with your child different ways that they can cope and express their emotions during this time. Whether it be through art, exercising, or playing games.

Create a Routine

During this time, many people are either working remotely, not working, and or helping their kids do school work. These new and unfamiliar patterns can bring an additional layer of stress to a family. By itemizing time for different activities for your children, you can help their schedule to become goal-oriented for school and fun during downtime. Challenge yourselves as a family to create food recipes, discover a new hobby, or make a unique craft.


The beauty of self-care is that we need it in every stage or season of our lives to continue healthy patterns. There are several activities and outlooks that we can utilize throughout our days that infuse self-care. For example, any form of exercise gets you moving and increases your endorphin level. You can do indoor exercises or venture out and take a walk in your neighborhood, while still social distancing. Meditation, prayer, and utilizing grounding techniques in this time can also provide a sense of peace. Through grounding techniques, you can establish what is happening presently in the moment by identifying what you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. This technique is especially helpful when someone crosses into a fear/anxiety response. Self-care can also be as simple as taking a shower, listening to music,  journaling, or making yourself some tea. The end goal is to seek rest for yourself as we navigate this season together.

If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis at this time please call the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 1-800-715-4225 anywhere in the state. A counselor will connect with you via the crisis line and be available to assist you 24/7 and 365 days out of the year.  


If you or someone you know is experiencing homelessness or is in need of services like food please call 211 and you will be connected to a representative of United Way Atlanta.

Local nonprofit committed to youth receives $10,000 grant for COVID-19 Projects

Pebble Tossers to disperse $10,000 to ten groups or individuals

(Atlanta, GA, March 2020)…Pebble Tossers, Atlanta’s leading youth development nonprofit organization, is one of 36 recipients nationwide of a $10,000 grant from Halle Tecco, an entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. The grant will be 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 will mobilize youth volunteers and provide ten individuals or small groups with “mini-grants” of $1,000 each to create innovative solutions to problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis. Through these grants, Pebble Tossers will mold a new generation of servant leaders, philanthropists, and community activists.

“We are honored to be able to offer this leadership opportunity to greater Atlanta’s youth. Our goal is to equip and empower youth to reach their leadership potential through service,” said Jennifer Guynn, Founder + Executive Director, Pebble Tossers. “Our world has dramatically changed over the past four weeks and our youth need positive and impactful opportunities to create ripples of giving that will last their lifetime.”

To apply for the Pebble Tossers COVID-19 Youth Impact Grant, please visit:

Based on grant recipient guidelines, the time period for the projects is short.

Application Due Date: Friday, April 3rd
Grants Awarded Date: Monday, April 6th
Project Completion Date: Monday, April 13th

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 additional donations poured into the fund. Within days, 362 applications for the grants poured in and Pebble Tossers was one of 36 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 create a ripple of giving in their community.

News Coverage

CNN Article


leadership through service: resources for continuing to serve

Due to overwhelming response and an ever-growing list of projects and resources this page has moved!

But don’t worry, clicking on the links below will take you right where you want to go!
Also, be sure to bookmark the following page www.pebbletossers.org/serve-from-home

Please Note: The new page will continue to be updated daily.

serve at home
serve with social distancing
discussion resources
continued learning
how to guides

Coronavirus + volunteering: keeping you safe

From our Founder + Executive Director:

In light of the recent reports of the Coronavirus diagnosis in Atlanta, we want to address how this might affect our upcoming volunteer opportunities. As a trusted nonprofit, we are committed to ensuring a safe + healthy environment for our volunteers and the clients we serve.

We are keeping a close watch on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) reports on risk and guidance, especially since we serve many vulnerable individuals. While the risk assessment is still considered low, we want to be proactive in our actions to reassure our volunteers. Even before the Coronavirus concerns, we have a policy to clean + disinfect all toys, tools + supplies before + after use at a service project. We will continue to take preventative measures to ensure that all supplies which volunteers + clients come in contact with are thoroughly cleaned + disinfected.

Your volunteer efforts are needed now, more than ever! However, in case one of our nonprofit partners feels the need to cancel a project, we will alert you as soon as possible. We are in constant contact with our nonprofit partners and some have also enacted additional protocols for virus prevention.

Important Reminders

Here are some important reminders to ensure we all do our part in keeping our volunteers and clients safe and healthy:
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your mouth + nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose + mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap + water. Use hand sanitizer when soap + water aren’t available.

These are good precautions to take to avoid the flu and other bugs, not just the Coronavirus. We want to ensure you that, with your help, we will work hard to maintain a healthy environment for everyone during this time. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at jguynn@pebbletossers.org.

Thank you for your service to our communities.

Jennufer Guynn

Founder + Executive Director