November Cause Area: Hunger + Food Drives

As November arrives, we celebrate the fall harvest and the year’s blessings. Anticipation fills the air as we prepare to gather with loved ones, devour Thanksgiving feasts, and enjoy football on the couch. November is a season of togetherness and festivity, yet it also prompts us to reflect on those less fortunate.

Did you know, 10.7% of Atlantans face the daily struggle of not having enough to eat? In Georgia, 1 in 9 adults and 1 in 8 children face hunger and food insecurity. Food insecurity is not having access to enough food to maintain a healthy and active life. 

Many of us experience feeling hungry after skipping a meal or two. We may feel cranky, tired, and irritable, and it can be hard to focus and finish our work. Fortunately, we can satisfy our hunger with a quick trip to the kitchen or grocery store. For others, it is hard to predict when or where they will get their next meal. This can cause them not to feel their best and can result in significant health issues.  

How does hunger impact children? 

Hunger can make it difficult for children to perform well in the classroom. It can also affect their behavior. Hungry students are more likely to: 

  • have less energy 
  • repeat a grade 
  • have lower math scores 
  • be late to school or miss school entirely 
  • be more easily distracted and less interested in schoolwork
  • suffer from chronic health conditions like asthma, anemia, and obesity

According to No Kid Hungry, as many as 9 million children in the United States live in “food insecure” homes. 

How can Pebble Tossers help end childhood hunger? 

Youth and families can help end childhood hunger by volunteering with our partner, The Sandwich Project

The Sandwich Project’s mission is to combat food insecurity in our community, foster a sense of togetherness, and ensure that no one goes without the necessity of nourishing food. Volunteers work together to create and deliver fresh homemade sandwiches to large and small nonprofit organizations. 

How to Volunteer with The Sandwich Project

Volunteering is easy, and you can participate from the comfort of your home and at a time that works best for you. 

Step 1: Register via our volunteer + nonprofit platform and choose a week you and your family or group want to make and deliver your sandwiches.

Step 2: Download our sandwich guide How-To Action Sheet 

Step 3: Purchase the materials listed on the sandwich guide

Step 4:  Make your sandwiches the night before your scheduled delivery date

Step 5: Engage in the conversation starter prompts and reflection questions on the action sheet during and after making the sandwiches 

Step 6: Deliver your sandwiches 

Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6

How does hunger impact adults?

People living in urban areas, rural areas, and low-income neighborhoods may not have grocery stores close to them. This means their diets may lack a healthy variety of fresh foods and nutritious meals. Eating foods lacking in nutrition can lead to diseases such as: 

  • diabetes
  • hypertension
  • heart disease 
  • obesity

People experiencing hunger may have to choose between paying a bill, buying medication, and purchasing groceries. 

How can Pebble Tossers help improve food insecurity?

You can help improve food insecurity by volunteering with our partner, Open Hand

Open Hand is one of the largest community-based providers of medically tailored meals in the U.S. They not only cover food insecurity which focuses on quantity, but they focus on nutrition insecurity, which emphasizes quality. Their meals are prepared, cooked, and delivered to improve health outcomes. 

All their services are free to their clients, as more than 90% are from historically marginalized backgrounds. Without the help of wonderful volunteers like you, they would not be able to support the amount of people they serve. 

Open Hand’s impact is so significant that one-third of their clients report that, if not for Open Hand, they would have no idea where their next meal would be coming from. 

How to volunteer with Open Hand 

You can volunteer with Open hand by registering via our volunteer + nonprofit platform. Simply select a shift that works best for you. Open Hand is always in need of volunteer drivers to deliver meals and volunteer support with packing meals in the Open Hand kitchen. 

Pebble Tossers Impact  

Hunger is more than just an empty stomach, it can also affect education and health. By volunteering with The Sandwich Project and Open Hand, we can ensure that everyone has access to healthy meals. This November, let us not only celebrate our blessings but also share them with those who need them most, making this season truly one of gratitude and compassion.


Written by Lauren Green, MSN, MBA, RN 

Freelance Health Writer, Emerald Health Content 

Food Accessibility, Insecurity and Health Outcomes (

Food Insecurity – Healthy People 2030 |

Child Hunger in America | Save the Children

USDA ERS – Key Statistics & Graphics

Facts About Childhood Hunger in America (

Nutrition & Wellness – Atlanta Community Food Bank (


The Power of Empathy: Unleashing Your Potential Through Community Service

Empathy’s significance cannot be overstated in a world that often seems fast-paced and self-centered. As teenagers, you’re at a crucial juncture in your personal growth, and cultivating empathy through community service can be a transformative experience. Not only does it make you an active citizen, but it also helps you become a servant leader and a genuinely good person. Let’s explore how this journey of empathy and service can shape you into a remarkable individual.

Understanding Empathy: More Than Just a Word

Empathy goes beyond simply acknowledging someone else’s feelings; it’s about stepping into their shoes and feeling what they feel. Engaging in community service allows you to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds, each with their unique stories and struggles. By actively listening and showing understanding, you begin to see the world through their eyes. This understanding forms the bedrock of empathy.

Becoming an Active Citizen: Changing the World from Within

Active citizenship involves being a responsible member of society and engaging in activities that contribute positively to the community. Community service is the gateway to active citizenship, as it connects you with the needs of your society. You directly impact lives by volunteering at local shelters, participating in environmental cleanups, or tutoring under-served students. These experiences help you realize the challenges some in your community face and inspire you to be part of the solution.

The Path to Servant Leadership: Leading by Example

Servant leadership revolves around putting others’ needs before your own. It’s about leading through humility, empathy, and a genuine desire to serve. Volunteering offers you the opportunity to develop these qualities. As you help address the needs of others, you lead by example, inspiring those around you to join in. This type of leadership isn’t about authority; it’s about influence. Through empathy-driven service, you cultivate a leadership style that uplifts and empowers others.

Cultivating Goodness: The Ripple Effect of Empathy

Empathy is the pebble from which ripples of kindness and goodness grow. When you genuinely connect with others through community service, you develop a sense of responsibility toward their well-being. This sense of responsibility extends beyond service hours; it becomes a fundamental aspect of your character. Acts of kindness, compassion, and understanding become second nature, and you start making choices that positively impact both individuals and the community at large.

Building Lasting Relationships: Connection Through Empathy

Community service introduces you to people from all walks of life. These interactions broaden your worldview and allow you to build meaningful connections with others. By working alongside diverse groups of people, you learn to appreciate differences, collaborate effectively, and find common ground. These skills are essential not only in areas of service but also in every aspect of life.

In a world filtered through social media that focuses on self-gain, learning empathy through community service is a beacon of hope. It’s a journey that transforms you into an active citizen, a servant leader, and a genuinely good person. As today’s youth, you have the power to shape your future and contribute positively to society. Embrace the opportunities that community service offers, and watch as empathy becomes a driving force for positive change in your life and the lives of others. Remember, every act of kindness, no matter how small has the potential to create a ripple effect that can change the world.

Pebble Tossers walks alongside you, family and friends, schools, faith, and civic communities to provide age-appropriate service opportunities in various areas. Pebble Tossers does the heavy lifting by vetting organizations that uphold security and safety while serving their clients meaningfully. Our team is always looking for innovative ways to introduce you to new issues, and we embrace stepping outside of your comfort zone to promote personal growth. Let’s work together to make a positive difference!

Written by Jennifer Guynn

Executive Director, Pebble Tossers

Celebrating Civic Season as a New American Tradition

Civic Season is a new American tradition that unites our oldest federal holiday with our newest. Held between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July, it’s a time to reimagine the future by acknowledging our past. By inviting family, friends, and neighbors to join the new tradition, we become part of a movement that helps us to understand our roles in our communities and strategize a future that tells the whole story, where no parts are skipped. Participating in the Civic Season helps each of us discover our story and understand our role in history.

Civic Season started in 2021 and is led by key History Museums nationwide and Generation Z Design Fellows. Civic Season Design Fellows consists of nine fellows between the ages of 18 and 30, selected from a competitive pool of applicants. Together they are artists, activists, immigrants, students, creators, and leaders — each bringing different visions and experiences to the table to help the Civic Season become an inspiring nationwide movement made by us.

Pebble Tossers created a list of family-friendly resources (or individuals!) to help us learn and explore. Add a few of these books to your summer reading, hit play on a podcast for your morning drives, and join us among the hundreds of organizations and communities nationwide to rally together in celebration!


Family Events to Participate In

Civic Season Kick-off Party at the Atlanta History Center
Civic Season: A Slice of History at the National Center for Civil Rights
Juneteenth Atlanta Parade + Music Festival
Jubilee: A Juneteenth Celebration at the National Center for Civil Rights
Voice to the Voiceless: Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection
Piedmont Summer Movie Series: Juneteenth
Look Up Atlanta: Independence Day Fireworks Show
American Democracy: A Virtual Tour by the Heinz History Center


Resources for Family Learning

Discover Your Civic Superpower
Civic Season: The Classroom Guide
Why We Need a Civic Season
NMAAHC Kids: Understanding + Celebrating Juneteenth
Juneteenth for kids: How to explain and celebrate this important holiday
Gathering Guide: Creating an Intentional 4th of July Gathering
Tips for Talking with Children About Racism and Social Justice


Books to Read (Elementary School)


Books to Read (Middle School)


Books to Read (Ages 14+)


Videos to Watch




Written by Julia Dao, Pebble Tossers ©2023

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

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. 

Pebble Tossers interview on Veteran Support and Doc’s Healing Hives with Tim Doherty

Pebble Tossers recently interviewed Tim Doherty, founder of Doc’s Healing Hives. Tim’s organization teaches and equips veterans with the materials needed to keep bees and harvest their honey. Many of these veterans have suffered traumatic brain injuries received as a result of their service. The primary goal of Doc’s Healing Hives is to help heal and reintegrate former service members into their community through the vocation of Beekeeping. The conversation focused on the progress made to create more opportunities for Doc’s Healing Hives to serve the Metro Atlantas veteran community and the importance of volunteers within the organization itself. Tim shared incredible advice on how we can all do better to make lasting friendships with the veterans in our lives. 


Pebble Tossers: I’ve seen that you are in the process of building a new Veteran Learning Center. What new opportunities do you hope this space will provide for members of your organization?

That space should be finished by the end of April (2023?). And it will allow me to run anywhere from two to four courses a year teaching veterans how to keep bees, and then will also be a retreat for them. And then I can also serve them individually. I actually had a veteran call me today and say, “Hey I’d like to learn how to keep bees, can you come to my farm?” And I said, “Well, how about you come to my farm, and I’ll teach you how to do hive inspections where there actually are bees.” Getting it built has been a three-year process so we’re very excited.

Pebble Tossers: Is the Veteran Learning Center going to be a place where veterans can stay overnight?

Tim: That’s the next phase, one that I really would like help with, is building a lodge. We have one tiny home that could house two veterans and I’d like to build two more container homes that would host another 12 veterans. So close to 15.

Pebble Tossers: Your Facebook page shows that Doc’s Healing Hives makes tequila honey that you sell at the local Farmer’s Market, and other flavors as well. What’s the process of infusing that unique flavor into the honey harvest?

Tim: It’s fun. I started with my regular honey, which is the best honey in the state of Georgia as judged by the Georgia Beekeepers Association at the Fall Conference this past year. And then I took that honey and another wildflower honey, blended those two together with bourbon and created my Bourbon Honey, which is amazing. Everybody loves it. And a lot of people wanted that and people suggested tequila. So I tried tequila and everybody loves it. The alcohol makes the honey sweeter. And then at the end, you get a slight finish of tequila. So it’s just a pleasant experience, everybody is very excited about it.

Pebble Tossers: What role do volunteers play in the daily operation and events you put on at Doc’s Healing Hives?

Tim: Well, there’s a variety of roles and it’s gonna expand because it used to be that it was just the instructors because I didn’t have a host facility. So now that I have my own facility, more volunteers are needed. From hosts, people to help serve food, to greeters, to people that help in the registration process, to people who just help to make the veterans feel comfortable. Because for a lot of them, the PTSD element, is huge. Most people don’t know this but Winnie the Pooh is based on PTSD. The author of Winnie the Pooh had PTSD. If you look at Piglet, he is always anxious. Rabbit can never sit still. Owl is always thoughtful. Eeyore is depressed. Those are all elements of PTSD that a veteran can experience at any different time. So when you do something like this, not only do you have to be the subject matter expert, you also have to be able to meet the needs of individuals that are experiencing these challenges. So that’s something that hosts or volunteers can help with, which will be new for me because I  never operated the host facility, I was just the program facility coordinator.

Veteran Learning Center

Pebble Tossers: What are some of your favorite parts of the work you do with your organization? What’s rewarding to you?

Tim: It’s a combination, I love just being with the bees, getting into the beehive. Because whatever is bothering you completely goes away and all you’re thinking is “this is amazing”. I’ve got anywhere from 20 to a hundred thousand bees looking at me and you get an entire life cycle in every frame of bees you pull out. From pupa to larva to bee, it’s just incredible. And I don’t know how else to explain that. Then getting to share that experience, it’s amazing.

Pebble Tossers: It seems like a great conduit to have fun and also make important connections with veterans and anyone wanting to get involved.

Tim: It helps the veterans reconnect to their own families and to their own communities. And that’s the whole point, that when you go into combat, you get connected to that lifestyle, that purpose. Then when you come home you don’t have that anymore. So it reconnects them to a new purpose, which then helps them integrate back into their own community.

Pebble Tossers: What are some of the ways Doc’s Healing Hive has been able to interact and become a resource to the surrounding Atlanta community?

Tim: One of my favorite stories is the Shepherd Center, we’re a nationally approved Shepherd Center activity. To be part of the Shepherd Center Share Program you have to have a traumatic brain injury and PTSD for a traumatic brain injury. So what that means is when a veteran checks into the Shepherd Center, they do an inventory for something that they might be interested in. If they choose Doc’s Healing Hives or beekeeping as something that they’re interested in learning about then I will meet with their recreational therapist and the veteran at a Park in Buckhead that we created with Livable Buckhead and Buckhead Rotary for this exact purpose. To be a training center for veterans that were in the Share Program. So we’ve created this educational bee garden in Buckhead, and then that’s been extended to becoming a Share Activity for the veterans going through the Shepherd Center Share Program. And then any time I’m at a farmer’s market, I’m always raising awareness. Do you know how many veterans kill themselves every day?

Pebble Tossers: No, I do not.

Tim: It’s 22. There was one this past Saturday that I know personally that killed himself. That was another veteran farmer. People just don’t realize that there’s such a disconnect between a deployment lifestyle and then turning back to your civilian lifestyle, that it’s hard for the veterans to adjust. So creating that awareness that veterans need help. A little bit of empathy, a little bit of community.

And then the other side of that is we always do pollinator education, which people don’t understand the importance of bees. There are only around 2 million bee colonies in America, and almost all of those are required to pollinate just the almonds in California. So almost every beehive in America goes to California every almond season to pollinate the almonds. Or the fact that 40% of your food is created by the pollination of bees. So if you didn’t have the honey bees pollinating the vegetables and the fruit, then your diet would look completely different.

Pebble Tossers: Do you have any advice for someone looking to get more educated and more supportive of the troops and former service members in their community

Tim: It’s not really that complicated. All of us know a veteran, and it’s as simple as talking to the individual and spending time with that person. One of my best experiences this past year, I haven’t been to a major sporting event since I deployed in 2015-2016. And I had not been to anything larger than a high school football game. I had been invited to baseball games, basketball games, football games, and I always declined because the environment was just too much. This past College Bowl season, my friend Mike told me “Michigan State is going to the Peach Bowl here in Atlanta”, and said we should go. And I said, “well that’s going to be a lot for me buddy, but I’ll give it a try”. So he and I went, it was the first big sporting event that I had been to in five years, which meant that I could now do it again. But before, the anxiety of being around that large of a crowd prevented me from attempting it. But having the invitation, “do you want to come over and grill a hamburger”, and just having those casual conversations shows you actually care. It really isn’t that complicated. Wanting to be invested and asking specific questions, as opposed to “how are you doing”. Because if you ask us how we’re doing we’re just going to tell you “fine” because that’s what we’ve been trained to tell you. But we’re not. So when you dig a little bit deeper and you show a little bit more investment. I don’t know, going to that football game was a big deal for me.

Pebble Tossers: I think everyone wants to be a better friend, however they can.

Tim: I think you just summed it up, be a better friend, right? I think that’s what’s so hard for us. That communities were very different and people lived in the same community and you came home to your community and there was a different kind of welcoming, or a different kind of connection and that doesn’t necessarily exist anymore.


Pebble Tossers:  Anyone can read that and feel like they can do that.

Tim: He broke a barrier for me. When my daughter said, “Hey it’s Daddy Daughter Day at UGA, we’re going to a basketball game do you want to come”. Before I would’ve said, “I don’t know”. But because Mike said “I think we can do this, nobody’s gonna be there”, I could. It was the encouragement and the support and basically just being a good neighbor.

Pebble Tossers: Is there anything that you want readers to know about Doc’s Healing Hives, the work that goes on there, or anything at all?

Tim: I think it’s important for people to be kind. It’s hard being deployed, your brain becomes rewired. We can’t help the way we are.

Pebble Tossers: That’s a great advice. Thank you so much for that, I think that’s a great way to end the interview. That’s an important note to end on that really ties it all together, what we’ve mentioned about being a community resource and how we can be more supportive. Be kind, be a better friend, be supportive, be a neighbor.

Tim: And make sure every time you spell “bee”, you use two E’s. Bee kind, bee a better friend, bee supportive, bee a neighbor!


Here is a link to the Doc’s Healing Hives Facebook page, where most of the organization progress and updates are recorded. Doc’s Healing Hives also has a Gofundme page fordonations for the Veteran Learning Center..