Honoring Those Who’ve Made a Difference
In 1991, April was designated National Volunteer Month as part of President George H.W. Bush’s 1,000 Points of Light campaign. To recognize community members who donate their time to worthy causes, local nonprofits submitted spotlights on some of their valuable volunteers.
The Dave Krache Foundation
Submitted by Allison Giddens
Stephen Archer has been a dedicated board member and volunteer for The Dave Krache Foundation (DKF) since its inception in 2012. He most recently has served as the organization’s treasurer, and DKF is better for it. The foundation aims to help local kids in need play the sports they love. Stephen grew up playing sports and understands the value and meaning it brings to a kid’s life, especially when a child is growing up in a household that finds it difficult to make ends meet.
Stephen is an asset to DKF because he genuinely cares about reaching and supporting those most in need. While sports may not fall under typical primary needs like food, safety or shelter, they are a vital piece of childhood development. Because of volunteers like Stephen, DKF (davekrache.com) has been able to help nearly 1,000 local kids play the sports they love – even when their families cannot afford the fees.
Leslie Hudson has been with DKF as a volunteer and board member since 2015, currently serving as vice chairwoman.
Leslie has been a staunch supporter of DKF and its mission long before she joined the board. She believes in the benefits of keeping kids playing the sports they love, even when their families cannot afford all the fees it takes. She not only is constantly working to connect the organization to leagues that need DKF support, but she also works to introduce those who can help support DKF and be a part of the greater mission.
Leslie has connected many longtime donors to DKF and is a key member of the Financial Assistance Request Committee. She, along with her team, has worked to evolve the application process to ensure that the DKF is capturing valid data to support those most in need and is being a good steward of donated dollars.
Submitted by Crystal Burdette
Hicks Malonson was one of the first people to volunteer with Rescuing Hope (www.rescuinghope.com) when we opened our doors in 2015, and his level of enthusiasm for and dedication to our mission remains as high today. As an ambassador for Rescuing Hope, Hicks has been instrumental in spreading our message to people in houses of worship, businesses and community groups in our area. He never waits for us to ask for his help. As a successful Realtor with Harry Norman and an active member of the Rotary Club of North Cobb, Hicks leveraged his connections to secure grant funding and fundraising event sponsorships that make it possible for us to continue our work. He never misses an opportunity to tell people about Rescuing Hope and encourages them to support us. We are honored to have Hicks on our team and only wish that we could clone him!
Wellstar Community Hospice, Agape Hospice
Submitted by Kathleen Fleiszar
Born prematurely, weighing 1.5 pounds and having sight in only one eye, Tena Williams started life with seemingly insurmountable challenges. Her appreciation for the gift of life is reflected in the drive and dedication she puts into her volunteer work.
Tena’s career as a volunteer began in Florida, where she cuddled and gently rocked fragile babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. She continued as a volunteer for hospice – her passion – bringing love and joy to those who have but a short time to live. In Cobb County, she spent 25-plus years volunteering at Wellstar Community Hospice and, most recently, at Agape Hospice.
Tena and I became hospice buddies at Wellstar. She brings her vibrant personality to her patients and always is accompanied by a therapy dog (currently a 3-pound rescue named Cuddles).
When folks ask her if she finds hospice work depressing, Tena says she believes it is her God-given purpose, an honor and a privilege to be with someone on their final journey. And she fulfills that purpose by offering comfort and support to patients and their families. Tena and Cuddles spend three days a week visiting about six patients a day. Her patients love to hold Cuddles.
Tena has a heart as big as the sky and never hesitates to share with others the importance of volunteer work and pet rescue. She has taught everyone she touches how to unconditionally love those facing the end of their lives. For Tena, life has come full circle, from cuddling infants in the NICU to bringing delight and joy to hospice patients with a rescue named Cuddles.
Special Needs Cobb
Submitted by Debbie Day
Twins are unique in many ways. Some even are superheroes. But few are like Austin and Aaron Eakins. Both are leaders of Hammering Hands, a volunteer group at Piedmont Church focused on community outreach. As a benefactor of their passion and generosity, Special Needs Cobb (SNC), the largest special needs group-home provider in Cobb County, knows beyond doubt that they are a dynamic duo.
Respite is a huge gift that most special needs families never get. Nearly 1,500 families wait on a list, and only 10 can be served per weekend. In spring 2021, the Eakins twins led their group to renovate their weekend respite home, the sole facilities-based respite home for special needs in the area. As Hammering Hands team leaders, Austin and Aaron created a plan, purchased the raw materials and commandeered an enthusiastic group of 50 volunteers, including their parents, to help with the remodel. How inspiring to see these volunteers hard at work renovating every aspect of the house. Not only did Hammering Hands provide all the labor, Piedmont Church provided the funds. They orchestrated a full makeover, including landscaping, a new roof on the home’s shed, painting, new kitchen appliances and countertops and updated light fixtures and hardware that totally transformed the kitchen, dining, bathroom and living room areas.
This year, the twins are joining the church and SNC on a whole-house renovation project on one of the group homes. They are securing materials and making plans to replace the roof and have proposed renovations that totally will transform the property, saving thousands of dollars that can be spent on client needs.
What a gift! Forty percent of SNC (www.specialneedscobb.org) residents are orphans, and this ministry of the heart, led by two young men who have no special needs family members, will go a long way in keeping a roof over their heads for life. The impact goes beyond dollars. They are creating a real home for those who need it most.
5 Tips for Successful Volunteering
Volunteering in the community is an amazing, positive outlet and such an uplifting way to spend your time. But, for many people, it can be hard to know how to get started. Time constraints make it difficult, and sometimes it is hard to find an opportunity that is a good fit. But, with so many organizations doing good work in our community, there is sure to be a great opportunity for you. Here are five tips for making volunteer service a regular and enjoyable part of your life:
- Give yourself some credit. You may feel compelled to get involved in the community but also feel guilty because of how little you feel you can take on. Don’t play that game! Doing even a little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing. Over time, tiny drops of water fill a glass.
- Double dip! Volunteering doesn’t always have to be some “other” thing you do. Incorporate it into the patterns and schedule of your life. Want to find more social time? Invite a friend, or meet someone new while you’re there. Need a way to connect with a struggling family member? Go together, and serve. Looking for a fun activity for co-workers? Plan a service project. Want to do something productive during downtime at home? There are opportunities for that as well. Service can be the avenue for making other things in life better, too.
- Keep it simple. If you are just getting started, keep it simple. You don’t have to commit to something huge. Just commit to something! Look up an organization that needs donations, and invite your neighbors to contribute, or sign up for a single shift at a one-time event. Then, you can build the habit from there.
- Consider your passion. Be creative — find something that really sparks your interest. Is there a cause you feel strongly about or something you love to do? Consider how you could turn that skill or interest into a way to give back. From soccer to knitting, and cooking to writing, there is an opportunity for just about everything.
- Make it automatic. The best way to keep community involvement easy is to make it automatic. Schedule a specific time in your week or month to remember to look for an opportunity. Or, when you are ready, commit to something regular you can look forward to. The less effort you put into maintaining your goal, the more likely you are to succeed.
Ready to Get Started?
Those who are active in service have been shown to have better health, greater joy and even longer life. You truly have nothing to lose. Check out justserve.org to find opportunities near you. Here are four opportunities to consider:
- Volunteer online with the Smithsonian Institution.
Looking for a way to volunteer from home? There are so many virtual options. Check out this opportunity to help the Smithsonian with their research: https://bit.ly/3hn0izf.
- Pack lunches for kids.
Looking for another way to help from home? Gather supplies and decorate lunch bags to support at-risk kids. All you have to do is drop them off when they are ready. https://bit.ly/3poU6Li.
- Help with a cemetery cleanup.
Sign up to help with a cemetery cleanup day near you. The outdoor event offers a chance to meet new people, and all ages can contribute. Beautify the community, and honor families in our area. https://bit.ly/3M9MRRj.
- Volunteer at Rise Against Hunger.
This organization works through many channels to eliminate hunger. Volunteer for a shift to help pack meals, or run a fundraiser to sponsor meals. Bring your family or co-workers for a group experience. https://bit.ly/3vlro1Q.
Justserve.org is a free, nationwide website and app that works to match volunteers with nonprofit organizations and service opportunities. If you run a nonprofit or are looking for ways to make service a regular part of your life, check out justserve.org. You can sign up for regular updates and learn more about organizations nearby, too. JustServe makes it easy to just go out and serve!
– Susannah MacKay is a local JustServe specialist. She grew up in Marietta and loves helping strengthen her community through service! Follow her on Facebook @JustServeGeorgia.