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Guest Column

As cash gifts decrease, Hands On Atlanta sees increase in volunteerism

By Guest Columnist GINA SIMPSON, president and CEO of Hands on Atlanta.

Since I joinied Hands On Atlanta in November 2008, there has never been a dull moment.

We have seen a tremendous surge in volunteerism over the last year, a welcome development because the need is greater now than it has ever been.

With the economic downturn and increased unemployment, we saw a 30 percent increase in our volunteer efforts in 2009. Many people have chosen to volunteer as a means of networking with potential employers, while meeting critical service needs in the community.

Leading a not-for-profit organization when giving has decreased across the board calls for creative leadership. We have had to streamline our services by implementing a leaner management model, creating collaborations with our partners, and utilizing more pro bono services.

These adjustments, however, have not altered the importance or impact of the work we do 365 days each year throughout our great city.

President Barack Obama’s national call to service and the passing of the Serve America Act, demonstrated our national leaders’ investment in community and service for the next decade.

Hands On Atlanta has answered this call. In addition to providing a variety of volunteer opportunities for individuals, families, and corporations, we recently collaborated with Mayor Kasim Reed and the City of Atlanta in the grant writing process for a Chief Service Officer, which is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Cities of Service initiative.

Earlier this year at the 2010 National Conference on Volunteerism and Service, Mayor Bloomberg and the President of the Rockefeller Center held a press conference and announced Atlanta’s award of a two-year Cities of Service grant.

Now in just a couple weeks, on October 2nd, we will celebrate Hands On Atlanta Day and 20 years of transformative service in the community. We are excited to have Mayor Reed join us as Honorary Chair.

Hands On Atlanta Day is the single largest day of service in the country and this year, more than 15,000 volunteers will join hands all in an effort to build community, meet critical needs, and make Atlanta a better place to live.

In addition to Hands On Atlanta Day, we are excited to resume our youth service programming with new partnerships with Atlanta Public Schools, the Clayton County Board of Health and Walton Communities. Our joint efforts demonstrate how youth service not only benefits the community, but also helps young people realize their unique talents and the possibilities for their futures.

This is what Hands On Atlanta does, and does well. We help individuals realize the power they have to transform their lives through service and the live of others through the service they provide.

Note to readers: Hands On Atlanta is celebrating 20 years of volunteer service to the community. People interested in contributing to the next two decades of Hands On Atlanta can volunteer, donate or be a service leader in their own community. For more information: www.HandsOnAtlanta.org

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