Column: One-stop volunteer effort to be launched by Hands On Atlanta and United Way

By Maria Saporta
Friday, August 5, 2011

Thanks to a new partnership between Hands On Atlanta and the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta Inc., it soon will be easier to volunteer in the community.

The two organizations have joined forces to create a “one-stop, online shop” for volunteerism throughout the metro area — an effort that will be launched Sept. 1.

Hands On Atlanta has adopted new innovative technology that will permit both organizations to post volunteer opportunities, provide online registration, track volunteers and measure the impact of its programs. Volunteers also will be able to create content, post blog feeds and interact with other community volunteers.

“This shows that we are really trying to cooperate with each other,” said Donna Buchanan, United Way’s chief operating officer. “Nobody needs to replicate what others are doing. It’s absolutely the right thing to do.”

Both organizations have been discussing possible collaborations for more than a year.
They decided that this partnership on volunteerism was the most logical first step.

“We want to provide faster, friendlier, easier and deeper ways for people to get engaged in the community,” said Gina Simpson, president and CEO of Hands On Atlanta. “It was just a natural marriage for both of us.” Currently, Hands On Atlanta works with about 103,000 volunteers each year “to meet the critical needs of the community,” Simpson said.

And the opportunities to volunteer are endless.

“We work with about 400 to 500 organizations annually — from nonprofits, public schools, parks, conservancies and neighborhoods,” said Monique Shields, director of community and civic engagement for Hands On Atlanta. “We hope our partnership will become a model nationally.”

Volunteers will be able to sign up for volunteer opportunities by going to either or

“The new agreement between United Way and Hands On Atlanta facilitates each organization focusing on its area of excellence,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “Hands On Atlanta is the premier means to access volunteer opportunities; and United Way, with its array of partners, represents a treasure trove of volunteer opportunities.”

Ann Cramer, who handles corporate affairs for IBM Corp., and Michael Kay, an entrepreneur who works with a host of community organizations, both agreed to support this initiative. And Buchanan said United Way is seeking a modest grant to help support the partnership long term.

“There will never be enough money to make metro Atlanta a place where individuals and families can really thrive,” Buchanan said. “But by combining volunteer passion and energy with our investments, we can really move mountains.”

Digital literacy drive

On Aug. 8, Comcast will unveil a new program aimed at helping bridge the digital divide that exists for low-income students in metro Atlanta — just in time for the new school year.

The “Internet Essentials” program in Atlanta will be launched at an event at the Drew Charter School.

David Cohen, an executive vice president for Comcast; Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed; Don Doran, principal of Drew Charter School; Brenda Muhammad, chair of the Atlanta Board of Education; and Stacey Abrams, the House minority leader in the Georgia General Assembly, will all participate in the event, according to Andy Macke, vice president of government and community affairs for Comcast in the Atlanta region.

Comcast has put together this program as a result of its 51 percent acquisition of NBCUniversal. As part of the cable company’s acquisition of the network, the Federal Communications Commission asked for a major commitment from the company to help bridge the digital divide.

Macke said there are three reasons why low-income families tend to not have Internet access — one, they can’t afford the cost of the service or the cost of a computer; two, there is a lack of digital literacy in the home; and three, the families don’t see the relevance of having the Internet in their lives.

The “Internet Essentials” program will try to address all three issues.

Any student who receives a free lunch as part of the National School Lunch Program in the 28 metro counties (an estimated 317,000 low-income families) will be eligible to participate.

Comcast will offer Internet service for $9.99 a month compared with its $26.95 monthly rate.

TechBridge has new CEO

James Franklin, who has served on the board of TechBridge since 2007 and as its chair since last year, will succeed Kathleen Kurre as the organization’s CEO.

During his time with TechBridge, Franklin said he has seen the complexity of the technology needs facing nonprofits.

“All of us at TechBridge are committed to helping our community nonprofits choose and use the technology that’s right for them and their mission,” Franklin wrote in an e-mail.
Franklin said that he and Kurre will work together in the next couple of weeks to ensure a smooth transition. Meanwhile Sandra Hofmann will serve as interim board chair.

Rotary Prayer Breakfast

The Rotary Club of Atlanta will hold its 14th annual Interfaith Business Prayer Breakfast on Oct. 13 at the Hyatt Regency.

The keynote speaker will be Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America. Moynihan’s brother — Patrick Moynihan — is a Catholic missionary who has been running a private boarding school for disadvantaged children in Haiti.

The Moynihan brothers came from an Irish-Catholic family of nine children.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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