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Poverty & Equity Thought Leadership

Helping Hands Transform our Communities

By Julio Carrillo, Chief Operating Officer of Families First 

April is set aside to celebrate the many volunteers who give of their time, talent, and treasure to positively impact the lives of others. The United Nations estimates that about one billion individuals volunteer each year to support their favorite nonprofits.

As a nonprofit, Families First relies on our dedicated volunteers to help move our mission forward.  Even during COVID, the helping hands of volunteers have continued to find innovative ways to amplify nonprofits’ missions and improve our communities. 

I have leveraged my passion for mentoring and coaching both professionally and personally.  Professionally, I worked for more than a decade with Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta to develop better ways to mentor more children and change the trajectory of their lives. During this time, I also became a BIG | Mentor and have seen firsthand how the power of connection changed the life of my Little, who is now in college. My passion for working with youth, families and children extends into my volunteer work as a member of the boards for Agape Youth & Family Center, Atlanta Victim Assistance, and the GreenLight Fund. 

One of the amazing things about working in the nonprofit space is the incredible community I have gotten to know. At Families First, one of those women is Lucy C. Vance, community volunteer, advocate, and member of Families First Advisory Board.    

Lucy recently shared with me her thoughts on the power of volunteers, “I have witnessed the transformation that happens when volunteers bring passion, commitment and persistence to their work. This inspires others to join in and results in the power to effect significant community change.  A wonderful benefit for me has been the transformation that has taken place in my heart.” 

The passion of our Families First team was seen last week as they volunteered to hit the streets to bring awareness to mental health. The last year has taken a heavy toll on so many members of our community, and we have seen the need for therapy and mental health assistance rise to unmeasurable heights. Our “Sneakers on the Street” in our Westside neighborhoods launched our “Stomp the Stigma” campaign. The campaign is focused on raising awareness for the need for mental health assistance and helping to break down barriers for our neighbors to seek services. 

Our staff, volunteers and neighbors will join together for our “Rock the Block” Party at our office on Saturday, May 15, from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. With food, a DJ and family fun, the “Rock the Block” Party will also provide an opportunity for our neighbors to learn about our services including mental health and counseling.

While this past year has taken so much from so many, when we unite in service and giving back, we realize that we still have more to give and working with others that we can make a greater difference. We are all looking towards the future and how we can be resilient through whatever challenges may come our way. 

As we close out National Volunteer Month, I am reminded of the Margaret Mead quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has…”


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