By Nicole Letts
Contrary to every TV ad you'll ever see, the spirit of the season isn't about purchases, presents and parties. It's about giving and, specifically, giving back.
It's especially about giving back to Atlanta communities and neighborhoods we hold near and dear to our hearts. After all, as The Grinch Who Stole Christmas reminds us, "What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more?"
Whether you are looking to donate canned food or winter coats, or to volunteer for a few hours or a few days, we've got a comprehensive round-up of organizations giving back to Atlanta communities this holiday season in a major way.
Take a look at the list, find an organization that speaks to you and gather your friends and family to volunteer. The list covers events starting as early as November 1, so there is plenty of time to get involved. Embrace the holiday spirit and enjoy the season of giving!
Mailbox Brigade Nov. 1 - Dec. 4
Ashford Park Friends of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Ashford Park Friends is one of more than 37 community "Friends" groups that support Children's Healthcare of Atlanta through volunteer opportunities, fundraising events and special service projects.
This year, Friends' events will benefit family support services, patient family services, research and more. Ashford Park Friends will be continuing a holiday tradition of decorating mailboxes where 100 percent of the funds raised will be donated directly to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
For a $40 donation, mailboxes will be beautifully adorned with fresh holiday greenery and a festive bow. Volunteers from the Ashford Park Friends group will be decorating the mailboxes while children of volunteers may help in the process by gathering greenery and assisting in decoration. Times vary, but decorating will take place in the Ashford Park neighborhood. To join Ashford Park Friends, visit www.facebook.com/groups/AshfordParkFriends
NFCC Holiday Program Nov. 7 - Dec. 19
North Fulton Community Charities (Warm Coat Drive, Senior Baskets, Santa Shop and others)
North Fulton Community Charities' mission is to provide assistance to underprivileged families in the North Fulton area. Join other North Fulton county residents as they come together for a season of service with NFCC. Volunteer opportunities range from receiving donations to organizing events and assisting with cleanup. To volunteer with NFCC, volunteers must be at least 13 years of age. Groups of teens 16-18 must have an adult chaperone for every group of four. An adult must accompany teens under the age of 16, and children under the age of 13 are not allowed to volunteer at this time. Times vary on each event, but all activities take place at the Holiday Distribution Site: 1175 Northmeadow Pkwy., Suite 110, Roswell, GA 30076. To register to volunteer, visit www.nfccholiday.org
2015 Home for the Holidays Designer Showhouse Nov. 20 - Dec. 13
Southeastern Horticultural Society
The Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles 2015 Home for the Holidays Designer Showhouse is the Atlanta design community's favorite wintertime tradition, and this year's no exception. (Twenty national and locally acclaimed designers will transform this home!)
A portion of the funds raised from the event will benefit The Children's Learning Gardens at the Southeastern Horticultural Society, a membership organization dedicated to furthering the knowledge of the horticultural industry throughout the region. The Southeastern Horticultural Society (SHS) is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to promoting the knowledge, art and enjoyment of horticulture throughout the Southeast. The 2015 home, located at 1150 West Garmon Road, Atlanta, GA 30327, will be open to the public for tours Thursdays through
Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For this event, volunteers are needed while the home is open for tours to help direct guests and answer questions. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older. For more information, visit www.atlantaholidayhome.com.
Holiday Tree Greeting Card Elves Nov. 26 - Dec. 25 (Mon. - Fri. only)
Trees Atlanta is a nationally recognized nonprofit citizens' group that protects and improves Atlanta's urban forest by planting, conserving, and educating.Each holiday season, Trees Atlanta seeks office volunteers (also known as "elves") to assist with mailing Holiday Tree Greeting Cards. For every holiday tree greeting purchased, Trees Atlanta sends a card to the friend, family member or associate of the purchaser's choice. Each card tells the loved one that a one-year old tree is being planted in their honor through Trees Atlanta's NeighborWoods program. As always, volunteers hand-address the envelopes to recipients for a personal touch. Volunteers ages 16+ are welcome to participate. Plan to meet at Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center: 225 Chester Avenue SE, Atlanta, GA 30316. For more information, visit www.treesatlanta.org.
Christmas Kindness Dec. 5 - 9
Peachtree Road United Methodist Church
Christmas Kindness is a Peachtree Road United Methodist Church ministry that offers a dignified way for Atlantans in need to share the joy of Christmas. At this annual event, parents select from a variety of coats for all family members, appliances for their family to share and toys to give to their children.
Individuals from area shelters and housing agencies shop for basic necessities such as coats, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion and deodorant for their own use, and every shopper receives a wrapped Bible. Volunteers ages 16+ are invited to participate on December 5-8 while on December 9 from 3-6 p.m., elementary aged children can volunteer, too. Times vary for each day, but all activities take place at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church located at 3180 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta, GA 30305. For further information, visit www.prumc.org/local-outreach/
Amy's Holiday Party Dec. 6
Creating Connected Communities
Creating Connected Communities' mission is to provide life-enhancing programs to underserved children by empowering teen volunteers to become engaged community leaders. Throughout the year, CCC plans fun events and festivals for children living in homeless shelters and offers teen volunteers direct and meaningful community outreach opportunities.
This opportunity is perfect for families with teenagers hoping to get involved during the holidays. Rally your teenagers and join Amy's Holiday Party in providing over 800 children living in 40 shelters around Atlanta with a fun-filled holiday celebration. Over 300 teen volunteers participate in the event each year and help guests enjoy a DJ dance party, carnival games, craft projects, pictures with Santa, lunch and snacks and best of all a Toy Store with over 3,000 gifts. Volunteers in grades 8 - 12 are welcome. Volunteers are asked to register, and time and location details will then be provided. To register, visit www.cccprojects.org
Joyous Toys Store Dec. 7 - 11
Buckhead Christian Ministries
For more than 28 years, Buckhead Christian Ministry (BCM) has worked to prevent hunger and homelessness for local people facing life-changing events such as job losses, reduction in work hours or medical problems. Joyous Toys is a store that provides gifts for children of all ages, birth to 17 years old.
One of the things that makes the Joyous Toys store special is that it is full-service: clients are provided with access to a hospitality suite while they wait to shop, access to a personal shopper to help them select multiple gifts for each child and complimentary gift wrapping before they leave. Members of the community can volunteer to register families in the weeks leading up to the store or volunteer at the store itself. Volunteers must be 19 years of age to participate. The Joyous Toys Store event takes place Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Thursday – 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ; Friday – 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, 3434 Roswell Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30305. For more information, visit www.buckheadchristianministry.org/events/joyous-toys-store/
The Holiday Store Dec. 12
Moving in the Spirit
Moving in the Spirit is an award-winning nonprofit that transforms the lives of Atlanta's children and teens through the art of dance. Programs combine dance instruction with leadership and mentor opportunities for a diverse community of young people, encouraging them to overcome the obstacles they face each day and reach their highest potential.
All year, Moving in the Spirit's 250 students earn merit points for meeting class commitments and personal goals. At the Holiday Store, they use their hard-earned points to "buy" gifts for their families and loved ones. Volunteers donate gifts, set up the store, wrap presents and serve as personal shoppers to the dancers. Moving in the Spirit welcomes volunteers ages 14 and beyond. Holiday Store hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and all volunteer activities take place at Moving in the Spirit: 750 Glenwood Avenue Atlanta, GA 30316. For more information, visit www.movinginthespirit.org/holidaystore2015/