On my most recent road trip with strangers, I met an incredibly amazing woman whose husband is now a Veteran-in-heaven. He was days away from coming home from Afghanistan and they were in the midst of a conversation about all of the doinGood they would do when he got back. He never made it home, as their conversation was cut short by an attack. Instead of being all consumed by her grief afterward, she channeled that energy into productivity and got a foundation in her husband’s name up and running just months after he passed away. Why? Because service, be it in combat or in the community, was of the utmost importance to him and it was what he lived (and died) for. So today, I send a special salute to Yvonne, Neil, and all of my veteran friends & family who genuinely have ‘a service heart’ that makes them proud to be about something bigger. Happy Veteran’s Day!



Everybody who is passionate about service has their different reasons for volunteering. Sometimes, you’re just drawn by the cause because it’s that important. Sometimes it’s all about the altruism: having a positive impact on the world and feeling like you’ve done your part. For me, volunteering has been part adventure, part deliverance of joy, and part learning experience. In my volunteering randomness over the years, I’ve learned how to plant a tree, how to deal with emergencies, rode my first horse, and gave a little boy the most amazing “I did it!” moment by teaching him how to hammer two things together.

A few years ago, I realized that it could also help me grow as a person in ways I wasn’t getting otherwise. By deciding to get more involved, I started to overcome an innate (and sometimes paralyzing) shyness by being in charge of something more than just taking notes. For the last few years I feel like I’ve been a part of amazing things and made great connections. In 2009, I organized a women-driven community service day between groups at The Home Depot, UPS, and CB Richard Ellis in partnership with HomeAid Atlanta. Getting props from corporate was just icing on the cake for the work we got done that day for that women’s shelter. In 2011, I started a term as the Community Service Chair for UGA’s Metro Atlanta Chapter of the Alumni Association, working with orgs like Project Open Hand and Georgia Public Broadcasting to bring a variety of volunteer opportunities for the Dawg faithful in our city. Our group was the first alumni association in Metro Atlanta to adopt a section of the Atlanta Beltline via Park Pride’s program.

And today, my friends, I found out that I got accepted to Hands On Atlanta’s Civic Leadership Program, where I will partner up with an organization (to be determined) here in Atlanta to fundraise and lead my own series of volunteer projects starting in March!

I’m so excited about this opportunity and thank my friend Jocelyn, who gave me the idea to go looking for such a program, and Hands On Atlanta for accepting me into the program. Anyone who knows me well knows what a big deal this is for me. There’s so much to learn and I can’t wait to start this new and exciting chapter in my life of Doin Good right here in my hood.

We’re celebrating a pretty momentous occasion today. A few hours ago, we watched a man who started off as a community organizer get sworn in for a second Presidential term on a day where we honor a man who is best known in our country’s historic lore as someone who was one of the ultimate American do-gooders for others. Man, am I feeling inspired today by both President Obama and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr! The President said something interesting in his speech today that really hit home for me:

You and I, as citizens, have the power to get set this country’s course.

Of course, those words can be taken with broad strokes on a number of topics. But on this MLK National Day of Service, I’m thinking about how it applies to volunteerism. There are a lot of organizations trying to do good for others out there and need our help to fulfill their missions. Just think of how much positive change we could accomplish if we harnessed our collective energy to rally behind causes that advance us as a people or help positively shape our children’s futures!

image via TheWomensFoundation’s “Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr” board on Pinterest

So on this historic day, my friends, I challenge you to think about how you can act on these two very simple questions:

What causes are you passionate about?
What causes need your energy and your voice?

My name is Tai Collins and I started this blog because volunteering is my passion and I want you to get excited about volunteering too.

Volunteering is already pretty awesome on the surface. There are obviously warm fuzzy benefits to your community and those directly affected by your doingood. Did you know there’s research that suggests volunteering benefits your health as well? And sometimes you luck out and get other perks aside from mental and physical wellness. I have an entire drawer of t-shirts I’ve received from my doingood efforts. When I’ve volunteered with Georgia Public Broadcasting, that’s meant a yummy catered meal and getting my mug on tv once. Last year, I was afforded a career perk when I got to practice my project management skills via organizing a volunteer day for the women’s group at my job. People have offered me free tickets to everything from comedy shows to festivals. Once I volunteered at a 5k and came home with so many bananas for my freezer, I had a smoothie almost everyday for months!

Today, I was with a team from work at the 8th Annual Atlanta House Party, which is a corporate volunteer effort organized by a great Atlanta organization called HouseProud. Our team planted flowers and painted the exterior of a senior citizen’s home, taking it from drab to Orange-and-Fab over the course of this Saturday morning. We were all so glad to be there to help out and HouseProud/Atlanta ToolBank definitely took good care of us as volunteers. They fed us breakfast, snacks and a great lunch…and we got a swag bag full of handy things!

I was just saying that I needed flashlights for the house - now I have two!

What’s the best perk/goodie you’ve ever received as a thank you for volunteering?

Warm weather is upon us Atlanta and, whether you’re a hardcore runner or a part-time jogger like myself, it’s that time of the year again: Run/Race Season! We’re lucky in that Atlanta is a fun race market and we’ve got plenty of options to choose from if we want to get out there and pound the pavement for a cause on any given weekend. Signing up for an run/race/walk can be double the DoinGood: running and/or walking are excellent exercise and a lot of events in our area also serve as fundraisers for some excellent causes. But what if you want to support the organization but are not feeling 3.2 miles, don’t feel like fundraising is your forte or are an injured runner who still wants to be on the scene? Lucky you, most of these events always need an extra pair of hands or legs or eyes. Go volunteer!

I’ve volunteered at a few different 5ks and had different experiences at each. At the very first, I learned a very valuable lesson: check the list of volunteer positions needed and make sure it’s a match for what you like. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a miserable mismatch like I did. I’m not exactly a butterfly but I like to be social when I volunteer. At this particular race, however, I ended up flying solo as a course monitor/traffic halter in an empty foreign-to-me neighborhood at the end of the 5k course. In a word: lonely. I’m fortunate to be able to contrast that with experience I had at the 5k I volunteered at last year for Skin Cancer Awareness Network Foundation. I spent what turned out to be a very fun morning assisting the Volunteer Coordinator with whatever needed to be done, whether it was making sure we had enough fliers, pointing racers in the direction of the port-a-potties, or helping prep the awards table for after the race. Since I kinda like being a busy body generalist anyway, I enjoyed having a variety of things to do and hop around and talk to/help people. I’ve also worked registration at a race, which was a good way to experience the different runners’ personalities, and been on clean-up crew, which netted me enough bananas for a month’s worth of smoothies during a time when I was flat broke. The great thing is that there’s something for every type of volunteer when you go to help out at a race/run/walk.

Here are few events that I know are looking for volunteers. Get out and help – usually comes with a free t-shirt, sometimes some pretty good swag and, best of all, the satisfaction of knowing you were DoinGood.

  • SCAN Foundation’s 5th Annual Save Our Skin Walk/Run is on June 25th at Perimeter Place. I found it to be a very good experience, with the volunteer roles needed for the race being very clearly laid out. Interested in helping out? Fill out this form or email amyhokkanen@hotmail.com for more info.
  • Unless you spend your summer living under a rock, you should be familiar with the Peachtree Road Race, an Atlanta 4th of July weekend tradition. Did you know it takes nearly 3,400 volunteers to pull off this event?! They need all the help they can get. There are a few volunteer needs in the weekends leading up to the race as well as during race weekend: http://www.peachtreeroadrace.org/pages/volunteer-job-descriptions
  • Looking for more races to volunteer with? Check out active.com for listings of local races and contact the organizers. Or get in contact with Atlanta Track Club, which is always looking for help for the many races around town they put on throughout the year.

In all of my DoinGood, I think I’ve asked people for very little beyond their support of what I was doing. Or maybe for a little of their time to volunteer. Mostly because I don’t like the disappointment of hearing “No!” So when my friend Nina asked if I would join her team for this year’s March of Dimes March for Babies in Downtown Atlanta, I was excited about participating but a little nervous at the prospect of having to raise money. Nina wasn’t putting much pressure at all on our team of seven; the original goal was for the group to bring in about $250 for the cause. But of course it was getting very hyped up in my head. It meant having to ask people to part with their hard-earned cash – was I going to be comfortable with that? Or, more importantly, would anyone actually give me anything?

So I decided to try something that, although I was sure it would make me extremely uncomfortable, I also knew would probably be my most effective fundraising method: I wrote down a few personalized thoughts about what a great cause I felt the March of Dimes really was, put it out there to my social networks, and asked people to give starting at just $10. And wouldn’t you know it; within just a few hours of posting the link on Facebook and Twitter, I had my first donor: a friend from college! My original goal was to raise $100 but ultimately my friends and family gave a little over $200 to support the March of Dimes’ research and support programs. What an amazing and touching show of support!

Why am I sharing this story with you? Mainly because I hope the lessons I’ve learned from my first foray into fundraising can be helpful to others who are nervous about asking others to financially (or otherwise) support their DoinGood:

(1) Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Obviously a lesson that applies to more in life than fundraising but if I hadn’t put it out there, nobody would even know what I was trying to accomplish…or that I needed their help to get it done.

(2) Connect with your network! My sponsors for Saturday’s walk ranged from people I’ve known my whole life (i.e. my dad) to a guy that used to be one of my supervisors on the job a few years ago. I didn’t do anything crazy to get people’s attention – just posted on Facebook and Twitter a few times and wrote a few emails.

(3) Tell people why the cause is important to you personally. My family has got babies on the brain these days because my cousin just had a baby girl a few weeks ago…and during my fundraising campaign we found out I’m going to be an auntie for the first time later this year! Of course an organization whose mission is to bring healthy full-term babies into the world was going to capture our attention after that news.

By the way, the walk was 5.5 miles of awesome. According to 11Alive’s coverage, there were 15,000 walkers at the four Metro Atlanta walks this weekend! At the event downtown, the atmosphere was fun (we kicked off the walk with a drumline!), the course wasn’t difficult, and afterwards there was free lunch and a concert for everyone who participated. Thanks to March of Dimes for such a great experience!

Think about the last time you got the news that someone close to you was having a baby. Did you know that, according to the stats, 1 in 8 babies in the U.S. are born prematurely, putting them at risk for a wide range of medical complications? It happens to families everyday with no real warning or for no pinpointed reason. And heartbreaking to me, the rate has been on the rise for African American women for the last decade.

This is where the March of Dimes comes in. They are on a mission to improve the lives on babies by preventing birth defects.

Please join me in standing up for this amazing cause that provides resources for moms-to-be, helps fund research, and supports families when something goes wrong. I will be walking in the March of Dimes March for Babies walk in Downtown Atlanta on April 30th and would love your support. Making a donation of any amount is secure and easy; just click the icon above or the ‘Donate Now’ button on my fundraising page.  Or even better, sign up to join my team for the walk! And don’t forget to check to see if your employer matches charitable contributions to increase the impact of your gift.

Thank you for helping us give all babies a healthy start!

Sugar Plum Snowflake
Image by CaptPiper via Flickr

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times lately: I thought I moved from up North to get away from cold weather! But down here in Atlanta, we’ve definitely been getting our share between how cold the temps have been, January’s Snowmageddon Icetacular, and a possible inch of snow about to roll in tonight. And can somebody please explain “wintry mix” to me? This strange phrase has boggled my mind for months now!

When the temps dip and visions of scarves and coats start dancing through my daydreams, my thoughts turn to those who might not have these on hand. Luckily, we have a lot of organizations here in Atlanta that help those who aren’t able to buy their own winter gear. Here are a few places around the area who are still collecting winter gear for those in need:

Thanks for helping us all stay a little bit warmer, Atlanta!

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Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! , DoGooders! I hope that, with the city thawing out from Southern Snowpocalypse 2011 and ample volunteer opportunities all around Atlanta, that you took advantage of a chance to make a difference today. Unfortunately I was among those who were stuck in the office (the company I work for doesn’t observe). But I did take pause for a while today, on this 25th anniversary of the MLK Day holiday, to let this thought flow over me:

I, as a black woman, have the right to learn, eat, drink, go to the restroom, and live wherever my heart desires without discrimination – by law. And this is reality due to the passion of people like Dr. King. People who focused their energies on a cause in which they so passionately believed. Dr. King didn’t have a ton of money or magic powers. He wasn’t the most outstanding student in school or the most physically intimidating guy in stature. He was a man who genuinely believed in equality enough to rally those around him into action!

So on this day, where millions of people honored Dr. King’s legacy by doing good, I challenge you: What challenges facing us today rev your engine? Be it equality, educating future generations, or protecting the environment, know that by standing up and getting involved, you can make a difference. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a small difference. And all of our small differences could add up to make a big change. Get out there and DoGood for a cause you really care about. Still trying to figure out what causes you care about? Try out a few of the different volunteer experiences I post about on Twitter. You may be surprised what kind of experiences spark your passion.

Having a sick kid is already a stressful situation. So imagine when it gets kicked up to the next level, when people are tossing around the word “critical” or when the injuries are “severe”.  The questions can be overwhelming for parents and caregivers. Fortunately for families with children being treated in local Atlanta hospitals in such circumstances, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities is here to give temporary housing and support. And you can support ARMHC’s mission today by dropping your change in the designated box at your local McDonald’s on Ronald McDonald Day of Change.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have a Ronald McDonald House here in the ATL since 1979. And last year alone, the house nearest to Northside Hospital served 300+ families in need of support and shelter. At both locations (the second is over by Emory), families are able to get out of the hospital environment and into a place that will give them a good meal and the emotional support they need to cope with the situation. I don’t have any kids but have had a loved one hospitalized in critical condition before – it was hard to tear myself away but having somewhere else to go while they were being tested or sleeping was crucial in not having a total breakdown every 5 seconds. I can’t even imagine how much more intense that would have been if it had been my child. ARMHC also does good in other ways for Atlanta via scholarships for high school seniors.

Atlanta RMHC: DoinGood for critically ill and injured children & their families

Aside from stopping by Mickey D’s today to give your spare change to the cause, there are other ways you can get involved. The Atlanta Ronald McDonald Houses are always looking for volunteer groups to make the evening meals, bring by baked treats, or stop by with breakfast items for the families. Big fun for corporate groups or the group of home chefs who think they’d be up to the challenge.  They even have something called a Casserole Club, which sounds perfect for busting out that good ol’ comfort food recipe passed down from your mom or grandma. Groups can also sponsor a night’s stay for a family (ARMHC asks for $20/night for families to stay at one of the houses). Individuals can DoGood for these families as well, by volunteering for a shift at the house where you can greet incoming families, help them get registered, or answer phones. You can also donate the tabs from your aluminum soda cans to the house, which recycles them and uses the money to fund Ronald McDonald House activities here in Atlanta. There are so many great (and easy) ways to volunteer to help this amazing cause – kick in your change today at McDonald’s, then contact one of the houses to find out how you can DoGood for these families.

Atlanta Ronald McDonald Houses:

5420 Peachtree Dunwoody Rd, Atlanta – near Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

795 Gatewood Rd, Atlanta – near Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Eggleston

Find out more about the houses, their programs, and volunteer opps at Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities website or on Twitter: @armhc

December 2018
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