2017: The Beauty and Dance of Dignity

The number of charities nominated this year broke 2016’s record number. Twenty-six charities were nominated for our annual event, and as before the charities are diverse, creative and vital to the health of our community. The Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2017 winners: Toco Hills Community Alliance and Moving in the Spirit.

Representatives from the charities will attend our annual holiday party on December 9 at The Solarium in Oakhurst Village in Decatur. Festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. with a catered buffet, wine, beer and, of course, a DJ to spin dancing tunes. Join us!

Toco Hills Community Alliance provides emergency assistance to northeast Atlanta citizens in need. For nearly 20 years the nonprofit has provided financial assistance with utility bills and free hot lunches, groceries and clothes. On an ongoing basis, the nonprofit collects food, both perishable and canned, donated by local businesses—Costco, Sprouts, Fresh Market, Kroger, Publix, among others—and distributes it to families, many of whom have little or no access to fresh, healthy food.

In the first six months of 2017, THCA served 5,773 households representing 15,728 individuals. Of this, 2,076 were 65 years old or older and 4,428 of them were under the age of 18. The nonprofit also helped nearly 500 people pay their utility bills.

Nearly all the work is done by volunteers, many of whom at one time were clients. Their presence helps break down the challenging barrier between us and them; after all, we all need help from time to time. Every person in need is treated with dignity and respect, says Executive Director Mary-Louise Wilson. “We feed people literally and emotionally, making everyone feel they are the one we’ve been waiting for. We’ve been told by clients that asking for help is hard, but it’s not hard here.”

Moving in the Spirit helps transform the lives of Atlanta children and teens (ages 3-19) through dance in a safe place that allows self-expression and fosters discipline. This nationally recognized youth development program integrates high-quality dance instruction with performance, leadership and mentoring. Most of the students have few opportunities to rise above their circumstances, so the impact of the program is often profound.

Quite a few graduates return to Moving in the Spirit later in life (after graduating from college or some advanced training) to volunteer, serve on the board or teach. Check out this TEDxPeachtree talk by Chris McCord, an early graduate of the program who now runs the Men in Motion program. His experience encapsulates the powerful impact the organization has on young lives.

Moving in the Spirit has received the Governor’s Award for Arts and Humanities and won the Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Other Good Works

Every year a new group of volunteers joins the MGG board to select one or two charities that have been nominated by Maggie’s clients, and again this year there were many wonderful nominees. Please take a moment to visit their websites and consider them in your annual gift giving plans.

Amani Women Center is a safe haven for refugee women of all cultures who are seeking a space for spiritual, mental and physical healing. AWC’s holistic approach is to cater to the health of the community through a variety of hands-on programs sensitively tailored to specific needs.

Ms. Gussie’s Place  is a non-profit organization that provides support and educational services to families and children with multiple disabilities.  

Children’s Restoration Network offers hope and support for homeless children and their mothers through programs and special events designed to address their academic, emotional and physical needs. The nonprofit strives to break the cycle of homelessness by empowering these vulnerable citizens to become part of mainstream society.

Peacebuilders Camp at Koinonia Farms is a unique summer camp in rural south Georgia where youth ages 11 to 14 from diverse backgrounds spend a week together learning how to work toward peace and justice. Through games, sports and field trips campers learn about human rights and how to make a difference through service projects.

World Water Relief is based in Atlanta and serves the southwestern regions of Dominican Republic and southern Haiti, regions that are often overlooked or ignored by government. WWR provides safe drinking water by installing potable water systems and educates communities about the importance of proper hygiene and protection of their environment to sustain valuable resources.

Live Thrive Atlanta is dedicated to improving the sustainability of our local environment through recycling and education. The nonprofit operates the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM), which recycles materials that are harmful to the environment such as paint, tires, light bulbs, batteries and plastic bags.

Olmsted Linear Park Alliance is a public-private partnership founded in 1997 to implement Frederick Law Olmsted’s original vision for the Olmsted Linear Park. Thanks to their restoration and preservation efforts all six segments of the park — Springdale, Virgilee, Oak Grove, Shadyside, Dellwood and Deepdene—have been rehabilitated for everyone to enjoy.

Union of Concerned Scientists was founded in 1969 by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Today scientists and engineers develop and implement innovative, practical solutions to some of our most pressing problems, including global warming, sustainability, advancing racial equality and reducing the threat of nuclear war.

Compassionate Atlanta is a grassroots movement that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of compassionate action in the Greater Atlanta area. The Compassionate Atlanta Planning Team, which was formed in 2013, was instrumental in getting the City of Atlanta designated as a “Compassionate City.”

The Yemen Peace Project  supports Yemeni individuals and organizations working to create positive change. The Project works to advance peaceful, constructive US policies toward Yemen; defend the rights of Yemenis in the diaspora; and increase worldwide understanding of Yemen.

Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network is dedicated to building a sustainable food system by protecting and preserving African American agricultural heritage through organic farming. SAAFON provides education and training to small-scale, underserved farmers and their communities on the best practices for creating sustainable and economically viable agricultural projects and programs.

LifeLine Animal Project of Atlanta takes a holistic approach to improving the standard of care for animals in Atlanta through management of county shelters, adoption programs, spay and neuter clinics, and community outreach efforts. Since taking over management of DeKalb and Fulton counties’ animal services in 2013, thousands of lives have been saved and adoptions have been increased by 150 percent.

Citizen Advocacy of Atlanta and DeKalb is a lifeline to people with disabilities. This grassroots nonprofit creates long-term voluntary advocacy relationships between members of the community and people labeled with developmental disabilities who are at risk for abuse, neglect and social isolation.

Urban Health and Wellness Clinic is a free nonprofit medical clinic that serves residents of Metro Atlanta who are uninsured or who have Medicaid. The clinic provides routine primary care, helps patients manage chronic illness and/or diseases, and helps with obtaining certain prescription medications.

Everytown for Gun Safety is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Everytown for Gun Safety fights for common sense changes in law that will save lives, including background checks, domestic violence, preventable deaths and gun trafficking.

Ahimsa House is dedicated to addressing the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty. The nonprofit offers services and assistance to victims of domestic violence with pets in Georgia and works to raise awareness of the correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse in communities throughout the state.

Georgia Council for the Arts is a state agency whose mission is to provide access to the arts for all Georgians and to support arts programming statewide, particularly to the nonprofit arts industry. The agency provides grant funding, programs and services statewide that support the arts, preserve our cultural heritage and create increased access to high quality arts experiences.

Friends of Disabled Adults & Children provides refurbished medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds, and services for disabled adults and children. Through a strong network of volunteers and partners, FDAC works to enhance the quality of life for people of all ages who have any type of illness or physical disability. FODAC provides more than $9 million each year in equipment and services to the community at little or no cost to the recipients.

Angels Among Us Pet Rescue is dedicated to saving dogs and cats from high-kill shelters in North Georgia. The nonprofit operates through a network of volunteers and foster homes in the Metro Atlanta area and is funded by donations from individuals and organizations. Angels Among Us educates the public on the plight of animals in shelters and the importance of having pets spayed/neutered and maintaining heartworm prevention. They also save as many animals as possible by placing them in foster homes and ultimately in “forever” homes.

Atlanta Audubon Society is  a member-supported organization dedicated to protecting Georgia’s birds and their habitats. The nonprofit serves all Metro Atlanta and areas of North Georgia to promote conservation, education and avian advocacy through activities that build community and foster the joy of birding.

Atlanta Music Project provides intensive, tuition-free music education for underserved youth in their neighborhoods. Their mission is to inspire social change by providing youth the opportunity to learn and perform music in orchestras and choirs. Music helps young people develop confidence and ambition, and sparks creativity.

Children’s Rights uses the law to hold governments accountable and defend thousands of kids when foster care systems fail. While foster care can be a safe haven for some, it can be heartbreaking for others, subjecting them to dangerous living situations or forcing them to languish in institutions, get shuffled between multiple homes or separated from siblings. Children’s Rights has secured court orders mandating top-to-bottom child welfare reform in more than a dozen states.

Atlanta Community ToolBank shares its resources with charitable groups through a lending program to equip volunteers with the right tools at minimal cost. By using ToolBank tools, nonprofits avoid the expense of purchasing, repairing and storing tools. With almost 45,000 tools in inventory (including 234 different types of tools), the ToolBank can equip a few or thousands of volunteers for charitable projects.

Central Outreach and Advocacy Center helps Atlantans in need overcome and prevent homelessness. Working with area service providers the nonprofit significantly reduces the risk and prevalence of homelessness by providing assistance with identity documentation; emergency food and clothing; substance abuse referrals; shelter assistance; basic health and vision care;  legal aid; and help with securing employment. OAC also advocates for policy change in Georgia state government that will help the homeless.

Path to Shine seeks to inspire under-served children to achieve their dreams, while motivating adults to volunteer as mentors and make a difference in a child’s life. The nonprofit’s goal is to reach even more children (there are currently nine programs) by sharing its cost-effective program with schools and faith communities.

Community Farmers Markets was founded by leaders in the local food movement in Atlanta to meet the demand for efficiently managed, community-based and sustainable farmers markets. CFM, whose stakeholders include farmers and local leaders, serves as an umbrella organization with community-level “Market Community Groups” to promote food access through distribution, education and financial incentives, such as SNAP.


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