Sunday Conversation with … Jen Guynn Teaching kids volunteerism can have a ripple effect
By Ann Hardie
We want our children to learn the value of giving back through community service projects. Some charities and nonprofits don’t want to bother with kids. Then there is the challenge of finding a volunteer project that captures your child’s interest. In 2008, moms Jen Guynn and Jeni Stephens founded Pebble Tossers, a Dunwoody-based nonprofit that matches metro area kids with volunteer opportunities. Today, it maintains a database of 9,100 children and parents and 110 organizations. Pebble Tossers also hosts community service projects, including one on MLK Day. Partnering with GivingPoint, volunteers will work on a school beautification project from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at King Middle School in southeast Atlanta. Those interested in participating should contact Nyaboke Machini at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 770-885-7234. For more on Pebble Tossers, visit pebbletossers.org.
Q: What does volunteerism do for kids?
A: It helps build self-confidence, leadership and life skills, and awareness that they are not the only ones in the world. As kids get older, volunteerism becomes an educational experience.Studies indicate that those who volunteer as children, and particularly with their families, are more likely to regularly volunteer as adults.
Q: Where did the idea for Pebble Tossers come from?
A: My friend and then co-founder Jeni Stephens had an idea to start an organization that centered around children’s birthday parties for the good. Instead of receiving a $10 gift card to Target … friends would bring an item off a nonprofit’s wish list or make a donation to or some cause. We wondered how was that child going to know what they wanted to donate to?
Q: How young are the kids you reach out to?
A: Our niche is four to 14 years old. Pebble Tossers wants to instill a spirit of volunteerism in kids and teach others that even a four-year-old can make a difference.
Q: How did you get organizations on board?
A: We started out with organizations that we had first-hand experiences with. We then reached out to organizations within certain cause areas. Now local nonprofits call us to be included in our database.
Q: So people register and search for organizations that fit their interest?
A: We have 12 cause areas ranging from the arts to the elderly to the environment to veterans. When we started out, we thought people were going to love using the search engine to get matched with a project. It turns out that parents are so busy, they just want to know where to go and what to bring. That led us to initiate our own monthly community service projects.
Q: Can you talk about one?
A: For Earth Day, we hosted a shoe drive to recycle shoes and collected over 3,200 pairs of shoes. We cleaned them, sorted them by size and sent them to another nonprofit that shipped them to Haiti. In two years, we’ve collected over 5,500 pairs of shoes.
Q: Why are you called Pebble Tossers?
A: It’s about finding the right pebble for you and starting a ripple of giving. Something as small as a pebble can make a big splash and have a lasting effect in the water. We see that as a metaphor for the impact a child can have on their community.
Q: Can you understand why nonprofits would worry about working with kids?
A: You get group of unruly eight-year-old boys and you could have trouble. However, if you have projects that are age appropriate and correctly chaperoned, everyone can have a great experience. When volunteering, service and philanthropy are introduced at an early age, it becomes a part of the child and mold them into responsible, compassionate adults.
The Sunday conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by email at email@example.com.
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