Since banding together in 1979, the historians at Atlanta Preservation Center have helped ward off packs of angry bulldozers from more than 175 endangered buildings. Working alongside local government, businesses, and community leaders, the preservation team has saved elaborate structures including the Peters House and Winecoff Hotel. In addition, its headquarters—the 1856 Grant Mansion in Grant Park—is one of just three antebellum houses left in Atlanta and the team is currently working to restore the building to its architecturally accurate origins. When it isn’t keeping delicate treasures from crumbling, the Atlanta Preservation Center leads walking tours of historic areas and tells embarrassing stories from the days when the city’s buildings were just a bunch of baby bricks.
Piedmont Park preserves the luxury of yesteryear. Designed in the late 1800s, the park's facilities have withstood the test of time with recreational halls that reflect the simplicity of its lush landscapes, and wetlands. Over the past 20 years, the Piedmont Park Conservancy has restored the park to its historic natural beauty, transforming a dilapidated space into a frequented green space. A slew of activities engage the community with outdoor programs ranging from environmental day camps to team sports such as soccer and softball. Park tours explore the history of the neighborhood and the weekly Green Market whets appetites with fresh produce from local farmers and thieving rabbits.
In 1860, three women in Hartford Connecticut believed that the boys they saw lollygagging in the streets should have something better to do with their time. So they made sure they did. They started a club that gave the boys constructive, community-based activities that helped forge their characters. In the 150 years since, this idea has spread from a community cause to a national sensation, with that first club inspiring more than 1,140 independent organizations to form since. Today, Boys & Girls Clubs of America reach more than 4,000 communities, giving children?including the child versions of spokespeople Denzel Washington and Jennifer Lopez?positive outlets for their spare time.
The Clubs' programs touch on everything from volunteer-service days to bake sales and zoo field trips. Yet no matter what the specific activity, participating students gain a connection with and respect for their community, enhancing their communication skills and self-esteem. The organization also focuses on specific goals through tailored programs, helping build leadership skills, artistic talents, or the knowledge necessary to compete in the job market.
Erica McDonald became a teenage mother while still in high school at the age of 16. She worked hard to graduate and gain her bachelor's degree in teaching and has since striven to help other young people accomplish similar goals. As part of this aim, she founded Treasurechest Learning Systems, which combines a specially designed curriculum of seminars for teens and presentations for parents to help teens return to school after childbirth and achieve future success and self-sufficiency.
The organization's program works with teenagers to determine what they need to accomplish to graduate, and creates plans of action for attending postsecondary school or finding places in the workforce. Participants are required to complete at least three applications for postsecondary education or jobs. Should students decide to pursue a resultant opportunity, Treasurechest Learning Systems can identify useful social services and provide transportation for a limited time, application fees, uniforms, and shoes to achieve this goal.
The Phillip Rush Center has become the literal embodiment of its name. Having evolved beyond a mere building, the space has become the central gathering place for the Atlanta area LGBT community. This massive venue is not only a home to 10 LGBT non-profits, but also a space used by dozens of allied groups including Just Us, SAGE, and Transgender Individuals Living Their Truth. These organizations host everything from yoga and movie screenings to advocacy campaigns and training sessions for social service agencies, weaving a supportive net of assistance and social opportunity for the LGBT community. The Center goes above and beyond, too, providing referrals for housing, conducting youth empowerment workshops, and running HIV testing?anything community members need to improve their lives.
A trio of volunteers—Ami Ciontos, Liz Henderson, and Jillian Udelson—has a special place in their hearts for pit bulls. They founded the Atlanta Bully Rally in honor of National Pit Bull Awareness Day, exposed a fraudulent pit-bull rescue group, and organized fundraisers to sterilize and rehome pit bulls. As part of the Atlanta Underdog Initiative, they spend their spare time protecting pit bulls and finding them adoptive homes. When the three discover bully-breed dogs in dangerous situations, they step in to rescue the dogs and then find them adoptive homes with responsible and well-educated pet owners. They also care for local pit bulls by delivering dog food and flea care to owners, driving dogs to veterinary appointments, and vaccinating puppies against diseases.