Nonprofit Inspires Hope Through Good Words, Deeds
The gift of encouragement does more to support others, give confidence and inspire hope than almost anything we can do. And the amazing thing about this simple action is that it benefits the giver and the receiver of the good word or deed. The ancient proverb says it best: A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
There’s a whole lot of refreshing going on at The Encouragement Project (TEP). This nonprofit has a mission to provide unique and purposeful opportunities to serve and encourage people in need in our communities.
“The heart of TEP is to encourage people to use the natural gifts and abilities God has given them to bless others in the special ways only they can,” Director Stephanie Cervantes said. “We have a number of ways to get involved and always welcome help with any of our current projects.”
How much goodness is being spread through TEP here and in 25 other counties across north Georgia? Since TEP’s beginning in 2015, more than 30,000 people have been served, volunteers have worked more than 52,700 hours, and more than 33,500 items have been shared. The organization accomplishes these kind deeds through five main projects:
- Bears and Friends: Stuffed animals can provide snuggly comfort for refugee kids and other young ones in traumatic situations. Bears and Friends accepts gently used/new stuffed animals that are cleaned, packaged cheerfully and sent out to be encouraging, huggable, portable friends.
- Hugs and Kisses: During the colder months, many people struggle to find basic warmth. Beautiful knitted and crocheted handmade items are collected to share hugs (scarves) and kisses (hats) with those in need.
- Sew It Seams: This is a fantastic outlet for those who sew to make creative items that serve and bless people of all ages — from babies to the elderly. Sew It Seams gathers lovely quilts, adult bibs for hospice and dementia patients and a variety of other sewn items to share.
- Simple Gifts: The purpose of this project is to thank first responders, teachers, health care employees, nonprofit workers and others who work to help our communities. Simple gifts are created from handmade paper containers, which are artistically decorated by season or event and filled with a sweet treat.
- The Book Drop: Literacy is an incredible gift. This project provides books for kids in low-income families who have little access to them. New and gently used books are collected to give children in need access to wonderful stories and adventures. As of last year, 19,445 books had been donated and distributed.
There are many ways to help and encourage those around us — gifts of time, service, provisions and words — and you are invited to be a part of the effort, even if it’s just by cleaning out your closets or bookshelves. TEP is collecting new and gently used children’s books and stuffed animals, yarn (any kind, full skeins or leftover bits), fabric (any kind, any amount), scrapbook paper (any kind/embellishments) and scrapbook tools (dye cuts, cutters, scoring).
Sarah, a TEP volunteer, said, “I was at a stage in my life where I was looking for a way to give back. Volunteering with The Encouragement Project has given me purpose. I believe in the mission and have seen what they do, and it is good!”
Izetta, an amazing volunteer who is in her 90s, has made 4,000 hats for TEP! She humbly said, “Well, I like to crochet, and this just gives me something to do.” Do you knit, sew or crochet? If so, join TEP team.
The Encouragement Project provides a place to donate where every item goes directly to children and individuals, providing help and encouragement right on time. For more information and to donate, visit theencouragementproject.org. To share your unique gift, volunteer or find drop-off/pickup locations, email Stephanie Cervantes at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text her at 678-951-6235. Follow TEP on social media platforms for all the latest happenings.
– Susan Schulz is a Bible teacher and mentor who lives and plays on the Etowah River in Canton. Connect with her on social media or at susanbrowningschulz.com.