Annual Nonprofit Roundup for 2021
One of Online Optimism’s core values is to Better the Community. One of the many ways we uphold this value is by supporting nonprofit organizations doing great work in their communities. We have multiple programs to contribute to nonprofits, so we donate and organize year-round.
Donate, Elevate is our donation matching program. Online Optimism will donate the same amount whenever our employees contribute to a nonprofit. Additionally, Online Optimism will donate that amount to a nonprofit chosen by the team each year, one for each location, totaling a 200% donation match.
In 2021, our chosen nonprofit for New Orleans was the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans. MaCCNO organizes with the local music and cultural community to nurture New Orleans culture and support musicians. Next was Jared’s Heart of Success for Atlanta, an outreach organization tackling gun violence. And, for DC, it was Life Pieces to Masterpieces, an organization that uses artistic expression to prepare Black boys to create positive change and transform their communities.
Through Slack, we use an app called Disco to show our coworkers that they’re appreciated. In the #appreciation channel on Slack, Optimists can send shout-outs to each other for doing work that aligns with Online Optimism’s values. Then, every trimester, we calculate how many appreciations were sent and received for each Optimist. That number gets translated to a monetary value donated to the Optimist’s chosen 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Online Optimism highlights a nonprofit on our social media and blog every month and donates. The organizations are always local to New Orleans, Atlanta, and DC, as we want to give back to and highlight organizations within our specific communities. This year, we got to work with some phenomenal nonprofits doing great work in and beyond our three cities. In 2021, we featured the following organizations on our social media.
Grow Dat Youth Farm
Grow Dat Youth Farm is an urban farm and youth development program in New Orleans’ City Park. Spanning 7 acres of land, they are the largest urban farm in New Orleans. Grow Dat hosts three different leadership programs for youth and high school graduates working the farm, developing leadership skills, and learning more about sustainable agriculture. They grow an average of 32,000 pounds of produce each year sold through farmer’s markets and a CSA program and shared through the Shared Harvest program.
C4 Atlanta was a nonprofit organization that connected arts entrepreneurs to people, skills, and tools necessary for building an artistic career in Atlanta. In addition, they were involved in advocacy and civic engagement to back policies that support artists and offered professional development courses, fiscal sponsorship, and rental spaces. Unfortunately, C4 Atlanta has permanently suspended operations. However, we are happy to have supported them and their great work in the past.
Sankofa NOLA is a community development organization that creates and funds projects in the Lower Ninth Ward. They operate fresh produce markets three days a week, cooking and gardening classes, and urban farms. They also offer SNAP enrollment services, a market SNAP match program, and their food pantry offers meal assistance programs through Second Harvest Food Bank.
The First 72+
The First 72+ is an organization that helps people transition out of prison. They focus on creating a world where prior incarceration is not a barrier to housing, employment, and community acceptance. The organization provides hands-on support to formerly incarcerated people. The name “The First 72+” comes from the first 72 hours, or three days after being released from prison. They support clients by providing a ride home, clothes, food, public benefits enrollment, and healthcare. They are also able to house up to 20 people at a time.
High Voltage offers educational, recreational, and arts programs supporting New Orleans youth and senior citizens. The programs help economically disadvantaged youth reach their full potential, build character, and keep senior citizens active and learning. Some of their programs include art workshops, environmental services, and Bags of Hope, a community service project that provides toiletries, books, PPE, etc., to the New Orleans homeless population.
Crown and Shield
Crown and Shield is an organization that uses the power of storytelling to educate and inspire the youth of New Orleans. They offer two programs, one where children create stories for other children and one where professionals create stories for children.These programs are an opportunity for students to share stories that are personal to them. Crown and Shield believe that storytelling is essential to children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development and dedicate themselves to providing a platform for that growth and development.
Jared’s Heart of Success
Jared’s Heart of Success is a community outreach organization tackling the issue of gun violence in Georgia and South Carolina. They host a variety of programs, including S.T.A.R. Violence Prevention, an educational program teaching youth how to make safe choices for conflict resolution, and Be Kind, an ambassadorship program teaching young people about community organizing and activism. Jared’s Heart of Success has also partnered with elementary schools to provide school programs about healthy lifestyle choices, financial choices, drug and alcohol education, and STEM opportunities.
Culture Aid NOLA
Culture Aid NOLA is a New Orleans nonprofit that has been operating since the beginning of the pandemic. The COVID-19 has exacerbated the already high number of food-insecure people in New Orleans, so Culture Aid NOLA has been providing aid to the community. Culture Aid NOLA distributes groceries at Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church in St. Roch on Wednesdays at 6 pm and Corpus Christi-Epiphany Catholic Church in the 7th Ward on Saturdays at 9 am. In their first year of operation alone, they distributed 1 million pounds of food to 100,000 people.
Story District is a DC-based nonprofit dedicated to the art of autobiographical storytelling. They offer performances, classes, free coaching, and consulting services. Through their educational programming, they work with individual storytellers to help them master their execution and performance skills. They also host performance nights with specific themes, like “Sucker for Love” on Valentine’s Day, where people tell stories about their love lives. Story District has empowered people of all backgrounds to share the stories of their lives for 22 years.
Living Walls is an organization in Atlanta that creates public art around the city. They work with both local and international artists to make murals that channel the culture of local communities and enhance urban spaces. They’ve also done multiple projects in the name of public good, such as their Start Talking. Stop HIV. series designed to spark conversation about HIV/AIDS prevention. Living Walls also partnered with the CDC to create works of public art encouraging the community to get vaccinated.
Shout Mouse Press
Shout Mouse Press is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit “writing and publishing program dedicated to amplifying underheard voices.” They accomplish their mission through writing workshops, story publications, and public speaking opportunities. By collaborating with partners in the community, Shout Mouse Press has published over 51 books by over 500 youth from underrepresented communities. In addition, they work with Black, low-income, Latinx, Muslim, immigrant, and incarcerated youth to tell otherwise untold stories.
In 2021, we volunteered with Sankofa, Rebuilding Together New Orleans, and Culture Aid NOLA. Optimists helped dig out a path near an artificial swamp created to prevent flooding. They also helped repaint a house with Rebuilding Together New Orleans and sorted and distributed food with Culture Aid NOLA. By the end of the Culture Aid NOLA shift, Optimists had helped feed around 300 families.