It's Election Time at Hi-Hope

To quote the great radio DJ Chris Stevens:

Well, I just wanna applaud y'all for plunging headfirst into the great river of democracy. I mean, our election is just a small tributary. You know, a singular thread in the greater fabric, linked by tradition, love, and honor to the swift, clear, bracing waters from which our traditions are founded. But I'm just saying, let's take a little time out here to slap ourselves on the back, give a kiss on the cheek, a hale and hearty fare-thee-well to all our fine noble...citizens.

Chris' enthusiasm is totally justified. Not matter how big or how small the election, participating in a vote for a representative is an important thing. It speaks to the heart of choice - in privacy and security the elector makes a decision that will directly impact their community and, in doing so, they set the wheels of fate in motion [we should probably note that the author of this blog post is particular fond of elections]. It is with great pride that Hi-Hope announces the start of it campaign season and its very own upcoming elections.

Starting on Monday, June 11th, 2018 and ending on Thursday, June 14th at 1:00 PM, a very important voting process will occur at Hi-Hope. The individuals will democratically select their next Client Council - a group of elected representatives that will serve their peers for a two year term.

The purpose of the Client Council is to give Hi-Hope individuals an opportunity to develop leadership and learn about advocacy. The members will do this by assisting with and participating in activities and service projects at Hi-Hope and the community at large. The members contribute to and promote the Hi-Hope mission and vision and serve as representatives for their peers. They share ideas, interests and concerns with Hi-Hope staff and leadership. Below is a list of the individuals running for each office (please note: candidates are still signing up and this list does not represent the final ballot):


  • David B.
  • Patsy R.
  • Justin R.
  • Bruce P.
  • Terri N.
  • Carl B.
  • Robyn J.
  • Dan T.


  • Demarie N.
  • Marty P.


  • Leslie H.
  • Amanda H.


  • Teiylea "TY" D.


  • Desiree H.
  • Eric V.
  • Donna W.


  • Lisa P.
  • Brittany T.
  • Marian T.
  • Kent G.
  • Kimberly M.
  • Betty P.
  • Kayla D.
  • Joel J.
  • Mark C.
  • Kristen D.
  • Kendra M.

There will be more to come as the individual campaigns come to life and the election takes place; unfolding in beautiful expressions of free and fair choice. Stay tuned!

One Of Those Little Things

If you follow Hi-Hope on Facebook, you may have had the opportunity to peruse the most recent photo album, dedicated to a visit by a group of 8th graders from Greater Atlanta Christian School (GACS) that happened last Friday. The album shows students engaging in several different activities with the individuals we support at Hi-Hope. In true GACS fashion, the day was over-the-top fantastic – filled with fun and activity. The pictures in the album capture the "essence" of the day, however, one picture is a little misleading. The volunteer in it is not a GACS student.

A few days before the visit, the 8th Grade Service Day coordinator from GACS contacted Hi-Hope to see if it was OK to bring an additional person. This person was the younger sister of a student and the daughter of a mom and dad chaperone team. The girl was given the all clear and came the day of the event. As the activities started, the 8th graders jumped right in, but this young lady held back, staying close to her mom. She seemed a little nervous, although, she was definitely interested in participating. 

About an hour into the festivities, Volunteer Coordinator Nick Reynolds noticed something special happening at one of the activity stations and took the picture this article is highlighting. The girl had overcome her nervousness and approach Troy to help. This is special because Troy is quiet and volunteers often overlook him. He doesn't say much to guests and it's possible that some folks are intimidated by the helmet he wears as a safety precaution. All that being said, out of all the people in the room that day, this young lady decided to bond with Troy and spent quite a while helping him with activities. It was a particularly special act of kindness in a room full good deeds. We wanted to use this blog post to highlight this young lady and commend her for overcoming her shyness and connecting with Troy that day. It was sweet and genuine and wonderful. It was one of those little things that make all the difference.

Mission Accomplished

You may have seen the Facebook post and album dedicated to this event, but if not, here's the story:

A couple months ago, a man by the name of Jim walked through the sliding doors of the main entrance and asks about service projects. It turns out that Jim is the District Manager for Publix and they have a service day coming up in which they can mobilize 30 volunteers to help on projects for several hours. Additionally, they have a budget so they can provide the materials for the project.

Our jaws pretty much hit the floor. After all, it is not every day that a man offering 30 volunteers and financial resources just appears and asks about doing a "transformative" project. Needless to say, we indicated that we would be very, very willing to have his group come to Hi-Hope and help out.

Pretty much from the start we zeroed in on two projects: (1) general landscaping around the main campus that needs to happen several times a year, but is contingent upon a large group coming to help and (2) continuing the painting project we started in January with volunteers from Georgia Power. In January we completely stripped and repainted Room 1 in the administrative building. A simple coat of paint transformed the room into a fresh, vibrant space. We now had the opportunity to do the same in additional spaces, but we would only have one day to complete anything we started.

Logistical reasons limited our access to Room 2 and the old UCP room, but that is still a huge undertaking. The project included prepping, stripping, cleaning, taping and painting two coats in two large rooms. To make sure we could get it done, Keith, Nick and a small volunteer group from Oglethorpe University's Alpha Pi Omega Fraternity prepped the rooms a few days in advance.

On the day of the project, Publix did not disappoint. A store manager from the Publix on Sugarloaf was on site before Hi-Hope even opened. The oversaw the delivery of all the paint, painting supplies, mulch, pine straw, landscaping equipment and food (more on this in a minute) while Hi-Hope staff got to sit back and do almost nothing. They divided into an outdoor landscaping team and an indoor painting team. The indoor group needed almost no instruction and immediately set about painting the rooms. The outdoor team was similar, going above and beyond by weeding the lawn, flowerbeds and planters and by landscaping areas we never expected them to address. For example, without being asked, they completely cleared out the small, fenced-in yard next to the UCP room, making it a viable space for all kinds of future projects. They also prepared all the gardening plots so Pat could start our annual vegetable garden with much less extra effort.

At 1:00 PM the group to a break and surprised our individuals with a huge cake, cookies, and beverages, compliments of a fantastic Publix bakery. Everyone - individuals, staff, and volunteers included - enjoyed the treat together.

About an hour later, a dedicated group of store managers did spot checking in the two rooms, cleaned up everything and departed, donating a ton of leftover paint, brushes and painting trays for future projects. In a matter of hours, they came, completely changed the campus and then disappeared without leaving any indication that a group of 30 people had been there all day. It was amazing. Volunteer Coordinator Nick Reynolds said, "this was one of the most ambitious and transformative single day volunteer projects we have done in my time with Hi-Hope and I barely had to do a thing. I hope they come back...soon!"

A couple of days later Jim stopped by to make sure we were happy with the work. A family emergency had prevented him from coming and he wanted to make sure we were satisfied with the work and had a good experience. We couldn't begin to express how thankful we were for his team's efforts. In their mission statement, Publix commits to be "involved as responsible citizens in our communities." Based on our experience, we can confidently (and gratefully) state "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"

Hi-Hope Individuals Help to Feed Thousands in Need

Like clockwork, each Thursday morning, Direct Service Professional, Pam Griffith, loads a van full of Hi-Hope individuals eager to travel the 5 miles to enter the “Blue Door” of Lawrenceville Church of God. They know, once inside the blue door, they are there to help provide food to some of our community’s most in need. 

Since 2013, Joy Community Kitchen, a nonprofit food charity has operated to honor and serve neighbors-in-need through freshly prepared meals, home delivered meals and groceries to shut-ins, and a food pantry.  Each year, Hi-Hope individuals help the organization to serve more than 1,900 families and distribute more than 20,900 pounds of frozen meats, grains, produce, and canned items.

Recently, organizational founder, Marty Donnellan, shared her thoughts on Hi-Hope’s involvement with  Joy Community Kitchen.

How and when did Hi-Hope get involved?

We needed a few regular volunteers who could commit to an hour or two each week to help package up and label all of our rice and beans, which, like the chicken, is purchased in bulk. I heard about Hi-Hope from the owners of Special Kneads & Treats and decided to reach out, and the rest is history.

What do Hi-Hope volunteers do for Joy Community Kitchen?

A team of volunteers comes every Thursday, mainly to package up beans and rice and occasionally to stock our shelves with donated canned goods. It’s an important job – because by the time we close on Saturday, all of the food that has been collected and prepared will have been distributed to the needy and the shelves will once again be empty.

What impact have Hi-Hope volunteers had?

Every week, Hi-Hope volunteers process between eighty and one hundred pounds of beans or rice. Since mid-June, they’ve processed around 1,260 lbs. of food, or over half a TON!  When complete, the individuals help to stock over a thousand pounds of canned goods on the shelves.

What is your impression of our volunteers?

One of the reasons the Hi-Hope connection seems like such a good fit is that I myself am mom to an amazing adult child with a developmental. I’m very much at home in the special needs world, but even if I wasn’t, I think I would still have become fond of the Hi-Hope volunteers. Every one of them is a dear and loving person with a whole lot of heart. We take time to laugh and cut up a little, yet when it’s time to get down to business they all work hard and seem genuinely proud of a job well done.

Any stand out or funny stories?

One week I was sick and had to cancel, and the following week was engulfed with heartfelt hugs and a handmade card which everyone had signed. Sweet, sweet people. They all strike me as having rich and meaningful lives, and I’m glad they have Hi-Hope to go to during the week.

Employees of the Year

Another year has passed and Hi-Hope has been fortunate count some amazing people among our staff. As we employ so many outstanding people in so many different capacities, we have several categories to recognize those individuals who go above and beyond in their unique role/s with Hi-Hope. We also go through the challenging process to select one person who really, really shines - not necessarily above the rest, but who stands out as an example of the mission, values, ethics and ideals of our organization. This person is awarded the Overall Employee of the Year Award.

Each winner is nominated by coworkers, family members or other related parties and then evaluated by our Senior Leadership Team. This process yields some fantastic feedback and we have the opportunity to share some of that information with you. Below you will see the winners in each category with some commentary from the nomination forms.

Administrative Employee of the Year: Amanda Saar, Human Resources Training and Development Manager

Amanda was described in the following ways: she is "always will to help," she has a "positive attitude, always pleasant, always courteous and friendly," she is "hardworking and dedicated to Hi-Hope's individuals and staff," she is willing to assist multiple departments "beyond her job description," people are able to "laugh with her," "she is solid, reliable, dependable, supportive and gets the job done with a smile," and "she is a real asset."

Residential Direct Support Professional of the Year: Keyanna Simpson

Keyanna was described by our community as follows: she is "very good at what she does and has great knowledge of her duties," "she has a positive, healthy attitude - it's contagious," "she is always willing to share information with her coworkers, respects her peers and fosters a friendly environment," she is "great with the individuals and is interested in their hopes and dreams," she "advocates for [the individuals] to get what they need," "she is a great example for other staff, an encourager, a coach who shows great leadership," "she is active in the organization as a mentor and member of the Employee Advisory Committee," and "she brought noticeable change to our organization and is admired by many." 

Day Program Direct Support Professional of the Year: Kalandra McDonald & Jasmyn Thornton

For the first time ever, Hi-Hope has a "tie" in this category. There were simply too many nominations and positive comments about both of these individuals to ignore and thus both earned this distinction. Kalandra was described as follows: she puts a great deal of "time, care and dedication into supporting individuals; they light up when she arrives," "she truly cares about the needs and wants of the individuals and always involves everyone in deciding group activities," she has "an immense amount of patience and care and is a role model for how employees should act," she is "always willing to assist everyone," she puts in "hard work with the client council and is active at meetings to plan parties," and she "was born to do this job."

Jasmyn was described in the following way: she "strives to do the right things for the right reasons," she is "trusted by parents to be forthright," she is "always motivated by what's right for the person and really cares about what they want; she is loved by the individuals and takes time for one on one conversations with them when they are having a hard time," she is "great at exploring community opportunities related to volunteering," and she "goes the extra mile and exhibits tenacity." 

Overall Employee of the Year - Angela Smothers, House Manager (Parkside, Beverly and Shoals)

Angela received high praise from her coworkers and family members from our community. They described her in the follow ways: she is "committed to a wonderful environment...everyday," she "takes her job seriously, doing tasks of great inconvenience to ensure that the job gets done and her coworkers feel supported," she "sets the standard for quality," she "makes a huge difference in the lives of individuals and wants them to have full, meaningful lives," she "caught the attention of families" with her high standard for care and house management, and she "inspires others to go above and beyond for our individuals."

Congratulations to all of the winners! You bring so much to our community and we are very, very grateful. You are and will always be a cherished part of the Hi-Hope family!