Your monthly newsletter about The Place and how serving with purpose helps change lives. 

March 2022

Dear Joni,

Happy spring! 


I love March, when the daffodils come out of the cold, dark ground and burst forth in all their splendor. Daffodils are so resilient and beautiful; they are also a symbol of hope.


My mom’s birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day. She would have been 98 years old this year. It was not until I started working at The Place over seven years ago that I realized my mom needed an organization like us to help her succeed in difficult circumstances. 


Mom was widowed when I was seven and my brother was five. She was left to raise two small children alone. She worked three jobs at a time to support us. She was in her fifties when she finally went back to school to get her GED and then earned a nursing assistant certificate. 


Growing up, I didn’t realize we were poor. I wish there would have been a resource for us like The Place. It could have offered mom financial and other support as she navigated her way through a challenging time. It could have offered me and my brother support and direction as we grew up. 


As we wait for the daffodils and tulips to spring forth, I invite you to join us in bringing families and individuals out of a cold, dark place and in becoming all they can be. Join us in helping parents support their children. Work with us to guide deserving children so they can learn how to succeed in a difficult world. 


Like spring flowers, I want our clients to be able to bring their light and joy to others in our community. With your generous donations, your time, and your caring, let’s all work together and bring beauty to our community.

Serving with Purpose,

Joni Smith

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President & CEO

The Place of Forsyth County

News and Events

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Congratulate Adriana, The Place’s First GED Graduate!

Working with East Forsyth High School, The Place began offering GED classes to its clients on October 11, 2021. We are working with a group of dedicated and hardworking students who are determined to get their GEDs. 


Adriana, who earned her GED certificate in January 2022, is our first graduate! We celebrated with a wonderful taco party made by Adriana's mom and even enjoyed two cakes! 


When asked about future plans, Adriana shared that her dream has been to work for the Sheriff's Office, but she couldn’t apply for the job because she didn't have a high school diploma or a GED certificate. The day after earning her GED, Adriana applied and passed the written pre-employment test! Her next step is to apply to colleges so she can earn a degree in Criminal Justice. 


Congratulations, Adriana, we are all so proud of you! You are an inspiration to your fellow students, teachers, and to The Place and its clients. In the picture, Adriana stands next to the GED instructor, Alison Eidex.


GED classes are held Mondays and Thursdays from 6 pm to 8:30 pm at East Forsyth High School. GED classes are conducted mid-September to mid-May and follow the calendar for Forsyth County Schools. Each class includes childcare and a free supper for adults and children.


To register for future GED classes, contact Tara Hardwick at 770-887-1098 ext. 224 or tara@theplaceofforsyth.org.


The Place Wins Best of Forsyth

The Place of Forsyth County was voted the:

  • Best Non-Profit Organization
  • Best Place to Volunteer
  • Best Thrift Store 

In the Forsyth County News’ Best of Forsyth contest for 2021! 


President and CEO Joni Smith said, “Being selected by the community for all our efforts is such an honor. The volunteers and staff work tirelessly to provide the best we can for our clients, customers, and community. This recognition means so much to all of us and acknowledges that the work we do matters and is appreciated.”


Teen Internship Program Begins

The Place is sponsoring the Orange Duffel Bag Initiative (ODBI), which kicked off in Forsyth County in February. Students attended an orientation session at either at Central or East Forsyth high schools. 


ODBI participants attend 12 in-person sessions with a life coach at Forsyth Central High School. They learn about setting goals for their futures. The program includes mentors who are on-site during the meetings. 


The program continues until the students graduate in May. Students who complete the program receive an orange duffel bag AND a laptop.


The ODBI has experienced great success increasing students’ chances of graduation and college attendance, helping them lay the foundation for successful adulthood. 


For more information, please contact The Place’s Young Adult Coordinator Hannah Olson at hannah@theplaceofforsyth.org.

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A Night at the Prom

This is The Place’s fourth year helping at-risk and/or homeless students by giving them the gift of going to their senior prom.


President and CEO Joni Smith said, “We believe every person has a purpose, and we want so badly for our local youth who may feel forgotten or left out, to know that they are worthy of a great prom. We want them to know they are remembered, valued, and they have people in their corner cheering them on.” 


Based on your donations, The Place sets up a “Prom Boutique” filled with dresses, shoes, suits, and accessories. Students, who are referred to The Place by Forsyth and Dawson County schools, shop at the boutique by appointment.


We plan to help about 50 students this year, and we want to show them their community is standing beside them. 

To donate, please click here. The funds will be used for tuxedo rentals, flowers, hair, shoes, prom tickets, and/or alterations—everything a student needs to feel special at the prom.

Training Updates


Forsyth Parenting Classes Taught in English, Spanish

In March, The Place is sponsoring “Love and Logic” Parenting Classes in both English and Spanish in Forsyth County. Participants must attend all three classes to receive a certificate of completion. 

The Forsyth classes will be held on March 7, 14, and 21 at East Forsyth High School, 8910 Jot Em Down Rd., Gainesville, GA. 

The classes teach parents or caregivers how to “learn a loving and balanced approach to managing your kids. We demonstrate how to practice discipline without losing love and respect for your child.”

All class times are 6 pm to 8 pm. All classes are free and include childcare and a pizza supper for adults and children. Everyone is welcome to attend, including parents, foster parents, grandparents, parents-to-be, aunts and uncles, and more.

To register, contact Tara Hardwick at tara@theplaceofforsyth.org or call 770-887-1098, ext. 224.

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Great Feedback for Dawson Parenting Classes

In February, 11 people attended the “Love and Logic” Parenting Classes in Dawson County. Nine earned parenting certificates by attending all three classes. Free childcare and a pizza supper was provided by The Place.

We get great feedback from everyone who takes the classes, which includes parents, foster parents, grandparents, parents-to-be, and aunts and uncles, among others.

For information about future classes, contact Tara Hardwick at tara@theplaceofforsyth.org or call 770-887-1098, ext. 224.

New Staff


Phil Dennis is New Volunteer Coordinator

Phil Dennis is the new volunteer coordinator of The Place. He was formerly The Place’s warehouse coordinator.


In his new position, Phil oversees all volunteer coordination activities and ensures that programs and services are adequately staffed. He is excited to be joining The Place’s Outreach team. Phil has experience working with volunteers and community outreach programs while working with other nonprofit organizations.


Phil looks forward to strengthening The Place’s ties with the community and spreading the word about all the great things The Place does for the people of Forsyth and Dawson counties. He truly understands how volunteers, businesses, churches, and organizations are an integral part of The Place’s mission to serve the community. 


Phil and his wife have three children: a son who lives in Chattanooga, a daughter who lives in Cincinnati, and a son who is a senior in high school in Gainesville.


Deb Ross is New Food Services Manager

Please welcome Deb Ross as the new food services manager at The Place. Deb is responsible for overseeing all aspects of food acquisition and distribution for all three The Place facilities (Forsyth, Dawson, and the warehouse).


Deb and her family moved from Connecticut to Georgia in the summer of 2018. In Connecticut, she was a math and science teacher at Grace Academy Hartford, a private, privately funded inner city all-girls middle school. During the pandemic, Deb was lucky enough to teach at Grace virtually. She also worked as a substitute teacher for the Forsyth County School District. 


Deb has an amazing husband, two fantastic teenage kids, and three dogs and three cats. In her spare time, she enjoys running, reading, and gardening.



Why I Volunteer

We asked Farzaneh (Fari) Kurtz, who volunteers at the front desk of The Place’s administrative offices two days a week, why she volunteers. 


What does volunteering mean to you?

“Volunteering is very rewarding when you can help someone and put a smile on their faces in a real-life situation. Throughout my career, I have helped provide solutions to business challenges. Working at The Place is different; it is much more personal.”


What do you like about working at the front desk?

“I like being in the frontlines and hearing the situations first hand.”


What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering at The Place?

“It is fantastic: everyone makes you feel at home, they are all working towards the same goal, and everyone cares. Loads of different opportunities. If you are willing to help, there is something at The Place for you.”


Become a Volunteer!

The Place was voted the best place to volunteer in Forsyth County in 2021! If you’d like to join our amazing team, please fill out an application and attend a one-hour orientation session at The Place.

To fill out a volunteer application, please click here. You’ll be able to sign up for an upcoming orientation session during the application process. Thank you!

For more information, contact phillip@theplaceofforsyth.org.

Give a Gift Today

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Your continued support is needed and appreciated so we can continue to help our neighbors in need.

Please consider a gift a today.

Amazon Smile: Make The Place of Forsyth your favorite charity at smile.amazon.com.

Leave a Legacy: Please Include The Place of Forsyth in your Estate Planning.