Atlanta-based Down syndrome center needs volunteers

By Allison Paterline

A nonprofit center is currently serving upward of 250 families with children who have Down syndrome has seen dramatic growth over the past several years.

The membership has spiked and the increase in the number of programs have left the center in need of one truly invaluable resource.

Board member and literacy program director Marnie Plaia believes volunteers are a resource Gigi’s Playhouse Atlanta could never have enough of. Not only is Plaia involved with the Playhouse on a business level, she is also the mother of a little girl with Down syndrome who has benefited tremendously from the Playhouse.

When asked what the one thing about the Playhouse she wants families in the Atlanta area to know, she said it is the fact that everything at the Playhouse is completely free. All programs, classes and activities are offered to the families at no cost to them – and that is all thanks to the Playhouse’s selfless volunteers.

“There is no fee or charge for the parents ever because it is a place that is truly meant to be something the parents can’t get anywhere else,” said Plaia.

Although volunteering is a huge commitment and is a duty not to be taken lightly, it is often the volunteers who benefit most from the time they spend selflessly helping others. Gigi’s Playhouse Atlanta volunteer Erica Brown said the thing that has had the biggest impact on her during her time as a volunteer was the parents.

“Speaking with the parents after tutoring one of their children or watching them pick up one of their children from a class, they just have so much love for and patience with them and they are always so interested in what they learned and how much they improved,” said Brown.

In addition to a need for volunteers at the Playhouse, there is an even larger need to eliminate misconceptions about children with Down syndrome.

Fortunately I think many of the outdated notions about Down syndrome are starting to change, but unfortunately there are still many people who think our children can’t do things that they can do,” said Plaia.

Understanding the true potential of these individuals and demonstrating a willingness to make a difference is exactly what the organization needs at this time.

Anyone who is interested in changing lives simply by volunteering at Gigi’s Playhouse Atlanta is urged to visit the organization’s website for more information at www.gigisplayhouse.org/atlanta/.

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