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No passport needed to travel south of the equator for fundraiser

Good Works: Anna Ferguson

Are you aware of an event or project that benefits our community? Contact Anna Ferguson at 770-963-9205, ext. 1308, or anna.ferguson@gwinnettdailypost.com.

Recent passport regulations and airport restrictions have made travel less than easy. Forgo Hartsfield-Jackson and head to A Taste of Volunteering for a south-of-the-border experience - without packing a bag and boarding a flight.

The signature fundraising event for Hands on Atlanta, now in its seventh year, will be held Friday at the Mason Murer Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta. Hands on Atlanta started more than 15 years ago as a grassroots effort to build communities and meet the critical needs of Atlanta. Today, the nonprofit brings volunteers together to transform neighborhoods, support other nonprofit groups and strengthen public schools with year-round programming.

This year's Taste of Volunteering fundraiser is dubbed South of the Equator and will feature wines and foods from South Africa, South America and Australia.

"It's really not a theme you see too often," said Cheryl Dickson, coordinator of the event. "We were trying to do something different and give our guests a unique night of fun."

During the wine-tasting event, beverages from select vineyards will be sampled. The real excitement, though, stems from the night's entertainment. Artists will be on hand with interactive displays, and a "Dancing with the Stars"-style competition will be held, where guests can participate to win the dancing title. Both live and silent auctions will be held, with prizes including trips to vineyards in Cape Town, South Africa.

"At some fundraising events, the entertainment is just something you look at. It's static," said Dickson. "But at Taste of Volunteering, it's interactive. By far, it's one of my favorite things. The food and wine is all great, but the entertainment will blow you away."

Former University of Georgia football player and Denver Broncos running back Garrison Hearst will be the honorary chair of the night.

Aside from displays of culinary delights and sports superstars, the night will pay tribute to the outstanding volunteers who make up the organization. Since its founding in 1989, Hands on Atlanta has organized 1 million volunteer opportunities and more than 5 million volunteer hours.

A large portion of the group's force of volunteers are young people, Dickson said. In the last year, 4,697 Atlanta-area youth, including many from Gwinnett County, volunteered more than 18,000 hours of their time.

"By getting young people involved, we are instilling in them a sense of giving back," she said. "As they get older, volunteering will hopefully just be a natural part of their lives."

The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Mason Murer Fine Art Gallery, 199 Armour Drive, Atlanta. Dress for Taste of Volunteering is " 'after five,' meaning no tuxedos, but no jeans and sandals, either," Dickson said. Tickets are $75, with all proceeds going to Hands on Atlanta. For tickets and more information, call 404-979-2800 or visit www.atasteforvolunteering.org.

Panera, patrons raise funds for Make-A-Wish

Panera Bread Company teamed with Make-A-Wish Foundation Georgia to grant a 12-year-old Georgia resident with anaplastic large cell lymphoma and his family with a trip to Hawaii. Throughout the months of March and April, patrons of six metro Atlanta Panera locations donated more than $12,000 to the Operation Dough-nation bucket, and Panera matched the funds raised. Participating locations included Panera Lawrenceville, 911 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road; Panera Duluth, 11715 Medlock Bridge Road; and Panera Norcross, 3280 Holcomb Bridge Road Northwest.

Reuse-A-Shoe month kicks off

As part of national Reuse-A-Shoe month, Niketown Atlanta will hold a shoe drive from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. today at Niketown at Phipps Plaza, 3500 Peachtree Road, Atlanta. Shoes from local schools and clubs will be collected and turned into playing surfaces for underprivileged youth. There are 500 area schools and clubs participating, and the school that donates the most shoes will receive $1,000 in Nike equipment. Visit www.niketown.nike.com.

Sweet Tomatoes to host run/walk for school

Sweet Tomatoes will host a 5K run/walk at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at the restaurant's Kennesaw location, 1125 Barrett Parkway. Registration begins at 6:30 a.m., the race begins at 7:30 a.m. and a one-mile fun run begins at 7 a.m. Proceeds from the race will benefit Wonderful Days Preschool, which serves underprivileged children by providing meals, free transportation and additional support. Race participants will receive prizes, T-shirts, bottled water and free food from Sweet Tomatoes. Call 770-429-5522 or visit www.active.com.

Road race runs through Buford

The Historic Buford 5K Road Race will be held at 8 a.m. Saturday as a fundraiser for the Buford High School Booster Club. The race will start and finish at the square on Main Street in downtown Buford. Registration is $20. Call 678-778-2283 or 404-771-7621.

Garden tours, plant sale to benefit Landscape Project

Tucker's Smoketree neighborhood will hold a garden tour and plant sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The neighborhood is located at 843 Arlington Drive, Tucker. Tour tickets are $5 and all proceeds benefit the Smoketree Landscape Project. E-mail the Smoketree Homeowners Association at smoketreehomeowners@yahoo.com.