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This time of year we’re excited about the holidays. But they can be hard for individuals and families who’ve fallen through the cracks financially or experienced something devastating in their lives. Fortunately, there are organizations like the Real Life Center, a 501c3 non-profit based in Peachtree City, that provides help for the hurting in Fayette and Coweta counties, giving them the means to cope with the financial, emotional, and spiritual hardships of life.

“So many times people don’t understand what it’s like not to have food. Most of us just go to our refrigerators and find something to eat,” explains Cathy Berggren, Executive Director of the Real Life Center. “But when you’re having to choose between buying food or diapers or paying rent, it’s huge.”

In recent years, McMullin Stone & Associates, a financial planning firm in Fayetteville, has made the Real Life Center one of the community organizations they support annually. This season that includes organizing two separate collection drives, one for food held during October and another for paper products and toiletry items that continues through December 31.

“Real Life Center is an organization that I’ve been involved with for close to 15 years,” says Will Stone, CFP ®, of McMullin Stone. “I’m amazed at the impact that they’ve made on the community and the different ways they’ve been able to reach so many people.”

Anyone can contribute to the drive by either coming to the McMullin Stone & Associates Open House on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 4-7 p.m or by dropping off items at the office through the month of December.

“The Holiday Open House is a tradition that we started about 12 years ago,” Stone explains. “Last year we decided to add this drive component to it because we knew we wanted to do something for the Real Life Center. We have a lot of clients with generous hearts, and we know that because in the course of our financial planning conversations we often help them with charitable giving strategies.”

“By collecting items throughout the month, we thought we could open it up to even more people in the community, to raise awareness of the needs that often go unnoticed,” says Stone.

The need for paper goods and toiletries is especially high because those items often can’t be purchased with food stamps, Berggren says.

“There are a lot of different types of people we see, and regardless of why they come in it’s because something traumatic has happened in their lives — the loss of a child, a divorce, or perhaps a health issue,” Berggren says. “It really works in two ways: we get to help with an immediate need as well as an immediate plan of action, but then develop relationships and strategies that help long-term and create change.”

The best thing in the world, Berggren says, are the thank-you notes the Real Life Center receives every day from clients about what a difference the organization has made in their lives.

“I had one lady say to me not long ago that after she had been to our food pantry she went home and spread it out all on her counter and just cried. She said it felt like the best Christmas ever,” Berggren says. “I don’t think people realize what food does for another person. That’s what we get to do: neighbor helping neighbor.”

Berggren is especially thankful for the support the Real Life Center receives from McMullin Stone.

“I’ve never met a greater team of people with such high integrity who care. They are just a fabulous group. I really appreciate them.”

The tree at McMullin Stone was full of paper products for the Real Life Center last year

Holiday Joy: An Open House Celebration will be hosted by McMullin Stone & Associates on Thursday, Dec. 13 from 4-7 p.m. at their offices, 101 Devant Street, Suite 903 Fayetteville GA 30214 Light refreshments will be served. Donations of diapers, feminine products, shampoo, soap, paper towels, and toilet tissue will be collected through Dec. 31.

For more information about the services offered by McMullin, Stone & Associates, call 770-471-6674 or email will.stone@mcmullinstone.com.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. McMullin Stone & Associates is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Investment Advisory Services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Raymond James is not affiliated with the Real Life Center.