The Importance of Giving Back

Posted by Ne[x]t on 09.18.15

Often times in our day-to-day lives, we get too caught up in what we can do for ourselves. What new pair of shoes can I buy? Can I get a bigger TV? What kind of fun am I going to have this weekend? It’s not always a bad thing. But what if, just some of the time, we started thinking about what we can do for others? Our mission here is to help you step up and be what’s next and one pillar that guides us is “I will help others.” Helping others and giving back not only strengthens communities and makes us feel better, it can also help on college applications, scholarships and resumes.

We’ve heard from many of you about how you’ve been volunteering this summer including Ne[x]t members, Jessica Stephens, a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia and Shakori Fletcher, a What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship winner and Junior at Elon University. We asked them about their volunteering experiences and what they’ve gained through serving the community.

Ne[x]t: Why is giving back to the community important to you?


Jessica Stephens

Shakori: Giving back to the community is so important to me because there is nothing more fulfilling than brightening someone’s day. I really enjoy being a part of a cause bigger than myself because it reminds me of what is truly important – and that’s using what you have, what you know, or what you can do to benefit others.

Jessica: One of the things I love most about some of the community service projects I’ve participated in is seeing the joy it brings to the people that are affected. You will never forget the experience of changing someone’s life by taking the time to utilize your skills for a greater good. What makes it even better, is that these are people who we work with, live with and see on a daily basis in the community. While a project sometimes only lasts a few hours, the impact of what we accomplished will last a lifetime for those we serve.

Ne[x]t: How does it make you feel after you’ve volunteered or completed a community project?

Jessica: After volunteering at several blood drives and actually giving blood a couple of times, I realized how it benefited people in need. What a great reward it was for me knowing that I gave blood that saved the life of another person.

Shakori: When I’ve completed a community project, I feel like I’ve gained so much perspective. I have a greater understanding of either someone else’s view, or how a certain idea fits within a larger scope. I truly believe that each service project you are a part of uniquely teaches you something new about yourself, so I really enjoy the moment of self-realization that occurs after the completion of a new project.

Ne[x]t: For those who may be looking to start volunteering for the first time, where would you recommend they start?


Shakori Fletcher

Shakori: For someone looking to start volunteering for the first time, I would recommend that he or she look for opportunities within areas that they are inherently passionate about. When you connect your passions to your volunteerism, you are automatically that much more engaged, enthused, and resourceful.

Last fall, I created a public speaking class for an after-school program for middle to high school age girls, and I now work with them each week on public speaking and overall presentation skills. I’ve always loved public speaking, so when I was able to create this program, it became an opportunity for me to not only learn more about something I’m passionate about, but to help others to find their sources of passion as well.

Jessica: I would say to let people know that you want to volunteer. Mention it first to a parent and then to family and friends. By letting people know that I was interested, I was presented an opportunity to volunteer at a recent event. Local newspapers also have many opportunities for people to get involved in their communities.

Ne[x]t: Whether it’s a monetary donation or offering up your time, giving back to your community is a rewarding experience. No matter how you do it, giving back will touch many people’s lives. Here are some examples of the causes and organizations that Georgia’s Own Credit Union is proud to support and we encourage you to see how you can get involved in any of them:

  • Action Ministries
  • The Brian Jordan Foundation
  • Children’s Miracle Network
  • Junior Achievement
  • L.E.A.D.
  • Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
  • United Way

You can also find organizations near your local branch by visiting

What Does it Take to Rent My Own Place?

Posted by Ne[x]t on 04.15.15

The-Rental-Application-ProcessYou may feel emotionally ready to move out on your own, but are you financially prepared? Living independently means much more than not having to be home by curfew; it comes with a great deal of financial responsibilities. Renting a place is the easiest way for you to get started on your own. But, before you take the leap, know the types of expenses you’ll incur with the big move.

There are many costs for which to prepare just to walk in the door of your first place. Here’s a list of a few big ticket expenses you may need to save for in advance of getting your first place.

  • Moving expenses. If your friends won’t do it for the price of a couple of pizzas, you may be looking at hiring some help and renting a moving van. While it removes a large amount of the stress of a move on yourself, hiring movers can get pricey. According to, a local move can average $260-$580.
  • Security deposit. Some places require that you pay your first and last month’s rent up-front, which is held as protection against damages to the premises or unpaid rent. Paying two months’ rent protects the landlord financially in case you move out on a moment’s notice. With average rent in Atlanta at $1,085, paying $1,000-$2,000 up-front can be quite a lot of money for a first-time renter to come up with.
  • Cleaning deposit. Yet another cash sum a landlord is likely to want is a cleaning deposit. This is held in the event the residence needs some extra scrubbing after you move out. If you have a pet, expect the cleaning deposit to be even higher.
  • Utilities and telephone deposit. Before you ever turn on the heat or make a phone call, you may have to put down some money to activate these necessities.
  • Furniture and appliances. Most rentals don’t come furnished. Depending on the room, you may have to buy a few key items to be somewhat comfortable:
    • Bedroom – bed, mattress, linens, pillows, dresser, rugs, lamps
    • Living room – sofa, chairs, coffee table, television, DVD player, stereo, lamps, rugs, pictures
    • Kitchen – table, utensils, dishes, cookware, microwave, cleaning supplies
    • Bathroom – hair dryer, shower curtain, bath mat

Of course if you plan to have roommates, you’ll be sharing at least some of these costs. But even with a quick estimation you can see that you may need to save quite a lot to leave home.

Monthly bills
Once you are in your own place, the costs continue. It is extremely important to pay all bills on time. If you don’t, you’ll probably be charged late payment fees, and if left unpaid, they will go into a collection agency. Dealing with collectors is not only highly unpleasant, but the negative effect on your credit report is severe. And if you default on some, such as telephone and other utilities, you may not be able to turn them on again until they’re paid (and even then it can be difficult).

If you are sharing your home with roommates, establish how the bills will be paid from the beginning. You may be able to split some and each send a check for your portion of the amount due. Another option is for one of you to act as money manager and collect from the others. However you arrange it, if the accounts are in your name, know that you are responsible for sending the complete payment in on time.

  • Rent: If the rent is due by the first, don’t pay on the fifth or some other late date. Think ahead. It is highly unlikely that you will remain in your fist place forever, so being a good tenant today will help you rent/buy another place in the future. The last thing you want is to establish a bad relationship with your landlord – the very person you will turn to for a glowing rental history reference.
  • Utilities: Utilities include cable, Internet access, garbage, gas, electric, and water. You will soon understand why your parents were always telling you to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
  • Telephone: Whether you have a landline, cell phone, or both, know that all that chatting can cost you big money. Be especially careful with cell phone minutes. Once you have exceeded your plan’s limit, the cost per minute can be outrageous. Bills of many hundreds of dollars are common.

Moving out and living independently for the first time can be a thrilling experience. You can make it even better by being financially prepared and responsible from the beginning. While this doesn’t cover every single cost you may see, it at least gives you an idea of some of the most common expenses you can expect.


Source: BALANCE Financial Fitness

Entrepreneur Will Peterson of Otter’s Chicken

Posted by Ne[x]t on 07.04.14

“If the Colonel had our chicken, he’d be a General by now.” That’s the slogan at one of Cobb County’s recently named Top 25 Small Businesses, Otter’s Chicken. If you’ve ever been in Marietta, Georgia and driven by Otter’s Chicken at The West Cobb Avenue without stopping, you’ve been missing out on some great food.

Otter’s, as it’s called by the locals, is a family-friendly, sports-themed restaurant specializing in freshly prepared (not frozen) chicken tenders served in a variety of ways. Owner Will Peterson, a Cobb County native, recently sat down with us to chat about Otter’s, how he got started in the restaurant business and his overall entrepreneurial spirit.

i[x]: Tell us a little about yourself

WP: I grew up in Marietta where I attended McEachern High School. I went on to college at Shorter University in Rome, GA, where I obtained a Masters Degree in Business Administration.

i[x] When and where was the Otter’s franchise founded?

WP: Otter’s Chicken was founded in Nashville, Tennessee by Talbott and Stuart Ottinger, Steve Logan and Charlie Fitzgerald. The first Otter’s restaurant opened in 2003, and ultimately, the concept was expanded to include locations in three states. Peterson Foods opened its first restaurant in June of 2010.

i[x] How and when did you come to own Otter’s?

WP: I was looking at several different chicken concepts and got a recommendation from Rob Shuler (Former Auburn Football player who blocked for Bo Jackson) to come check out the Otter’s concept in Nashville. Based on that recommendation I drove up to Nashville the next day and as soon as I tried the food, I knew Rob had picked a winner.

i[x]: What decisions went into deciding to focus on chicken?

WP: The main reason that the Otter’s concept originally appealed to me was that it was a simple operation and that allowed an extreme focus on doing things right.

i[x]: What types of meals do you offer at Otter’s?

WP: We offer chicken tenders, chicken wings, chicken wraps, chicken sandwiches, chicken salads, buffalo chicken dip and fried pickles and mushrooms.

Additionally, everything on our menu can be ordered fried or grilled. We use 100% fresh never frozen, antibiotic and hormone free chicken and source all of our ingredients locally.

i[x]: Do you have any plans of expanding your menu?

WP: We have plans on adding a “Georgia’s Own” Chicken Sandwich. I can’t tell you anymore about it, but you can come to Otter’s and try it soon!

i[x]: In 2013, Peterson Foods purchased the Otter’s concept from the restaurant’s founding group and parent company. Tell us a little about that.

WP On June 11th of 2013, we finalized the purchase of the Otter’s Chicken Tenders Restaurant Concept from the restaurant’s founding group and parent company. This acquisition terminated our existing franchise agreement and gave us rights to Otter’s Trademarks and concept.

i[x]: What makes Otter’s unique from other local restaurants?

WP: In addition to great food and excellent service, we are very much a community-oriented business. We are very involved with the local schools and sports teams, and do whatever we can to give back to the community in which we do business. It’s my opinion that if you take care of your community, your community will also take care of you.

i[x]: Do you have any plans for more Otter’s restaurants?

WP: Absolutely. I plan to open another location at Kennesaw State in early 2015 and 8 additional stores in the following years.

i[x]: Can you talk a little about the work and time you put in as an owner of a restaurant?

WP: Owning any type of business take a lot of work and time. Fortunately for me however, I really do enjoy working in the restaurant business. The hours are long and the work is hard, but it is also extremely rewarding.

i[x]: What kind of advice do you have for someone starting his or her own business?

WP: Be prepared. It will become your life for a while. Everything you think and do will involve your business. There really isn’t any off time when it is yours. You need to know that the business you are starting is going to be something that you will enjoy doing.

i[x]: As the i[x] program focuses on smart money management, I’m sure that you have had to deal with your share of financial decisions. Is there anything you’ve learned from the restaurant business that carries over to your everyday finances?

WP: Nothing is more important than cash flow. You have to watch it meticulously. Make your inflow greater than your outflow. Sounds simple enough, but it is a challenge even for the Donald Trumps of the world.

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