BUSINESS / ORGANIZATION:
Atlanta Children's Shelter, Inc.Atlanta, Georgia
ABOUT THE BUSINESS / ORGANIZATION:I am the Executive Director of the Atlanta Children's Shelter whose mission is to end generational poverty by transitioning homeless families with young children from streets/shelters into permanent homes. We have successfully been carrying out our mission for 32 years by using the 2 Generation approach. We provide homeless children with high quality early childhood education, while at the same time, providing their parents with the support services they need to achieve gainful stable employment and permanent housing. By addressing the unique needs of both generations, we are helping ensure the the long term self-sufficiency and well-being of these families.
The Atlanta Children's Shelter is unique in its holistic approach providing each child and parent with support services tailored to their individual situations. Our services are all onsite and free to the families we serve. They include weekly clinics, licensed mental health services, daily nutrition, workforce development, financial literacy, job placement, scholarships for school, and housing assistance. We offer all families our wrap-around services for 1 year after they leave the Shelter to help ensure their successful transition to stability. We are a 4-star rated charity that continues to evolve and grow to meet the complex needs of homeless families that have experienced domestic violence and trauma.
THE STORY:I have always been a person who roots for the underdog; believing that any injustice can be overcome with a strong will and some positive guidance along the way. I attended law school to arm myself with the knowledge of the law, so I could protect the innocent and punish the unjust. Once I graduated from Emory School of Law, I didn't really have a roadmap to show me the path to accomplish this. I began working in the juvenile courts systems and benefited greatly from mentors and role models who had such a passion to preserve and protect children. I realized early in my career that we need good laws in place if we want good public policy to follow, so I became interested in our legislative process.
From the juvenile court system, I went to the Georgia Department of Human Services, where I developed a passion for public health and children's support services. I served on their legislative team and spent over 10 years working with the Department and with elected officials at the Capitol to steer Georgia toward policies that benefited our most vulnerable population - at risk children and families. I found this work extremely rewarding and I know that Georgia is fortunate to have some of the most brilliant policy makers and advocates working daily for the best interests of Georgia's citizens. After a decade of this service, I had a desire to more directly serve our community, which led me to nonprofit work. In 2010, one of my mentors, who knew I was interested in transitioning to nonprofit work, told me about the Atlanta Children's Shelter. I was fortunate to find myself at the crossroads where I wanted to refocus my time, energy, and talent and when the Shelter was searching for its next leader. That was eight years ago, and I have never looked back!
ACCOMPLISHMENTS / ACCOLADES / AWARDS:One of the honors that I am most proud of is receiving the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award which recognizes members of the Metro Atlanta community who embody the values articulated by Martin Luther King, Jr. These members raise awareness of social injustice, speak on behalf of justice, celebrate diversity, and impel action in building a better future for all. It recognizes individuals and organizations that envision solutions to inequities and that have the courage to act and to persevere in the face of very challenging circumstances. It is so humbling to be in the company of so many before me who have carried much heavier burdens at far greater costs than me. I am proud to do my small part to serve others in need.
As a woman and mother, I was proud to receive the Girls Inc. Strong, Smart, & Bold Award. I was recognized as a Smart Girl on Fire for my dedication to ensuring that high quality education is accessible and provided to children of all social economic backgrounds, especially homeless children under the age of five.
I recently found out that I will be receiving the 2018 Big Voice for Children Award which is given by Voices for Georgia's Children each year to honor Georgia's top child advocates. It was a surreal moment when I was told this. I thought that maybe - just maybe - I have made the meaningful impact that I have always hoped to make on Georgia's at-risk children. And maybe - just maybe -I'll take a moment to give myself an atta-girl before I get back to the important work that needs to be done for our community.