ATLANTA – April 6, 2020 – In March, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and United Way of Greater Atlanta announced the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to direct funding to nonprofits on the front lines helping our region weather this unprecedented health and economic crisis.

Today, our organizations announce the Fund’s third round of grants, totaling nearly $4.6 million, to 27 organizations for emergency response. A grand total of more than $8.7 million from the Fund has been mobilized for nonprofits to date. Grants made in the earlier rounds are detailed on both the Community Foundation’s website and United Way’s website

Today’s grant recipients, and grant amounts, are: 

Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs ($250,000) Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, Inc. (ACE) provides economic development to underserved people and communities including women and minority business owners. COVID-19 poses an economic calamity for entrepreneurs in these populations who generally have lower margins and cash reserves. This grant will cover operating costs of ACE’s Emergency Loan Product, providing working capital micro loans of up to $50,000 for current ACE clients along with up to six months of principal and interest payment deferment and technical assistance for clients to apply and secure funding.

Atlanta Partners For Education (APS Foundation) ($280,000) Atlanta Partners For Education (APFE) has been the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Foundation for nearly 40 years, serving as the gateway through which the corporate and philanthropic communities support student achievement and develop strategic solutions to challenges that impact APS students and families. The grant will support COVID-19 specific programs in nutrition and technology, providing free meals for students and families and securing laptops and internet access for distance learning.

Fulton Education Foundation ($300,000) The Fulton Education Foundation takes a needs-based approach for students of Fulton County, especially those experiencing homelessness, in foster care or living in motels, who face challenges including food insecurity and access to health supports. The grant will contribute to the costs of housing, food, and therapy for 1,765 Fulton County students presenting the greatest needs – experiencing homelessness, living in foster care or living in motels and connectivity and devices for virtual learning for Fulton County students.

Gateway and Evolution Center ($150,000) Gateway Center (GWC) serves a critical role in providing services to the people experiencing homelessness as the entry point to City of Atlanta’s Continuum of Care, including shelter, access to showers and laundry facilities, information on the COVID-19 virus and its symptoms, safety precautions and knowledge of access testing. Due to stay-at-home orders and the closing of some community kitchens, GWC is now serving additional meals and seeing an expanded population of individuals needing services. This grant will allow the agency to continue to provide services to the homeless population residing in their shelter and additional personnel costs. Serving the homeless population is critical in our region’s effort to flatten the curve.

Goodr ($250,000) Goodr provides food for those in need and recognizes that school meals are the only source of nourishment for many underprivileged children. Even with school-based food pickup options for students, many parents are now out of work, do not have reliable access to transportation and have an increased need for food in their homes. With an uptick in requests, Goodr is working to support more families and senior homes to help them through this pandemic and has hired additional drivers to deliver groceries and ready-to-eat meals. The grant will cover 30 days of service to more than 100 families in the community.

Hearts to Nourish Hope ($150,000) Hearts to Nourish Hope was established in 1995 to meet the needs of high-risk populations in Clayton and Gwinnett counties in areas of education, workforce development, housing and essential needs. Grant funding will go toward housing support for families with children, senior citizens and those most vulnerable during this time. Specifically, funds will help provide housing and utilities with a focus in the Southern Crescent, an underserved part of the region.

Hosea Helps ($200,000) Hosea Helps (formerly Hosea Feed the Hungry) works with families in the City of Atlanta to prevent homelessness, address hunger in children and to ensure that individuals in poverty or at risk of poverty have financial resources and tools to become stable. Because of COVID-19, Hosea Helps has increased distribution of food and supplies while also assisting partner organizations. The grant will help cover the costs of purchasing food for box distribution to 19,000 individuals, rent/mortgage assistance for 65 individuals/families, and increased staffing and equipment costs to be able to serve additional individuals and families in need.

Housing Plus, Inc. ($125,000) Housing Plus, Inc. (HPI) is a comprehensive solution to homeless issues in the greater Atlanta area. Due to COVID-19, HPI has moved to digital platforms to address safety concerns while focusing on rapidly rehousing and providing basic needs support to individuals experiencing or fleeing from domestic violence and trafficking situations. All referrals come from a network of pro-bono law firms. Funding will support efforts to serve these vulnerable individuals and help to reduce the number of families who will be facing eviction and homelessness in the coming weeks.

International Rescue Committee in Atlanta ($150,000) International Rescue Committee (IRC) provides comprehensive case management support for refugee and immigrant populations throughout the greater Atlanta region. Staff has now transitioned to virtual service for clients. Due to travel restrictions, admission of refugees to the U.S. has been halted and IRC anticipates a reduction in federal funding. The grant will allow IRC to continue to provide resources including healthcare and employment benefits for immigrants and refugees.

LaAmistad, Inc. ($100,000) LaAmistad assists 300 Latino students and their families annually. Many students qualify for free/reduced lunch programs, and their parents largely work low-income jobs that are now being severely reduced. During the COVID-19 crisis, LaAmistad’s staff has had weekly calls with families served to determine specific needs for each, which include rent support, medical care and online tutoring. This grant will allow LaAmistad to provide approximately two weeks of emergency food supplies to the families it serves.

Mercy Care ($150,000) Established in 1985, Mercy Care provides compassionate, clinically excellent healthcare to those in need, with special attention to the poor and vulnerable. Mercy Care is working with multiple partners and agencies to ensure the homeless community, especially the street-bound population, have access to the necessary health services to test and treat individuals with COVID-19. The grant will help cover the additional costs of Mercy Care’s expanded services and efforts to address COVID-19, including expanded telehealth services.

Meridian Educational Resource Group d/b/a Whitefoord, Inc. ($243,000) For 24 years Whitefoord has focused on ensuring children are healthy, safe and prepared for school through early childhood education and health services. Whitefoord’s two clinics have remained open to meet the basic health needs of the community, including offering COVID-19 testing as well as dental, mental health and physical health services. During the crisis Whitefoord has implemented phone-based screenings, telehealth capability and online education resources for families while school is closed. The grant will help fund the continuation of these services for Whitefoord’s population, more than 28% of whom are low income with increased need for social safety net programs.

Metropolitan Counseling Services ($90,000) Metropolitan Counseling Services provides affordable mental health services for the residents of Georgia. Prior to the crisis, more than 90% of the mental health services provided occurred through in-person individual and group interactions. Given the social distancing measures established, counseling has shifted to technology-based forms, which is difficult for both the clients and the therapists. This grant will support the increased cost for services, including supervisory consultation, staff training, client assistance and software enhancements.

Midwest Food Bank – Georgia ($50,000) Midwest Food Bank (MFB) works to alleviate hunger and malnutrition locally and throughout the world and provide disaster relief without discrimination. MFB currently serves more than 300 nonprofit organizations in the Southeast, 270 of those in the Atlanta area, serving nearly 155,000 individuals and families each month. The grant will help cover an anticipated 35 percent increase in food demand and distribution due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Nicholas House, Inc. ($75,000) Nicholas House, Inc. supports low-income families experiencing or at-risk of being homeless in metro Atlanta. Some individuals have mental health conditions or underlying conditions that increase their risk for COVID-19, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes and high blood pressure. The organization maintains a shelter and also provides rental assistance for clients living in apartments. This grant will help to cover the costs of food, sanitation supplies, emergency assistance to families facing eviction and expanded services to prevent homelessness for more families across the metro Atlanta region.

Norcross Cooperative Ministry, Inc. ($200,000) Norcross Cooperative Ministry is a coalition of churches that provide services to low-income and homeless families in their community. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the cooperative typically served 50 to 70 families per day. Today they have seen a 700 percent increase in families needing support, including past clients whose situations have worsened, new clients who are homeless or live in extended stay hotels and others with vulnerable housing situations. The grant will help to cover rent assistance, temporary lodging, and food for clients for the next 60 days.

North Fulton Community Charities($200,000) Since 1983, North Fulton Community Charities (NFCC) has addressed homelessness and hunger in North Fulton county, serving nearly 10,000 annually. Due to the current climate, NFCC has had to close their thrift store, their main source of revenue, while seeing a significant increase in need. NFCC is also seeing greater need among self-employed and small business owners. Grant funds will help support restocking food pantries and providing financial assistance to populations including single working mothers, custodial grandparents and immigrant families.

Open Doors Solutions, Inc. ($150,000) Open Doors Solutions works primarily with those transitioning from homelessness, many of whom are single parents with at least two children, into safe, affordable homes. Open Doors works with landlords and property management companies to help lower barriers to housing access. This grant will support current efforts to provide housing through a referral system and provide rental assistance, freeing up desperately needed capacity in the shelter pipeline.

Partnership Against Domestic Violence ($10,000) Partnership Against Domestic Violence (PADV) was founded in 1977 to end the crime of intimate partner violence and empower its survivors. PADV is currently still offering shelter services and a 24-hours crisis line, providing safety planning, remote counseling and legal advocacy. This grant will assist those currently facing domestic violence issues via shelter services or emergency motel stays, to ensure housing security and protect children and vulnerable populations from high levels of abuse likely to happen during increasingly stressful periods.

Salvation Army ($200,000) The Salvation Army’s food pantries remain open with higher demands, and several locations have expanded pantry hours and transitioned to drive-through feeding programs as well as food delivery through mobile kitchens. The Salvation Army is currently serving approximately 1,300 families and 4,000 individuals per week, and expect this to increase. Demand has increased at their two shelters in Atlanta and in the rapid re-housing program in Gwinnett. The grant will support these services and the increase in rent/utility assistance requests from those that are impacted by job loss or reduced hours due to COVID-19.

Ser Familia ($100,000) Ser Familia is dedicated to strengthening Latino families through programs that support healthy family environments, as one of the only sources of counseling provided in Spanish in the state. Many of Ser Familia’s clients work in hospitality and construction, some of the first sectors to be impacted by furloughs and layoffs. Group counseling sessions (including domestic violence support groups) are now limited to 10 people per session, which has led to an increase in the number of sessions and increased staff hours. This grant will increase the organization’s capacity to continue providing no-cost mental health counseling in Spanish, as well as provide food, emergency assistance and transportation for people who have been denied services from other emergency assistance providers who require a state ID or social security number.

Sheltering Arms, Inc. ($250,000) Sheltering Arms serves vulnerable infants, children and their families throughout metropolitan Atlanta. This grant will help the organization respond to the on-going needs of Sheltering Arms’ families for support, including Family Support Coaches to help families navigate resources and systems; purchasing and distributing diapers, wipes, formula and other goods for the hygienic needs of families; continued learning, development and family engagement; and the development of a food pantry to ensure that families are able to access food during the crisis.

Southside Medical Center ($250,000) Southside serves more than 45,000 people annually, providing services on a sliding-scale fee. More than five percent of Southside’s patient population are served in a language other than English and more than 57 percent live on low income up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. During this time, Southside Medical Center will continue to see patients when clinically necessary at 11 locations throughout metro Atlanta – with walk-in sites operating in Butts, Clayton, DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fulton counties. Southside is maximizing the use of telemedicine services to lessen patient wait times in clinics, and to use directly with those who can (or should) shelter-in-place at home. Additionally, Southside is collaborating with state efforts around COVID-19 by utilizing its mobile medical unit to provide rapid response testing.

State Charter Schools Foundation of Georgia ($200,000) The State Charter Schools Foundation of Georgia provides support and funding to state charter schools throughout Georgia, including 18 schools located in the greater Atlanta community, who serve nearly 9,000 students. These schools are providing distance learning to students while they are closed and ensuring equitable access is crucial – the most critical needs are technology devices and internet access for low-income students and remote tutoring for at-risk students. The grant will allow the organization to purchase technology devices and pay for internet access for 1,341 low-income students and provide remote tutoring services for 905 high-risk students for six weeks.

Sweetwater Mission ($155,000) Sweetwater Mission provides food, clothing, education and support services to neighbors in need. It is distributing food in response to the crisis – each car receives  50 pounds of bread, eggs, meat, milk and additional items, and 60 pounds if there are children in the home. Sweetwater is providing food to an average of 85 families in need per day and grant funding will assist while need continues to increase as the effects of the virus are experienced.

Wellspring Living ($195,000) Wellspring Living supports domestic sex trafficking victims, and those at risk, with specialized recovery services through four residential programs, two community-based programs and graduate services. During the COVID-19 crisis Wellspring Living’s community programs are supporting participants virtually and residential programs remain in operation, requiring the need for hiring clinical support staff and providing personal protective equipment, as well as serving additional food due to increased requests and decreased donations. The grant will support Wellspring Living’s rapid response to these increased service needs as requests for their services continue to rise.  

Zion Hill Community Development Center ($125,000) Zion Hill Community Development Center seeks to promote revitalization and redevelopment of selected areas in metropolitan Atlanta and to empower citizens through economic, residential, social and educational programs. Zion Hill has adapted services from walk-in, face-to-face appointments to an online delivery system. Zion Hill will use grant funding to provide technology and online delivery service addressing transitional housing, rapid rehousing and utility support. In response to the pandemic, Zion Hill has also expanded its service areas from only South Fulton to include City of Atlanta and Clayton counties.

Grants from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund focus on immediate and critical needs to support those most vulnerable. United Way and Community Foundation staff, with the guidance of a volunteer steering committee comprised of leading individuals from civic, corporate and nonprofit sectors across the region, are identifying additional organizations currently providing or receiving requests for support. This includes working closely with the State of Georgia’s Coronavirus Task Force Committee for Homeless and Displaced Persons, and other state and federal supports that are to be issued in the coming days and weeks.

The Fund was announced March 17 with Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta committing $1 million and United Way of Greater Atlanta contributing $500,000 to seed the Fund. As of today, commitments have been secured from  the Coca-Cola Company, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, each donated $5 million to the Fund in support. Other current funders include the City of Atlanta, Truist Foundation,The Goizueta Foundation and The Klump Family Foundation contributing $1 million each, the Sara Giles Moore Foundation and Regions Bank contributing $100,000 each, Wells Fargo and Global Payments contributing $250,000 each, The Primerica Foundation contributing $50,000, the Betty and Davis Fitzgerald Foundation, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP and The Vasser Wooley Foundation, Inc. contributing $25,000, and $25,000 jointly from 11Alive and the TEGNA Foundation.

Individuals and families impacted and in need of support can contact United Way of Greater Atlanta’s 2-1-1 Contact Center. Due to high call volumes, texting is the quickest way to get in touch with United Way 2-1-1. Text 211od to 898-211 to get a list of resources by zip code. The 2-1-1 database is another quick way to find resources during this time of increased call volume. 2-1-1 is a valuable resource that is available 24-hours and 7 days-a-week.

The need continues to rise as stories accumulate from across our neighborhoods. To donate to the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, click here. Support funds will be released on a rolling basis throughout the outbreak and recovery phases of the crisis. Details on how nonprofit organizations can share their need will be released this week via the Community Foundation’s website, as well as a grant process specifically for arts organizations. The next round of grants will be announced mid April.

The Community Foundation will continue to update details for donors and nonprofits through its blog and via social media via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. To view updates from United Way of Greater Atlanta, click here or follow on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

About the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Since 1951, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has been leading and inspiring philanthropy to increase the vitality of our region and the well-being of all residents. With nearly 70 years serving the 23-county Atlanta region and a robust team of experts, the Community Foundation expands its philanthropic reach and impact by providing quality services to donors and bold, innovative community leadership. The Community Foundation is a top-20 community foundation among 750 nationally, with approximately $1.2 billion in current assets, and is Georgia’s second largest foundation. For more information, visit: cfgreateratlanta.org or connect with the Foundation via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

About United Way of Greater Atlanta
United Way of Greater Atlanta, the largest United Way chapter in the nation, focuses on ensuring that every child in Atlanta has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. The organization invests in more than 200 programs in 13 counties through the Child Well-Being Impact Fund and works to help children succeed in school, improve financial stability of families, provide affordable and accessible healthcare and end homelessness. For more information, visit: unitedwayatlanta.org or Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Media Contacts:
For United Way United Way of Greater Atlanta
Chad Parker, 404.358.5055
cparker@unitedwayatlanta.org

There are more than 25,000 children living in the five zip codes encompassing Fayette County, and while much of the county may celebrate success, we know there are still children in need. There are still kids who don’t have access to the same opportunities.

There are vast differences from zip code to zip code.

United Way of Greater Atlanta set out to map those differences in Fayette and the other 12 counties just over two years ago when it launched the Child Well-Being Movement. What United Way saw was that children growing up in one zip code didn’t have the same resources, social support or opportunities as those growing up a few miles from them. Through a set of 14 child, family and community measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score for each individual zip code.

The region as a whole had the previous score of 58.9 — a failing grade. United Way found that about 500,000 children in Greater Atlanta lived in areas of low to very-low child well-being. This helped United Way form a single, shared agenda targeting low child well-being areas.

On May 9, United Way announced that the regional score had improved to 61.8 — that equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children.

But, back to Fayette. Fayette County had a previous score of 82.2, and after the new data was released in May, that score actually decreased overall to 81.1. While still better than the region average, this still tells the story of nearly 6,000 children living in low child well-being communities — and there are disparities among Fayette County zip codes, with the lowest child well-being score of 69.4 in zip code 30214 and the highest of 84.5 in 30215.

There’s a story behind those numbers and behind those disparities.

United Way of Greater Atlanta and Fayette County Schools presented its Fayette State of the Children Community Conversation on Nov. 20 to give context to those stories.

Jennifer Young, regional director of United Way of Greater Atlanta in Fayette County, said there were notable improvements in high school graduation and an increase in people enrolled in post-secondary education, but there was also an increase in children in poverty.

In the 30214-zip code, Young says the Child Well-Being Score had dropped 3.1 points. She said there were improvements in high school graduation rates, improvement in college and career readiness and a decline in unemployment. But there was also an increase in children in poverty and families not financially stable.

In the neighboring 30215 zip code, the score improved to 84.5 in two years, Young says, which was an increase by 2.8 percent.

She said a reason for the drop in overall child well-being for Fayette County could largely be attributed to the change in standardized testing, which dramatically impacted third-grade reading scores and child well-being scores.

“When we talk about the data and everything behind the data, these are great points, but there are stories behind it,” Young says. “When you have access to early learning programs, we know they will have cognitive, social and behavioral skills. The access to early education is essential.”

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Barrow agreed with Young.

“One of the things I’ll say all the time [to his staff] is, ‘In God we trust, and everybody else we expect to see data,’” Barrow said with a laugh. “We dig down into it and drill down so we can better understand… It’s not just about the data, but we need to be able to interpret the data.”

Barrow says that “poverty is the beast that really impacts us all.” He said that poverty in the community can directly affect the well-being of students in schools. Barrow sat on a five-member panel with four other community leaders to discuss how they are powering the Child Well-Being Movement in Fayette County.

Colin Martin, president and CEO of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, says that the overall Child Well-Being of Fayette impacts the business community in addition to its schools.

“When we talk about Child Well-Being and how it impacts businesses, one short-term perspective is that all of our businesses have employees that are parents, and if those parents have to worry about, ‘Is my child fed?’ Then they are less likely to be productive employees.”

The county needs to be able to “create a climate” where businesses should be successful and nonprofit providers can provide assistance, Charles Rousseau says.

Rousseau is the District 4 commissioner for Fayette County. He says the county is currently doing well, but he said to use that success as a springboard to continue the work in the county.

Barrow said the discrepancies in Child Well-Being in neighboring zip codes was a “brutal reality” that the community needed to confront.

“One of the things we have to do as individuals and businesses and entities is you have to confront the brutal realities,” Barrow says. “One of the things we have to do is talk. We have certain schools within this zip code that may not be performing as well as other schools. That’s an issue of equity.”

But Fayette County Public Schools isn’t “short-changing anybody,” he says.

“We realize some schools may be more impacted by poverty, and we need more resources to overcome those barriers,” Barrow says. “Partnerships are critically important to what we can do as a group.”

Kim Schnoes, a financial planner and community advocate, agreed these partnerships were crucial. Schnoes is active in her community serving on a number of local boards. She stressed the importance of giving to organizations like United Way.

“I think it boils down to wanting to be able to bring out the best assets and best around us from the community,” she says. “We know this community is great, but we don’t want to rest there.”

Dawn C. Oparah, executive director of Fayette FACTOR, says one of the ways to improve the community is to speak up. She said it was important to continue this same type of dialogue within the community beyond just those in the room.

“The threat to [Fayette’s] Child Well-Being is not having the knowledge,” Oparah says. “When people don’t know, we can’t do. If you have the knowledge and the willingness, then we’ll continue to thrive as a community.”

Conversations like the on Nov. 20 are what help a community overcome its problems, Barrow says. He said it’s easy to point out those issues, but it takes more than that to address them. He said this type of work only happens through collaboration and partnerships with organizations like United Way.

“We can maintain the level of quality of life and even bump it up,” Barrow says. “I think we have the opportunity to have a world-class community, but it takes people working together and checking our ego at the door.”

#WhyWednesday: Nargis Aniston Hansen

Nargis Aniston Hansen is a travel manager for Mediacom 24-7 LTD at Pinewood Studios and a member of our Fayette Co. advisory board. Today, hear why she gives back to Greater Atlanta through United Way.

Fayette County communities can thrive today and reach their greatest future potential only if their children are thriving. That’s why our focus is on building a Greater Atlanta where every individual and family can thrive by making sure that every child has the opportunity to reach his or her potential.
Communities that can say, “all the children are well” have babies who are born healthy; kids who read proficiently by 3rd grade; teens graduating from high school prepared for college, careers and life; they grow up in secure homes, in safe neighborhoods, with healthy food, access to medical care to keep them healthy; supported by communities where people are educated, employed, and housed; with ready access to good healthcare and affordable healthy foods. Learn more here!

Each morning, your alarm on your phone sounds and you roll over in bed to switch off the device, flipping on a lamp at your bedside table. You scroll through that phone and check your calendar — a full list of the day’s events — you head to the kitchen, open the fridge and grab breakfast just as your automatic coffee machine cycles on and pours you a fresh cup.

You cram down your breakfast, take a shower, get dressed and hop in the car or rush to the train for your commute to work.

Every single step of the way, the decisions you make and the actions you take —all seemingly insignificant — are inspired by science, produced by an engineer and involve some sort of mathematical operation.
This is what United Way of Greater Atlanta President and CEO Milton J. Little, Jr. brought to the attention of the audience inside an AT&T ballroom in Midtown Atlanta a few miles from Fox Theatre on Nov. 19.

“There’s nothing that you can do in this world that doesn’t require science,” Little says. “There’s no clothes to wear, there’s nothing to eat, there’s nothing you drive — almost nothing we touch that isn’t the product of someone who learned to invest in science.”

United Way of Greater Atlanta has invested in science over the past year. On Nov. 19, United Way hosted its inaugural STEMUp Youth Maker Competition at AT&T.

The STEMUp program’s director and Senior Director of Youth Development at United Way Tricia Crossman says the Youth Maker Competition is about “giving young people the opportunity to give their ideas” in order to solve problems their communities face using Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Those ideas were presented to a round of judges via video submissions and then whittled down to nine finalists.

For this competition, students had to create something “solution-oriented,” Crossman says. The submission had to be realistic, could be successfully implemented, had to be youth-led and had to be creative and innovative.

Crossman says the students also had to consider a “social responsibility” component.

“Young people have great ideas, and we often don’t tap into them to help us make our world better,” Crossman says. “This is our inaugural competition, but it is our hope that we’ll be able to grow this competition and have it every single year for young people in our metro region.”

Crossman says the competition requirements were released at the end of August to schools in the Greater Atlanta region, and despite the quick turnaround, there were 78 submissions and 189 youth participants.

Twenty-four percent of those students were high school-aged, and 30 percent of the youth lived in low or very Child Well-Being areas, according to United Way’s Child Well-Being Map, Crossman says.

United Way of Greater Atlanta saw two years ago after its strategic planning meeting that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child.

United Way saw that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 family, community and child measures, including things like eighth-grade math proficiency and third-grade reading scores, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9.

On May 9, 2019, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being.

In addition to the Youth Maker Competition, Crossman says United Way funds an initiative called “Get Connected,” which is a digital literacy program for children and their parents.

The nine finalists for Youth Maker were comprised of five high school teams and four middle school, Crossman says.

The finalists had to pitch their projects to judges in a “Shark Tank-style” demonstration before a winner was selected in front of the crowd at AT&T.

The finalists had run through those demonstrations for hours, and the time was quickly approaching for the winners to be announced.

Little made his way to the stage prior to the announcement, and he was presented a $230,000 check from AT&T’s Director of Federal Public Affairs Yvette Pugh. The check would fund “Community Impact and STEM” projects at United Way. AT&T supports the Chief Science Officer (CSO) program, which seeks to enhance the workforce and employability skills of student CSOs and their peers.

“We believe in the work United Way is doing,” Pugh said. “We have 20,000 employees in Georgia. We live and work in this community and want to be a part of the great work you are doing to move our communities forward.”

The STEM Youth Maker Competition is a great example of ways to move these communities forward.

“We know job trends in the Greater Atlanta region are going to require more science and math in order for young people to compete in the workforce of today and tomorrow,” Crossman says.

 

STEM IS EVERYWHERE

Each of the finalists and their school’s sponsors rushed to their tables with Chick-fil-A boxed lunches, eagerly awaiting the final results while nibbling on chicken sandwiches.

The judges were made up of local business owners and sponsors — the project was sponsored by Cox Enterprises, AT&T, General Motors and the African-American Partnership Affinity Group at United Way. They were tasked with selecting one middle school and high school winner each, but narrowing down to one each was more difficult than it seemed.

Ultimately, there were two winners each from those categories. In the middle-school division, Amariyahu Edmunds and Regie Ingram each won, and in high school division the two winners were the Forest Park High School Team and then Madison Kenney. Manitca Kheim, Helen Tran, Sharron Van, Evan Minor and Lazaro Valle-Reynoso made up the Forest Food Initiative.

The Forest Food Initiative is a hydroponics system and greenhouse that would address a lack of access to produce in Forest Park, Clayton County.

“Our goal was to create a hydroponics system and address a food desert in our community,” says Lazaro Valle-Reynoso, a Forest Park High School student. “So, what is a food desert? It is an area where people can’t reach food and fresh produce. I had a teammate who said she had to drive 30 minutes to buy fresh produce.”

Helen Tran said the Forest Food Initiative started through the CSO program, but once the team learned of the Youth Maker Competition, they pulled in additional members to form a team.

“We had a PowerPoint, and I brought in a hydroponics prototype,” Tran said. “We went over the budget, the goals and who we were collaborating with, and we shared with the judges what living in a food desert looks like.”

Tran says her family can only find certain foods by traveling 30 minutes or more one way, and she says this isn’t uncommon at her school.

Valle-Reynoso says the garden and greenhouse project addresses this issue.

Kenney established previously a RoboChicks program at the Andrew and Walter Young YMCA to help “get girls interested in STEM.”

“I started coaching them,” Kenney says. “When I saw the United Way grant, I applied ASAP because I wanted to get more funding to coach more girls and, at the time, I got a request to do an all-boys team as well.”

Kenney says her interest in STEM started when she was 8 years old.

“I got my most experience hands-on,” she says.

Like Kenney, Edmunds also first became interested in STEM while he was in elementary school. He says he was intrigued by the opportunity to build something on his own.

He developed his “Code Flow” program to generate more interest in STEM among younger kids.

“A lot of kids in my school, specifically third-graders, aren’t excited about STEM,” he says. “It can be fun. I want to take 10 students, and I want to buy them [robots] that you can code and get them to perform specific tasks in multiple obstacle courses, and my hope is that they will get excited about STEM.”

Edmunds loved the idea that as a kid he could learn how to “code and build stuff.”

“I built a robot out of a fan with, like, air pumps and air pressure, and when I saw what I could do, I said, ‘This looks really cool,’” Edmunds says. “STEM is everywhere! There’s nothing that you can touch that hasn’t been involved with science.”

Ingram also loved how STEM allowed him to open his mind and create something of his own. Ingram developed a joggers’ belt that he presented to the judges.

“I started with an experiment in the science fair to see if I could make electricity with magnets and coils of wire,” Ingram says, “and I wanted to make a product for this idea.”

Ingram identified a problem he saw that would allow him to flesh out this idea and address a need in his community. The belt is made of nylon and fits around a jogger’s waist. As the jogger bounces up and down, the magnets inside of a tube bounce up and down hitting a coil of wires attached to an LED light. The light begins to flash, which signals to drivers on the road that a jogger is on the sidewalk or passing in front of them.

“There are so many jogger injuries that happen each year,” Ingram says. He now plans to turn the Youth Maker grant into 30 prototypes he can share with his fellow classmates on his middle school track team.

The competition’s success stems —no pun intended— from an overall need in the community to generate interest around technology, which is where a trained workforce is needed in the Greater Atlanta region.

“The number of technology jobs far outpace the people that can fill those jobs,” Crossman says. “Many of the companies in our region are going out of state and country to get those jobs filled. We can change that. STEM programming for young people and STEM education is a critical part of making that happen.”

For more information for STEM programming and United Way of Greater Atlanta’s work, visit www.unitedwayatlanta.org.

“Experience leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to attitude, attitudes lead to behaviors and behaviors lead to results,” says Milton J. Little, Jr., president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Little uses this quote to introduce the October InForum breakfast. InForum is an ongoing series of community conversations convened by United Way of Greater Atlanta. It brings nonprofit, corporate, philanthropic and civic partners together to talk about the issues the Greater Atlanta community faces and how it is that, collaboratively, the community can address them.

“We set ourselves the very ambitious goal of improving the well-being of 250,000 children over the next 10 years,” says Little. “To do so, we need solutions designed to tackle multiple and inter-related challenges that people face.”

The goal Little refers to is that of the Child Well-Being Movement, which has been the guiding force of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s work for the past two years.

When the Movement began in 2017, United Way of Greater Atlanta recognized that its desire to make an impact in the community and improve the lives of so many children needed to be met with an ability to measure and maintain how their work made a difference.

That’s why, alongside dozens of community partners, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and the Atlanta Regional Commission, United Way of Greater Atlanta developed the Child Well-Being Index. The Index informs the organization of what communities are in greatest need by using a set of 14 measures that determine the level of opportunity and resources present in any given zip code.

Some of those measures include rates of low-weight births, percent of children reading at a third-grade level and the percent of families who are not financially stable. These metrics act as a barometer for understanding whether children living in a certain community are primed for success or failure – whether they have the opportunities and resources they need to thrive.

It’s not common that the problems of a child are an isolated incident. There are typically other “inter-related challenges” the child’s community and family face, hence Little’s call for solutions that can tackle multiple issues at once.

For the October InForum, the speakers are principally concerned with evaluation – namely, how we can approach large systems change work like Child Well-Being and apply evaluation frameworks that measure changes when solving for complex, inter-locking challenges.

“If we’re being honest, there is a huge disconnect between what we’re accomplishing and the promise of evaluation,” says Kelci Price, senior director of learning and evaluation at the Colorado Health Foundation. “Evaluation was not created for how we try to use it today.”

Price’s opening remarks speak to the need to disrupt the field of evaluation – a practice that was originally designed to test the impact and effectiveness of stand-alone programs in stable environments.

Social innovation work, like what United Way of Greater Atlanta focuses on through Child Well-Being, deals with complex issues in the community, where variables and contexts are ever-changing. That level of complexity is too much for the methodologies and frameworks of traditional evaluation to keep up with. As a result, social innovators are left without the tools they need to evaluate their work effectively.

“As a field,” Price states, “we’re not shifting fast enough because we’re too stuck in old mindsets.”

To change those mindsets, Price suggests social innovators cultivate a culture of learning instead of attempting to replicate those dated evaluation models.

“It feels like we’ve forgotten that learning is not what comes from measurements and indicators and metrics,” says Price. “To learn, we have to wrestle with the evidence.”

Price says collecting data isn’t good enough. Organizations have to grapple with the data they have collected, pay attention to the context it is collected in and generate solutions that are well-informed and as multi-faceted as the problems they face.

To do so, Price calls for an “emergent learning framework.” Through this framework, social innovators are encouraged to learn through intentional, iterative and ongoing experiments, which are more responsive to variables of change in the community.

Mark Cabaj, president of Here to There and associate at the Tamarack Institute, kicked off the second half of the breakfast by asserting that evaluation is constantly “playing catch-up” to the work of social innovators.

“I didn’t start as an evaluator,” says Cabaj. “I started as a strategist who desperately wanted better evaluation in my work.”

Over the past few decades, Cabaj’s prayers have started to receive answers. The field of evaluation has begun producing methodologies and frameworks designed to accommodate complex community change work.

One such framework, Multi-level Perspectives, guides systems change efforts by tracking four different actions simultaneously: supporting niche innovations, nudging systems, shifting culture and being responsive to changes in landscapes. This framework embraces the fact that complex community change efforts must bounce between perspectives, constantly adapting to its environment in a fluid, comprehensive manner.

Another framework, the Five Dimensions of Scaling, details how social innovators can scale a program to reach more people, change systems, make bigger impacts on culture, innovate with new solutions and build the capacity of a community to expand that work at scale.

And, while these frameworks have greatly improved evaluation in social innovation work, there are still shortcomings.

When working to address multi-layered challenges, Cabaj says there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all answer.” All frameworks for evaluation reveal an important finding, while distorting something else.

“I treat them like kaleidoscopes,” says Cabaj. “Put one on and see something, change it out and see something else.”

Regardless, both Price and Cabaj agree that it’s an exciting time to be involved in the evaluation space.

United Way of Greater Atlanta, driven by its Child Well-Being Movement, is taking up the call to pay attention to place and understand that its community change efforts will have to be as complex and adaptive as the community problems it is seeking to address. And by 2027, it is hoping those efforts will be enough improve the well-being of 250,000 children.

To contribute to those efforts and empower the work of United Way of Greater Atlanta, donate to the Child Well-Being Impact Fund today.

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Tocqueville Society members understand what a significant gift can help accomplish.

Atlanta’s Tocqueville Society, which was formed in 1985, is named after French politician Alexis de Tocqueville, who recognized the importance of voluntary action. Members of Tocqueville Society are philanthropic leaders in the Atlanta area who contribute $10,000 or more annually to United Way of Greater Atlanta.

According to United Way Worldwide’s annual report, Tocqueville Society has generated more than $10 billion to date. There are 25,000-plus members in 400-plus societies around the world.

In Greater Atlanta, Doug Hutcherson is one of those philanthropic leaders. The CEO of Lockton Companies Southeast has always had ties to United Way.

“I’ve contributed to United Way for many years with former employers — even dating back to elementary school,” Hutcherson says. “United Way was always kind of an omnipresent charitable organization, and we were encouraged to donate money.”

Hutcherson has been CEO of Lockton in Atlanta for the past 16 years. He says he created the Lockton business in Atlanta “from scratch” with 12 people, and now the company is 300-plus strong and has grown with revenues of more than $100 million.

Lockton is headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, and has always been passionate about service to United Way, Hutcherson says.

“It was a natural extension to Atlanta,” he says. “We carried on that cultural tradition. It was a natural fit.”

But around a decade ago, Hutcherson saw the work United Way of Greater Atlanta does from a different perspective.

Hutcherson had the opportunity to participate in one of United Way’s Street-to-Home outreach projects.

United Way’s Street-to-Home initiative seeks to end homelessness by helping people living on the streets obtain permanent housing and gain access to support programs.

United Way works alongside partner agencies to reach out to homeless communities in Atlanta in hopes of providing them transitional housing, and case management which enables a large majority of individuals to become independent.

The program helps to house hundreds of individuals each year.

During Street-to-Home outreach projects, volunteers will board buses early in the morning and drive around Atlanta to interact with the city’s homeless population. Volunteers such as Hutcherson will ask people if they can help put them in contact with resources.

Hutcherson says he went to United Way of Greater Atlanta early one morning for what he thought would be a discussion about how to provide services that would help the homeless population. It was then that he went into the streets with an ADP escort to directly engage people.

“The reason you go out at 5 o’clock is that you want to get to people before they get on the move,” Hutcherson says. “In those days, you have a group of people walking up to a homeless person on the street, and you can just think what was going through their head — ‘Am I about to be arrested, get beaten up, what’s happening?’

“There was very little trust between the homeless community, but with these outreaches over time, I think that we’ve done a good job of building relationships in this community.”

With these projects, Hutcherson was able to go beyond just giving a monetary gift. In all, he says he’s done about 25 or more of these outreach events, and he took his son out when he was 14 to help instill the importance of service.

This particular project was something that struck a chord with Hutcherson.

He said his office has allocated its United Way Campaign to the program each year since his first experience with Street-to-Home.

Hutcherson now serves on the Tocqueville Society Cabinet. He says he likes serving with other Tocqueville members and sees the group as a good leadership function for the Atlanta business community. He said Tocqueville does a nice job of promoting targeted philanthropy.

“Most Tocqueville Society members are good about sharing within their organizations the importance of philanthropy,” Hutcherson says. “Our company’s three pillars are clients, associates and communities in which we work and live. Giving back to the local community allows for the privilege of prospering in the being the business community.”

Hutcherson says he appreciates the leadership at United Way and called its message — specifically its new Child Well-Being message — an inspiring one.

“I have an inherent trust in United Way,” Hutcherson says. “I think it’s efficiently managed and United Way carries a very powerful brand within the philanthropic world. In Atlanta, I feel like it’s a very well-run organization. I think [President and CEO] Milton [J. Little, Jr.] does a great job, and [Vice President of United Way Regional Commission on Homelessness] Protip Biswas — I’m very impressed with how passionate they are. They believe in the message, which inspires others to act.”

If you are passionate about United Way’s message that all children deserve a chance to reach their full potential, donate to the Child Well-Being Impact Fund. Click here for more information about Tocqueville Society or learn more about how to get involved with United Way’s Street-to-Home initiative and how you can give.

Two years ago, Gwinnett County saw too many children in its own back yard were growing up with a disadvantage.

Children in “low to very low child well-being” areas across Gwinnett County grew up within these same geographical boundaries, but without access to the same resources. They lacked the same access to quality education, food and health care among other things.

But a lot can change in two years.

On Oct. 18, United Way of Greater Atlanta announced a 2.3-point improvement in the overall Child Well-Being score for Gwinnett County. The announcement came during United Way and Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce’s State of the Children Summit.

More than 350 business leaders, elected officials and community stakeholders gathered at 12Stone Church in Duluth to celebrate the improvements in Gwinnett County and praise the progress achieved because of community, corporate and nonprofit partnerships.

In 2017, United Way of Greater Atlanta saw after its strategic planning meeting that the zip code a child lived in too often determined the fate of that child. United Way observed that, statistically, because of what zip code a child was born into, he or she was handed a disadvantage beyond their control. Through a set of 14 measures, United Way calculated at the time a child well-being score of 58.9 for the 13-county region.

In the spring, officials announced the score had improved in two years to 61.8. That equates to a change in the lives of more than 82,000 children in the region living in low or very low child well-being.
In Gwinnett in 2017, the county had a score of 61.8, but Ginneh Baugh, vice president of Strategic Impact for United Way, said Oct. 18 the score had improved to 64.1. Gwinnett’s score, while higher than the region average, still tells the story of 52,000 children who are living in low or very low child well-being communities, Baugh says.

“It’s about, ‘How are all the children in Gwinnett and in our region doing?’” Baugh said. “It’s not just about what we want for kids in terms of them being smart. I want them to have lots of opportunities in front of them. It’s about making sure the children have the opportunities, resources and social supports they need to reach their full potential. We can take that on.”

United Way saw previously that our region was one of the largest regions growing in suburban poverty in the country, Baugh said. The communities with low child well-being were spread across the 13-county footprint. There are still extreme disparities among Gwinnett County zip codes with the lowest-scoring zip code rating 23.7 and the highest at 81.9.

This means there is definitely still a need in Gwinnett, Baugh said.

“We can’t claim victory, but we can claim progress,” Baugh said. “We’re really excited to see that map change. Also, that’s a big part of what we’re here for. We need something to put our stake in the ground on. By moving forward, the pieces are coming together.”

Gwinnett County saw overall improvements in high school graduation rates, decline in births to mothers without a diploma and more adults who now have health insurance, Baugh said.

Baugh spoke of the progress in Lawrenceville, a four zip code area where there was a 3.2-point increase in child well-being up to 64.2. Lawrenceville saw improvements in high school graduation rates, but an increase in children of families in poverty and fewer financially stable families. These “headwinds” help show us where we need to focus our efforts, she said.

United Way is driving change in its three big roles as a strategic philanthropic partner, data-driven investor and by acting as convener and catalysts for change, Baugh says.

“All of this is so we can activate people, align dollars and really see a significant change,” says Baugh.

There’s still work to be done in the region, though. For example, Baugh said there’s still a “25-point gap” in third-grade reading for communities in low child well-being. But by bringing people and resources together, we can drive collective impact and lasting change.

“We really have to make sure the opportunities are there for all children, regardless of where you grow up,” Baugh said. “Our system is not fully working to meet their needs. There are gaps to close, but we think it’s possible to make that change.

“Progress is possible when good people move from ideas to action.”

To help empower progress and put this plan to action, donate today to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Impact Fund.

#WhyWednesday: Marshall Barton

Combating child homeless is her passion. United Way of Greater Atlanta is her platform. Today, hear why Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health employee and United Way Gwinnett County advisory board member Marshall Barton invests in the Child Well-Being Movement to give back to Greater Atlanta.

 

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we are committed to seeing children have access to resources in order to lead happy and healthy lives through our Child Well-Being Movement. Click here  to find out how you can join the movement!

#WhyWednesday: Brenda Reid

Why is Brenda Reid, Publix Media and Community Relations Manager, and member of our Board Directors passionate about United Way of Greater Atlanta? “The model that they have is to pool the resources and attack a certain issue; then you will begin to see change.” Hear why she gives back below.

United Way’s Child Well-Being Impact Fund invents impact dollars in teams of nonprofits to work on collaborative solutions that lead to positive and sustainable outcomes for children and families. By developing 14 key index measures, we’re able to track our progress and determine what levers are the most effective in ensuring “all the children are well.” Learn more about Child Well-Being in Greater Atlanta here.

#WhyWednesday: Bill Cheeks

Bill Cheeks began his journey with United Way when he was a child. Now as President of Abba Associates, Inc. and board member of United Way of Greater Atlanta, he is excited to improve child well-being and financial stability throughout Greater Atlanta. Today, hear why he gives back to his community!

United Way is committed to improving child well-being in Greater Atlanta. Read about the how we are impacting the lives of children, families and communities in our 2018 stakeholder report.
How are the children doing in your community? Explore your child well-being score here.