JLA Pivots during Covid19 Pandemic to Better Serve the Community
By Bre West, President, The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.
For the first time in more than 100 years, people worldwide are painstakingly adjusting to a new reality as we emerge from self-isolation in a “semi” post-quarantine era. Many of us are reeling as we try to put food on the table, maintain flexible employment or keep a roof over our heads. For families with school-age children, life can be even more daunting as some children face deep deprivations without many of the multidimensional needs often met in schools.
In addition to the educational resources and opportunity to build social skills, school is often the source of two or three meals a day, five days a week, while also offering stability, safety, and security. This is why when communities are faced with the uphill challenges of a pandemic, the need to lean in and support our local schools is greater than ever.
The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) was founded to better the lives of at-risk women and children and has now continued to do so for more than 100+ years. That’s why JLA is increasingly committed to finding ways to serve, share value, and provide much-needed resources within the Atlanta community, even in the midst of social distancing.
As JLA pivots to address the COVID-19 pandemic, our agency partners are also adapting to the rapidly changing community service environment. One JLA partner who has pivoted quickly to these challenging times is the Atlanta Speech School, founded in 1938 by JLA members. They have developed an online platform for learning, in collaboration with Cox Campus, that is available for free to families with internet access. The platform’s curriculum is tailored to children 18 months to five years, and their “Pop-Up Early Learning” modules offer preschool and pre-K lessons that are both innovative and hands-on.
This educational resource can be accessed via laptops and tablets, and offers a mobile app to use on cell phones. It’s even available in Spanish. Financial difficulties can create technology barriers for families without internet access nor personal computing equipment. Knowing this is an issue, nonprofit organizations are stepping in to help. One such nonprofit organization is JLA partner, PowerMyLearning Atlanta.
With school out for the foreseeable future, where do children go without summer camps? Several JLA partners are transitioning from traditional in-person camps to virtual camps or “camp in a box” experiences so children can remain engaged while learning from home. JLA members are proudly partnering to prepare “camp in a box” activities and snack kits for delivery to partner organizations like Mercy Care, ensuring children receive healthy and balanced food options while school is out.
Along with providing boots on the ground, JLA also works to support our partner agencies through ongoing training of our member volunteers and virtual meetings where we strategize how we can help our partners navigate these trying times. As we grow accustomed to using virtual platforms to fulfill our mission, we are continuously learning about these tools and rolling-out enhancements such as closed captioning to ensure all participants have equal access to shared information.
During this time when so many of us are feeling alone, the word inclusion takes on a whole new meaning. It is easier than ever to feel “out of the loop” and disconnected from those we know and love most. With that in mind, we must stay aware that each individual is experiencing something unique, yet likely very difficult. This is why we must focus on bringing people together, creating bonds, and championing each other like never before.
It is crucial that we support the children who remain in their homes and struggle to thrive without the basics they once received at school. Now, more so than ever, let’s take care of each other, let’s be intentional with inclusion, and let’s do so this year and for years to come.