JLA’s Centennial Grants Creates Transformative Community Change
Foreword by Andrea N. Smith, President of The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc.
When The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) celebrated its 100 years of service to the Atlanta community in 2017, it awarded three grants worth a total of $1 million to Atlanta nonprofits. The goal was for these grants to be transformational, prioritize collaboration and innovation that would dramatically impact the organizations work and on the community. Fast forward to now and these grant dollars are not only changing lives but making a deep impact in our city’s hardest hit communities. Our guest writer is JLA member, Barrett Krise, who co-directed the Centennial Gifts Committee and served on the Centennial Events Committee. Currently, she works for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Barrett not only specifies how the grant dollars have made a real difference but more importantly, the why behind the grant dollars impact.
By Barrett Krise, Senior Philanthropic Officer at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
In 2017, The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) celebrated its centennial year by awarding $1 million in grants over three years to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and to the Generational Poverty Law Project. Now, three years later its impact has been transformative to our community.
In the years leading up to the centennial celebration, JLA asked its members to contribute into a fund that would be used as a gift to the Atlanta community in honor of its past 100 years and as a kick-off to the next 100 years of service.
At the time of these awards, we had no way of knowing where we would be just three years later. Looking back, these grants have done even more than we could have anticipated and have provided a strong foundation for the organizations, and the people they serve, to face the unprecedented challenges of today.
The Atlanta Community Food Bank grant was used to establish the Child Nutrition Food Program which improves access to healthy meals and decreases childhood hunger. One of its program members, the School Mobile Food Pantry, just last year alone provided enough food for 1.1 million meals, over the original goal of 25,000. We had no way of knowing just how critical it would be to have three years to build the infrastructure and partnerships to address the exceptional need we are currently experiencing in our community.
The second grant was used to launch the Generational Poverty Law Project, a partnership between Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Pro Bono Partnership and the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center. They worked to support multigenerational families to preserve housing, income, and health and to stabilize children. Since launch, the Generational Poverty Law Project has preserved more than a million dollars of home equity and helped stabilize 33 families with guardianships for minor children.
These achievements have had a tremendous impact on low-income families, and with the current pandemic challenges facing families in poverty, having a stronger financial footing is more important than ever before. JLA’s support of a multi-agency partnership has resulted in better alignment between three organizations which translates to stronger community resources at a time when it is critically needed.
The third grant established the Institute for Healthcare and Human Trafficking at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The Institute’s main goal was to shift how the healthcare industry responds to “modern-day slavery” known as human trafficking. The Institute has trained more than 7,000 providers how to identify the signs of trafficking, effectively intervene and has partnered with healthcare organizations of all sizes to develop protocols for addressing trafficking.
We are hearing from our community partners that due to COVID-19 they are seeing a rise in cases of child abuse and incidences of trafficking. Before the shutdowns and stay at home orders, metro Atlanta already ranked as one of the nation’s top cities for human trafficking. Funding provided to establish the Institute has already reached thousands of healthcare providers who are trained and prepared to intervene and protect our children as ERs and health facilities are being accessed at increased rates.
In 2017 when we awarded these grants, we couldn’t know what was to come or the current pandemic crisis we now face. But through listening to our nonprofit partners, we heard loud and clear what they needed and how it would best serve our community. How each of them could make a transformational difference and how JLA could help. They have exceeded every expectation we could have imagined and we are proud to be part of their incredible legacy in our community.