IDEAS of the month: January 2020Marc Schultz
In this month’s edition of IDEAS, celebrating innovation in all areas of nonprofit management, we showcase GCN members sparking important new conversations, expanding their reach with mobile services, and opening up access to healthy food through a smart corporate partnership.
Check out this month’s fresh crop of stories, featuring the Jewish Federation of Atlanta, Walton Options for Independent Living, American Red Cross of Georgia, Wholesome Wave Georgia, and their partners in progress.
TAKING SERVICES TO THE PEOPLE, AND VICE-VERSA
Increasingly, nonprofits are expanding their impact by finding ways to mobilize services and the people who need them.
This past summer, American Red Cross of Georgia deployed nearly 900 volunteers across 14 communities this past spring to install free smoke alarms. In the second year of their Sound the Alarm initiative, corporate sponsor Delta and new volunteer partner MIRA USA enabled the state chapter to set up more than 3,400 smoke alarms for families in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Barnesville, Bowden, Columbus, Conyers, Hampton, Savannah, Summerville, Tifton, Thunderbolt, and Valdosta.
Continuing their work connecting Georgians with healthy food, Wholesome Wave Georgia has done the inverse, helping bring subsidized Lyft rideshares to 300 low-income families through a six-month pilot program called Access AgLanta. Teaming up with their longtime partners Community Farmers Markets, the Georgia Farmers Market Association, and the City of Atlanta, they're delivering people directly to healthy food retailers throughout the city – including eight farmers markets where families can take advantage of Wholesome Wave's signature Fresh for Less program, which doubles EBT dollars at farmers markets.
And, to better reach people with disabilities across all 16 counties they serve, Augusta-based nonprofit Walton Options for Independent Living launched the Mobile Assistive Technology Lab. Hosted at local senior centers and libraries, the Lab educates community members about a wide range of assistive technology, from magnifiers and grippers to power wheelchairs to “joystick” controls for driving cars, with hands-on demonstrations. Attendees learn about how assistive technology improves the lives of persons with disabilities, and opportunities to receive demoed items. As the program starts up again for 2020, dates have been lined up throughout February and March; in addition, Walton Options has undertaken a $75,000 fundraising campaign to purchase a customized van that will be able to reach even more people where they are.
SHABBAT SUPPER SET-UP CATALYZES DIVERSITY DISCUSSIONS
With an eye toward creating meaningful observances over MLK weekend – the kind that help advance the vision of Martin Luther King, Jr. – the Innovation Team at the Jewish Federation of Atlanta collaborated with several Atlanta social justice and engagement organizations to turn the Friday night Shabbat dinner table into a platform for authentic dialogue.
For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2019, Repair the World Atlanta and OneTable Atlanta joined forces to create the MLK Shabbat Supper Series, bringing diverse groups of young Atlantans together for deep conversations about civil rights and racial justice. With funding from Federation’s BLOOM Innovation Seed Grant, they reached out to American Jewish Committee of Atlanta and HandsOn Atlanta to help them host ten simultaneous MLK Shabbat Suppers across the city, spanning four neighborhoods and engaging 144 people.
The dinners were led by religiously, racially, and gender-diverse hosts, recruited from sponsoring organizations and people active in Jewish Family and Career Services, Moishe House, and the Federation’s NextGen program. While enjoying a meal, dinner guests took cues from a guide based on the “Civic Dinners” model, including thought-provoking quotes and questions about Civil Rights from a Jewish perspective, racial justice, and Atlanta’s history.
Participants were impressed with the program and the effect it had on them. As one guest put it, “The importance of these discussions may appear to be subtle, but throughout the week I found myself thinking about some of the topics that were discussed at dinner. They have had a lasting impact.”
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Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.