From feeding those in need to investing in the next generation, these local nonprofits make a positive impact in the Atlanta community.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been affected by food insecurity and scarcity. In fact, one in nine people in the metro Atlanta area is suffering from food insecurity. Andrea Jaron, executive director of Second Helpings Atlanta, is all too familiar with this need and is on a mission to provide not only food but fresh, nutritious food, to those who need it most in the Atlanta community.

An evening of positive impact

Jaron is a member of the 2021 Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator cohort, and she has spent the last 10 months participating in training and networking sessions, learning about different resources, and exploring opportunities to take her organization to the next level. This program, designed to help nonprofits sustain their purpose and scale their impact, is part of Chick-fil-A's commitment to care for local communities through its corporate social responsibility efforts.

On Thursday, April 28, Jaron had the opportunity to share her story alongside eight other nonprofit leaders from her 2021 Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator cohort at Stories of Impact Night, a celebration honoring the 2021-2022 cohort. Earlier that day, a group of nearly 400 leaders gathered in person and virtually at the Chick-fil-A Support Center in Atlanta for a one-day conference filled with sessions about building a board of directors, strategic marketing, preventing burnout, diversity and inclusion and scaling impact.

While participants represented an array of organizations and objectives, they all share the vision of making a positive difference in the Atlanta community.

Meet the changemakers

Mary Torrence Williams is a selfless nonprofit leader, who was dubbed a "humble doer" by those who know her. She is the founder and executive director of Students without Mothers, an organization that provides services and resources to students who have lost their mothers from death, incarceration or abandonment. She participated in the Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator program with the goal of connecting with other nonprofit leaders to collaborate and share ideas and best practices for growing her organization.

Cat DaCosta McAfee is the executive director of LaAmistad, a 20-year-old educational nonprofit that provides after-school programs for Latino students who receive free or reduced school lunch. Students who begin falling behind in school at a young age find it harder to catch up and achieve academically in later years. McAfee is committed to ensuring this doesn't happen. She encourages her students telling them, "No one can take what's in your heart, and no one can take what's in your head."

In addition to Jaron, Williams and McAfee, six other nonprofit organizations were part of the 2021–2022 Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator cohort program. Chick-fil-A awarded $10,000 to each organization to help support their future.

  • C5 Georgia Youth Foundation – Led by executive director and former pro golfer, Jacki Cannizzo, this nonprofit organization provides camp and leadership development programs for under-resourced youth in Georgia. Since its inception, C5 Georgia has had a 100% high school graduation rate for the students who participated in the five-year program.
  • Horizons Atlanta, Inc.— An affiliate of Horizons National, Horizons Atlanta aims to improve the life trajectory of underserved students and their families by instilling in them the joy of learning, skills for success and inspiration to realize their dreams. Directed by Alex Wan, Horizons Atlanta is looking to expand programming beyond grades K-8 with the Horizons Beyond program for high school students. Ideally, this program will serve as a pilot for Horizons National.
  • Marddy's Foundation Inc. – Spearheaded by Keitra Bates, this local nonprofit is committed to promoting culinary cultures. For Marddy’s Foundation’s next chapter, Bates is looking to transform it into a local shared kitchen and marketplace that will create more freedom and flexibility for its vendors. “We are always looking to connect hearts,” said Bates when asked about how she approaches partners.
  • National Black Arts Festival – Former music professional Stephanie Owens, who is “living her dream,” works with NBAF to pay it forward and support Black artists, just like people did to support her when she was pursuing her artistic dreams. NBAF is committed to shaping a more equitable and impactful arts ecosystem that highlights the beautiful contributions of black artists and the impact black art has made on our world in transformative and innovative ways. It's with this mission that the organization seeks to help 100 Black artists over the next three years through financial assistance, business acumen training, networking programs and more.
  • Paradise Atlanta Westside Enrichment Center, Inc. (PAWKids) – Was founded by LaTonya Gates after she took a chance and purchased what she calls the biggest drug house in Bankhead, a neighborhood west of downtown Atlanta. Seven years later with the help of Paradise Mission Baptist Church and Atlanta Westside Presbyterian Church, PAWKids owns the block and is working hard to empower and enrich the lives of the children in the Atlanta Westside. Gates is returning to the start and seeking to refurbish the original PAWKids house, so the organization can continue its mission to provide families with resources that will empower and encourage them while promoting Christian values, building stronger communities and developing self-sufficiency.
  • Veterans Empowerment Organization – For nearly 15 years, the VEO has provided veterans with a healing campus environment that allows them to rebuild their lives and aids them on their journey to self-sufficiency. “At the VEO, we believe that our veterans deserve the best,” said Alfonso Rogers, director of development. It’s this commitment to service that is leading Rogers and his team to renovate and refurbish its campuses to provide the best care and support to our veterans.

Interested in participating?

Nonprofit leaders who have attended the Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator conference and are interested in participating in the 2022-2023 Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator cohort program can apply online through May 23, 2022.

Organizations that would like to attend next year’s Chick-fil-A Impact Accelerator conference should register online in March 2023

Tagged In: CSR Nonprofit Community