It’s fair to say that 2020 has possibly not been the best of times, but it’s equally fair to say that you don’t have to look too hard to find the helpers out there, throwing kindness around like confetti. We’ve selected 11 local moms and dads who remind us that it only takes one good idea and some gumption to make a big difference in the lives of others. Read on to discover Atlanta parents who are making a difference every day.

photo: Tiny Activists Atlanta

Fran & Mary, Tiny Activists

What They Did: Moved by George Floyd's cry to his mother during the last moments of his life, Atlanta moms Fran Carroll and Mary Williams formed Tiny Activists as as way for families with young children to learn how to safely speak out to support others and feel empowered to do it again, and again. While there were protests all over Atlanta over the summer, Covid-19 and the threat of violence near the sites of planned marches made it hard to navigate a traditional protest or march. However, an estimated thousand people attended Tiny Activists first planned march, proving that young families felt the need to get involved, include their small children, but it had to be a safe environment.

How They Helped: Tiny Activists gives children the tools to organize and stand up for what they believe, so that when they grow up, they can be the leaders that create change. Tiny Activists create opportunities for young people to get involved, learn how to use their voice, and be leaders. They hope that by training kids today, they will train their kids, and the cycle will continue. It has to start somewhere, so Tiny Activists is a good place to begin.

What Comes Next: After hundreds of people joined Tiny Activists on Facebook, and continued to reach out, saying, “What’s next?,” they decided to create a community where they could teach small people how to find their voice and stand up for people who are needing help. One of the most difficult things for Tiny Activists to manage has been Covid-19, so until infection count declines, they've turned to creating a non-profit to gather funds to build and broaden the Tiny Activists message. They're still brewing ideas and plan to move forward, and hope to keep the momentum alive.

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photo: Good Samaritan Health Center

Breanna, Good Samaritan Center

What She Did: Breanna Lathrop is the COO and Family Nurse Practitioner at Good Samaritan Center. She’s also a wife and mother of small children. Breanna helped launch a helpline that has taken over 11,000 calls since March, providing accurate information on COVID-19, consultations for callers with symptoms, and scheduling testing both at Good Sam and throughout the metro area. She also worked with Good Sam to forge a partnership with CVS Health, and  opened a rapid COVID-19 testing center in the Good Sam health pavilion, currently testing 100-130 people each day. Additionally, she helped Good Sam create an isolated triage room to see patients with symptoms of COVID-19. Every single person who came to their doors seeking care and advice regarding COVID-19 was been seen by a health care provider.

How She Helped: Breanna's commitment to quality care for all resulted in—and continues to impact—the overall health of Atlantans. Regardless of income, patients who go to Good Sam are treated. Breanna helped navigate this already lofty expectation through a pandemic that placed even more strain—and importance—on the efforts being made to provide high quality medical, dental, mental health, specialty, and health education services to individuals and families in Atlanta that could not otherwise afford it.

What Comes Next: Breanna's work at Good Sam will continue, and they are encouraged by the constant support from individuals, corporations, Churches, families, and grants that help them fulfill their mission.

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photo: The Compassion Kitchen Project

Isabel & Lisa, Compassion Kitchen

What They Did: Lisa Blanco and Isabel Rice, mothers and founders of The Compassion Kitchen Project, saw an opportunity to help both those suffering from food insecurity as well as restaurant industry workers by simplifying the process of connecting the two. The Compassion Kitchen was created to connect the food needs in our community with locally-owned restaurants. They use tax deductible donations to pay restaurants to make meals for non-profits—and for those suffering from food insecurity—providing both income for restaurant employees and much-needed support for nonprofits that serve the homeless and others in crisis.

How They Helped: In its first 16 weeks, The Compassion Kitchen Project raised over $140,000, engaged over 100 volunteers to help deliver meals, prepared over 1,000 “Compassion To-Go” bags (created for people living on the streets, in cars and in transient housing) with non-perishable food items and delivered 44,021 healthy meals. In the first 3 weeks of Together We Eat—a program where they've partnered with some of Atlanta’s private schools to pick up and deliver their extra school lunches to those most in need—they have delivered over 3,000 meals.

What Comes Next: When Lisa and Isabel first started this project, it was going to be a 4-6 week effort to provide relief during the pandemic. Realizing this pandemic is going to be with us longer than any of us had hoped, the duo plan to operate The Compassion Kitchen Project as long as there is a need, and they have the funding to provide more meals through partnerships and collaboration.

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photo: Jessie Carr

Jessi & Ashley, Signs of Change

What They Did: Friends Ashley Cocchi-Miller and Jessi Carr wanted to find a visual way to show solidarity with their Black neighbors after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbury. Starting by posting a message about ordering signs in Neighbor, they hoped to get enough interest in order to place a bulk order for 50 signs from a local Black-owned print shop, Best Print and Design in Decatur. Within four days, they received close to 450 neighbors reaching out to order signs, quickly ordering another 500—and more, since then—after the news spread and more community members wanted to purchase signs for their yards. They reached out in conversation with neighbors, and cite the most impactful as the ones with neighbors of color, Carr's husband included, who shared how meaningful it was to see white neighbors expressing the sentiment that Black lives are important and worth fighting for. It symbolized that they are welcome, valuable members of the community.

How They Helped: Posting a Black Lives Matter sign became a way voice support and solidarity with Black neighbors—especially during quarantine—and to speak out against police brutality and other injustices faced by Black people in the United States. The duo funnels all the proceeds into national organizations working on a macro-level for racial justice, having donated $17,000 already with plans to keep the momentum going until at least November 3.

What Comes Next: "For ATL Signs of Change, I know we will continue to be involved in the fight for social and racial justice. We refuse to look the other way or be silenced—we will continue to use our privilege to speak out against oppression and lead our community in healing the wrongs of our culture and government."

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photo: Tamara Gonzalez

Tamara Gonzalez, Front Steps Project

What She Did: Tamara Gonzalez, a professional photographer and mom, offered free 5-minute photo sessions of families on their front steps in exchange for a donation directly to Piedmont Hospital. Families were given one digital download image. These were socially-distanced portraits taken with a telephoto lens, often from across the street, or across clients yards in bushes to get the shot. The majority of funds that families contributed went to the Piedmont Healthcare COVID-19 Infrastructure Fund. that was set up for critical need areas such as: Drive-Thru Testing Sites, Reconfiguring Labs for On-Site COVID-19 Testing, Hospital Modifications to increase ICU capacity, and Equipment, Technology and Operating Costs (including ventilator purchases, PPE, and all associated support). Together, more than 30 families participated in the Front Steps Project Atlanta, raising over $3,000 for Piedmont Hospital.

How She Helped: "The goal for the Front Steps Project Atlanta was my way to help the frontline workers at Piedmont Hospital, while also helping families maintain some semblance of connection and positivity while we were in lockdown." Tamara raised over $3,000 through the photos she captured for more than 30 families for Piedmont Hospital, earmarked for critical need areas such as: Drive-Thru Testing Sites, Reconfiguring Labs for On-Site COVID-19 Testing, Hospital Modifications to increase ICU capacity, and Equipment, and Technology and Operating Costs (including ventilator purchases, PPE, and all associated support).

What Comes Next: Families whose pictures were taken by Tamara will have a forever imprint of what they looked like during this at-home period in their lives. She continues to take family photographs, though less frequently from the neighbor's landscaping bed.

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photo: APD

Sgt. Paxson, Atlanta Police Department

What He Did: Sgt. Paxson is a 10-year veteran of the Atlanta Police Department and a father of 3 who currently serves as the director of Crime Stoppers Greater Atlanta, which offers cash rewards for tips on crimes. This year, Crime Stoppers helped solve the case of Secoriea Turner—an 8 year-old who was shot and killed on the Fourth of July as she rode in her mother's car. He is also the most tenured person on the Civil Disturbance Unit.

How He Helps: As part of Crime Stoppers, he takes a hands-on approach to getting to know the community, purchasing gifts for kids during the holidays and bringing ice-cream on hot summer days. And as a supervisor, he makes sure that officers know they have a duty to intervene and stop any abuse of power they see.

What Comes Next: According to Sgt. Paxson, one of the things we need in Atlanta "is for the community to come forward and help us. We need good police officers who can become great police officers of all races. We need police officers who represent the City of Atlanta, and be the change they want to see."

Find Him Here:

photo: Hallie Olsen

Michelle & Hallie, Operation Feed

What They Did: Michelle Martin and Hallie Olsen are Atlanta Public School moms who pulled together a crack team of parents and teachers at E. Rivers Elementary School who refused to let any child in their school community go without food. What began as outreach to those in their school has expanded to now impact schools throughout the North Atlanta cluster. 

How They Helped: With an unexpected and extended closure of school beginning in March, 2020, Michelle and Hallie began to worry about the impact—beyond the A, B, and C's—of the pandemic on families in their school community who might be facing food insecurity. Since then, they've set up 8 distributions to residents in a targeted neighborhood, along with delivering boxes of food to 20 offsite locations. Boxes are filled with either produce, canned goods, snacks, home care items, or with basic cooking staples, in addition to other delivered items, such as cereal, detergent, soups, bread, and tortillas.

What Comes Next: Operation Feed is currently applying for its 501(c)(3) status as Hallie, Michelle, and their team of parent and teacher volunteers intend for it to be a long term partner to APS schools, beginning with those in the North Atlanta cluster. They plan to work with stakeholders in each school to help identify needs that might exist well beyond the closure of the pandemic.

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—Shelley Massey


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