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IDEAS of the month: October 2019

Since 2014, we've been celebrating and showcasing the Georgia nonprofit sector's endless capacity for invention in our annual IDEAS feature. This year, we're proud to start featuring your stories of innovation throughout the season, as IDEAS 2019 goes monthly.

Our first edition highlights GCN members Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies; Atlanta Audubon Society; The Captain Planet Foundation; Meals on Wheels Atlanta; The Adaptive Learning Center; and their partners in funding and action.

Expanding Access

BETTER BIRTH OUTCOMES THROUGH JOB TRAINING

As of 2017, there were only 50 certified doulas and 37 certified childbirth educators in Georgia – service providers that are proven to improve birth outcomes. Because Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia (HMHB) works to connect pregnant women with the resources they need, they were well aware of the problem. Thats why, in 2018, they launched the Building Perinatal Support Professionals Project, designed to expand the field and increase access to these vital services. 

Funded by United Way of Greater Atlanta, the pilot program granted scholarships and supportive training to 20 Metro Atlanta-area women seeking to become credentialed childbirth educators and doulas. Of the first cohort, 13 pursued doula certification and seven pursued certification as childbirth educators, and all graduated in June 2019. “The cohort had stellar outcomes for the 64 new moms they served between July 2018 and June 2019,” reports HMHB ED Elise Blasingame. “Ninety-one percent of women delivered vaginally, there were no preterm births, Apgar scores – the standard for determining the health of newborns – were all within healthy ranges, and 100 percent of women breastfed and had skin-to-skin contact immediately post delivery.” HMHB is planning another round of scholarships for 2019-2020.

Next Gen

TWO WAYS TO RAISE A CONSERVATION GENERATION: IN SCHOOL AND IN-GAME

Because today’s youth are tomorrow’s policy makers, city planners, real estate developers, and community leaders, Atlanta Audubon Society and The Captain Planet Foundation are both pursuing new avenues for reaching them.

Atlanta Audubon started a new program to ensure grade-school students possess the understanding and values to protect the habitats that sustain birds, wildlife, and people. Launched in 2016 with funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation, the Morgens West Foundation, and Audubon members, Connecting Students with STEM through Birds takes a holistic approach to teaching conservation: training educators in STEM instruction, installing bird-friendly outdoor learning areas (complete with native plants), and providing classrooms with equipment like binoculars and field guides. Throughout the school year, Atlanta Audubon staff and volunteers provide on-site programming like bird-banding demonstrations and bird walks.

Meanwhile, The Captain Planet Foundation teamed up with AT&T and Turner Broadcasting’s Adult Swim Games to launch a new, free-to-play mobile app aimed at turning gamers into environmental stewards. Released on Earth Day 2019, Captain Planet: Gaia Guardians is based on the ecologically-minded animated ‘90s television series, and brings players together with five young characters to call upon superhero Captain Planet, defeat eco-villains polluting the world, and restore the environment. During their four-day launch event, AT&T pledged to give one dollar for every tree that players restore in-game, totalling $100,000 for the Foundation’s schoolyard garden program.

Sales Support

THE SNACK THAT MAKES A MEAL

Over the last several years, Meals On Wheels Atlanta (MOWA) has been exploring the idea of starting a social enterprise as a sustainable source of revenue for the organization’s work: putting together healthy meals for seniors and delivering them right to the front door. That exploration was put into action in 2019, with the launch of Purposeful Gourmet Foods.

The nonprofit found rapid success with their first product, candied pecans in two flavors, made in small batches using Georgia-grown nuts, recipes contributed by famed Atlanta chef and current MOWA Culinary Consultant Robert Gerstenecker, and their own commercial kitchen. MOWA prepares and packages the savory-sweet snack during their off-hours, then sells them on their website, at farmers markets and local retailers, and in hospitality venues – including hotel room mini bars at The St. Regis Atlanta.

Recently, MOWA introduced two new products – a salted caramel popcorn and a chocolate bar with smoked sea salt – and now offers their full range of snacks together in a gift basket; each basket sold nets enough funds to provide a week of meals for a senior in need.

All-Inclusive

ADAPTIVE LEARNING LEARNS TO ADAPT

Research shows that all children benefit from a learning environment that brings together students with and without disabilities. That’s why The Adaptive Learning Center (ALC) has, for more than 20 years, matched highly skilled special education professionals with children with disabilities, providing one-one-one support so they can succeed in typical preschools, learning side-by-side with their peers. Until recently, however, the program’s expense meant that only families with means could afford it.

ALC's first opportunity to reach lower-income children came in a pilot partnership with Our House, which serves families experiencing homelessness. The stress of transitional housing can especially affect children with developmental delays and disabilities, and Our House found they had many children who needed additional classroom support. ALC worked with Our House to implement a more flexible model of their program. The success of the pilot readied them to partner with other organizations. 

One of those partners was Frazer Center, an inclusive early education center that caters to the needs of working families. Frazer Center approached ALC looking for a way to equip its teachers with more sophisticated early intervention skills and provide a higher level of service to children. Working together, ALC and Frazer Center developed a new consultation-based approach: Two ALC Inclusion Consultants spent time in Frazer Center classrooms, creating individualized support plans for children and coaching teachers in implementing them. 

Frazer Center reports “tremendous” results for students and teachers, and rave reviews from parents. For ALC, the new model – offered through their Preschool Inclusion Program – gives them the chance to reach children they were unable to serve in the past, and a way to scale their work: each ALC consultant can now support exponentially more students than in the traditional one-on-one model.

Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.

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