Op-Ed: We don’t need to rely on elections to do good in our communities

Op-Ed: We don’t need to rely on elections to do good in our communities

Op-Ed: We don’t need to rely on elections to do good in our communities

This election season has been the most rancorous of our lifetimes. Is anyone surprised? We’ve come to expect the unexpected in 2020, a year that has seen searing social strife, suffering and pain through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our political and social fabric is badly damaged.

But in the midst of a chaotic political season and the suffering of so many, I’m reminded of this simple truth: the most impactful changes occur in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. It is a model we live our lives by each and every day at my organization, the Georgia Center for Opportunity. We know the role of government is important, but it is in our communities where lives are formed and, when things go badly, where lives are transformed. And it’s there that neighbors, businesses, communities of faith, schools and nonprofits can come together in local unified action.

Politics and policy do matter, but ultimately they are not the main driving force that moves the needle when it comes to people’s lives. That must come from you and me, rolling up sleeves and working alongside others who may or may not have voted like we did, but who share a belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve a better life, regardless of their race, the circumstances of birth, or past mistakes.

I’m thinking of women like Latesha Jackson, a Columbus native and single mother of four. She struggled for years in poverty, cycling between periods of unemployment and low-paying jobs in the service sector before a local cooperative of nonprofits, businesses, and schools known as Hiring Well, Doing Good helped put her on the path to a four-year degree.

My mind also goes to men like Kevin Johnson, a convicted felon who was looking for a second chance after paying his debt to society and spending years behind bars. He found it with Columbus Water Works, a company that has as a core value the need to give second chances. Kevin is now employed there and has hope for a better future.

My challenge to my fellow Georgians is this: what steps can we take today to begin impacting our neighbors for good and healing our national wounds? Don’t think about what government should or shouldn’t do. Think about what you can do. Because in the end, no one needs to wait for election results or government action in order to serve their communities. And no one needs to let election results keep them from doing good on behalf of others.

The road won’t be easy. It will take hard work. It’s far easier to stay in our silos and echo chambers, harshly judging our political enemies. But the far better path is one of service, care and compassion that restores human dignity and empowers everyone to live up to their potential.

As we live through the coming days, weeks, and months, let’s let our lives match the high standard set by Georgia’s earliest founders, who took on these timeless words as their motto: not for self, but for others.

Full Article First Appeared in The Center Square

Story: Joyelle got an education, a job, and a promotion. She never expected her success would mean this

Story: Joyelle got an education, a job, and a promotion. She never expected her success would mean this

Story: Joyelle got an education, a job, and a promotion. She never expected her success would mean this. . .

Joyelle never expected to be a position where the very system she thought was a safety net ultimately failed her.


After fleeing an abusive relationship, this single mother of four ended up in public housing in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Until that point, Joyelle had never relied on welfare for help. She always paid her rent on time and made ends meet. So, falling back on public housing was an entirely new scenario for her. It was not where or how she wanted to live, or where she wanted her four children to grow up. 

That’s why she was determined to get back on her feet. She graduated from school and was offered a full-time job with the state of Georgia, a career trajectory that put her above the poverty line. Things were looking up. 

“I was excited and grateful,” Joyelle says. “I had worked hard: I started out with the state as a student assistant and worked my way up.”


Falling over the benefits cliff

But that’s when Joyelle got a shocking surprise: Due to her new salary, her subsidized housing allowance disappeared and she was forced to pay almost $1,000 a month in rent.

“I was heartbroken,” she says of learning that she was losing her housing subsidy. “You work hard. They tell you to go to school and get a job. You do all these things, and you’re still not able to provide for your family. That’s devastating. I suffer from anxiety. It causes stress. It causes severe depression.”

She now faces the difficult decision of looking to move but being unable to afford apartment rent even with her salary increase.



Hindering upward mobility

Joyelle encountered what we call the “benefit cliff,” where well-intentioned policies actually prevent people from getting off public services. They make just enough to not qualify for services, but not enough to make up for the services lost in extra income. The result is a system that keeps people trapped in poverty rather than one that propels them toward self-sufficiency and the dignity that comes with it.

“There’s no help for people like me, stuck in the wealth gap,” Joyelle shares. “You have help, but if you help yourself you’re faced with adversities that you shouldn’t be faced with.”

We believe that these services should move people into a prosperous life, not keep them stuck in cycles of dependency. Visit welfarecliff.org to learn more about ways to end benefits cliffs so that more Georgians can prosper.


Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

Acceptance of the New Normal | HEALTHY @ HOME

As we enter the holiday season it’s important to recognize the changes that have taken place in 2020, and are shaping the way families are gathering for celebrations.  

Laura Cochling of Changing Perceptions Therapy walks us through healthy ways to accept our new normal. 

To learn more about the Healthy @ Home series and see additional videos click here

We are driven by a belief – supported by experience and research- that people from all walks of life are more likely to flourish if they have an intact, healthy family and strong relationships.


To learn more about how the Healthy Families Initiative is active in the community, click here