The Tender Foundation is Providing a Safety Night for Single Mothers in Atlanta Meet founder, Jaycina Almond.

By Babe | Illustration by Ana Hard

Jaycina Almond is seeking to help historically excluded mothers in Atlanta. A mother herself, and one who’s intimately aware of the vast inequalities in her city, she founded the nonprofit organization The Tender Foundation to uplift new moms in need by providing bill pay, food assistance and other essentials. We sat down with Jaycina to chat all things Tender and how she hopes to shift the paradigm for these women through action.

Can you discuss the path to founding The Tender Foundation? What was the inspiration behind it? Was there a moment when you realized it needed to exists? 

I never set out to lead a nonprofit organization – originally I was working on a subscription box service tailored to each trimester of pregnancy – A self-care toolbox delivered to mama’s doorsteps to make the journey through pregnancy easier. The premise was for every box delivered we would provide a box of diapers and wipes to families in our community. After spending a bunch of time and money on this idea, I realized it would never work because I only cared about those diapers and wipes, so I had to be real with myself and pivot.

That’s how Tender was born. I don’t think there was ever one definitive moment that I realized Tender needed to exist. My entire life has informed the “why” of Tender. My mom was a single mom for a large chunk of my childhood, working two or three jobs at a time just to make ends meet. I got pregnant when I was 20, we walked to my first prenatal appointment because it wasn’t worth the $12 dollars on an Uber. The only reason I’m able to mother the way I want and I was able to have the labor and delivery I wanted is because my daughter’s dad signed a music deal shortly after that first prenatal appointment. It’s infuriating to think about actually – the only reason I was able to have a safe labor and delivery, with a midwife was because I suddenly went from living on the margins myself to having access to resources that often young, Black women like me are excluded from. 

Can you explore the philosophy behind The Tender Foundation? The mission?

At Tender, we are bridging the financial gap and providing a safety net for single mamas living on the margins here in Atlanta. We believe that every child deserves a home, food in their belly, and the everyday essentials like diapers and wipes. All mothers deserve to mother without the stress of survival. And we believe that asking and receiving help should be stigma and shame free. Our work is heavily informed by Black feminist theory, housing justice, food justice, etc. 

Can you give us some examples of work you’re doing on the ground through The Tender Foundation?

Tender provides financial assistance with rent and utilities, we provide grocery store gift cards, and we operate a diaper bank that serves between 30-40 unique families a month. In the first half of 2021 we distributed a little over $36,000 in rent assistance, just shy of $5,000 in utility assistance, and $4,000 in grocery store gift cards. 

What are the challenges underserved mothers face in Atlanta specifically? What makes the Tender Foundation’s work most meaningful in Atlantia specifically?

Atlanta is historically a Black city with the worst income inequality in the US – so that means the Black folks who have been here and built Atlanta into what it is – are severely underpaid and excluded. Thanks to Dr. Kelly Zvobgo, we’ve been shifting our language from “underserved,” “under resourced,” and “under-represented” to “historically excluded” because all of those things are happening by design.

There’s an abundance of barriers for single mothers here in Atlanta. 38 percent of single mamas live below the poverty line here (not to mention the mamas who are hovering just above the poverty line who still have to battle to make ends meet). The Atlanta area has the highest eviction rate in the country, and the areas with the highest rates of eviction are almost exclusively in Black neighborhoods. Over 77 percent of kids in the Atlanta Public School system qualify for free or reduced lunch. There’s limited affordable housing so housing routinely costs families more than half their income. The list goes on and on in Atlanta due to things like rapid gentrification, racial segregation, and lack of access and opportunity for Black folks here. If we are going to tout Atlanta as the “Black Mecca,” then we have to do the work to make that a reality for all the black folks in the city. There are so many people here doing just that alongside Tender. 

If we are going to tout Atlanta as the “Black Mecca” then we have to do the work to make that a reality for all the black folks in the city.

What are the challenges associated with what your work?

I think for any new nonprofit just having the revenue to do the work is a big challenge! Personally, I’ve had to learn everything as we go – I had my daughter at 20. I didn’t go to college, I’ve never worked in this sector before. I’m learning as we grow and it’s tough to fight the imposter syndrome everyday to ask folks for large amounts of money as a young, Black woman. To meet with folks who inspire me in the industry and feel confident in our work. Even just learning how to run a fundraising campaign and best practices for board management are things I’ve had to learn! 

As far as Tender specifically, we always have been cognizant of how we frame and present our mama’s stories. It’s not exactly a challenge for our team because ethical storytelling is a main priority. The challenge lies where the donors are expecting some sort of “trauma porn” to stir them to action. It’s almost like we have to reprogram some of our audience! 

What are some of your proudest accomplishments to date? 

We just recently surpassed over $200,000 raised since we launched in 2020! That’s something I’m really proud of. I never imagined when we started two years ago that what we were doing would translate to that large of an amount of money being able to go to families in our community. 

What initiatives or work do you have yet to do that you’d like to do moving into the future?

We are currently building out a new offering named The Bridge – this program will explore the concept of an Universal Basic Income. We will be piloting hopefully soon and providing a handful of Black mamas with a monthly $1000 cash grant for at least five months. We hear from our moms the impact that our current programming has but we also hear that to put it simple: our moms need more cash to survive. The Bridge would give families a solid footing, make families more resilient when emergencies happen, and improve mental and physical wellbeing of the whole family. We believe everybody should have equal access to the material and social means to live a flourishing life and The Bridge is a small step we can take to try to make that happen.