Find the Gap: From Social Worker to Nonprofit Innovator

Why is Atlanta the innovation capital of the Southeast? The podcast series Might Could: Stories of Innovation in the ATL, from The Hatchery, Emory Center for Innovation, seeks to answer that question in conversation with innovation thought leaders and disruptors in nonprofits, higher education, and industry who are making Atlanta a city of the future.

​​​​​​​On Friday, December 10, The Hatchery welcomed special guest Jamie Lackey, CEO of Helping Mamas, Inc., to hear how her background in social work led her to become a nonprofit innovator. 

Helping Mamas is an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works with agencies throughout metro Atlanta to provide essential baby items and period products to families that need them most.  After nearly 20 years as a social worker, Jamie Lackey saw first-hand that the mothers she served couldn’t afford the basic necessities to care for their babies and children.

Without diapers, the babies couldn’t go to childcare. Without childcare, the moms couldn’t go to work. This was a real gap in service and Jamie knew someone needed to solve it. Jamie quickly realized she was that person. She had seen similar programs growing in other cities, but none existed in Atlanta.

Jamie’s connections and training as a social worker uniquely equipped her to take the next steps to form Helping Mamas. She explained, “By nature, we’re problem solvers. There is a problem in front of you and you have to solve it with very little resources. You do it on the spot. There is a general sense of creativity that you must have, whether or not you’re an entrepreneur.”

Since Helping Mamas was formed, Jamie has focused on building a framework of organizations and social workers around Atlanta in order to “scale without infrastructure.”  Instead of trying to provide a wide array of services, Jamie offers support, connecting them to much needed resources that she couldn’t find as a social worker. Organizations like Atlanta Mission and other agencies help screen, finding the people who need diapers and products most. Social workers can come “shop” the warehouse for their clients. This leaves Jamie and her team to specialize as a diaper and period product bank.

“I love Atlanta because there is all this innovation. So many exciting things that are happening on a regular basis,” she said of Atlanta’s innovative community. “You don’t have to be a one-stop-shop. What you do have to do is talk and connect. People are already doing great work. They just need to be connected to each other.”

You can listen to the podcast here. If you prefer to watch the conversation, you can do so here. To keep up with everything going on at The Hatchery, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.  

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