Daniel’s curiosity finally got the best of her.* She tried to drive away, but instead, pulled over to see where she dropped her rider off at. A quick search online told her all she needed to know. Daniel immediately turned around, got out of her car, and took herself inside.
“And she just said, ‘I need to be here,” recounts Executive Director, Stacey Howell.
Daniel was a Lyft driver experiencing emotional abuse at home and identity loss in her personal life. Stacey and the team at Every Woman Works spent the next several weeks connecting Daniel with counselors to help her navigate her trauma before enrolling her in their own program to help her get back on her feet professionally.
It took a couple of months, but Daniel’s now an accomplished writer and speaker. This is exactly the kind of impact Ms. Tillie O’Neal-Kyles dreamed of having 16 years ago.
After retiring from AT&T, Ms. Tillie, as she’s lovingly called, set out to find her purpose. Instead of taking it easy as so many do in retirement, she wanted to find a way to help single mothers navigate the barriers to success while raising children. So, she gathered a few close friends from her church community and inner-circle together to help her establish a nonprofit to do just that.
Now, Every Woman Works (EWW) seeks to help women move from dependency to self-sufficiency. As Stacey explains, while most people have some sort of a strong support system growing up, others put their trust in support systems that ultimately betray them, oftentimes affecting trauma. These traumas typically result in some sort of dependency. “Sometimes [it’s] dependency on the welfare system, on a person, a bad relationship, or addiction.”
The team at EWW not only connects these women with professional help but also walks alongside them as they discover their unique gifts and begin to create a new future. “When I first came, I thought I was eradicating poverty,” said Stacey. “But in my second year, I said, no, we’re building confidence, and we’re using employment as a stabilizer to help women get on their feet and find their own success.”
Every Woman Works does this through a 5-7 week program, job skills training, life skills training, job placement, health and wellness programs, job retention coaching, and more.
It hasn’t always been an upward journey for EWW though. Fourteen years after its founding, the nonprofit experienced both internal transitions as well as changes in location, which forced them to seek out new leadership.
It was around this time when Stacey Howell began volunteering for Every Woman Works. With a strong corporate background and a love for empowering women and children, Stacey brought both skill and passion to her work. In a matter of months, Ms. Tille installed her as the new Executive Director of EWW.
“We were small when I took over,” Stacey shares. “Like a startup, but with history.” And with changes taking shape, Stacey knew they needed to do a big push to rebuild trust and let the community know they were back in business.
It was around this time that Orchard entered the picture. “We were rebuilding and Orchard came in at a time when I was new and trying to build my own relationships. It was a good time to formulate a support structure.”
“I love being in a room with people who are looking to make the world better for our children, for us, for our tomorrow… that’s where I belong. That’s what Orchard gives me. It gives me that network and that’s where I want to be,” Stacey says.
In early 2018, Orchard helped the team at Every Woman Works to perform a round of mock interviews for the women enrolled in their program. To prepare them for real-world interviews, EWW coordinates with volunteer teams from various corporations, such as Home Depot and AIG.
The interviews are held off-site and create an opportunity for the women in their program to practice answering questions, receive valuable feedback, and reduce the overall anxiety associated with actual interviews. It gives them both confidence and a greater sense of hope for their future.
And although EWW faces challenges in today’s world, Stacey continues to see the organization rapidly implement creative solutions to keep the women in their program moving toward self-sufficiency. This includes new online programs as well as an upcoming location in southwest Atlanta. “We’ve been a diamond in the rough because we’ve been small and struggling, but the impact that we’ve [seen] has been amazing and God just keeps blessing us.”
No matter the challenges that come their way, EWW keeps doing the work because the transformation they’re seeing in the lives that walk through their doors gives them hope for tomorrow.
“When we change the life of the mom, the life of the average 3.5 children that most of our clients have,” Stacey says, “We feel like we’re making a difference in that legacy because the trajectory of changing mom’s life changes the trajectory of those people.”
It’s safe to say that’s the legacy Ms. Tillie was hoping for so many years ago.
*Names have been changed to protect identities