Wanda Jones’ journey is deeply personal. Most of you will not immediately recognize her name, but will surely recognize the name of her son, Ahmaud Arbery. In 2020, Wanda established the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation to honor the memory of her son, who was tragically killed while out for a run in his hometown in Brunswick, GA. Running had been a safe place for Ahmaud, and Wanda wanted to create a foundation that would honor his memory and continue his legacy by promoting a path to mental and physical wellness for young Black boys.
Wanda began her journey with Orchard early in 2023 with our Orchard Institute Foundations training, a 4-module program that requires a significant investment of time and effort from every ministry Partner. This curriculum walks non-profit leaders through a program designed to hone their organization’s mission and vision, giving them strategies for effective fundraising, as well as tools for building sustainable systems, a Board of directors and all starting with a spiritual component that, we believe, are the building blocks to all ministry work.
As Orchard’s Partner Education Manager, I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside Wanda Jones as she began this online training. As I’ve seen her work ethic and passion on full display in our cohort discussions, I can confidently say that her story is one that deserves to be told. Wanda’s journey to create a sustainable non-profit organization has been nothing short of remarkable, and her unwavering commitment to her mission has left a lasting impression on me. One of the things that strikes me about Wanda is her deep faith in God. She has never wavered in her belief that she is on the path that He has laid out for her, even when the road of grief and loss seemed impossible and uncertain. Her faith has given her the strength and resilience to push through hard places that seem unimaginable. Wanda continues to impress us with her willingness to fight for the sustainability of her organization.
While Wanda jumped right into our Foundations curriculum and has benefitted greatly from these cost-free resources, her work has been even more impacted by our Orchard Coaching program. At Orchard, we provide one-on-one coaching to our Partners where coaches are strategically paired with our ministry Partners to help them grow as leaders through personal, organizational, and spiritual development. Our Coaches commit to monthly meetings to help our Partners grow and develop both as individuals and as organizational leaders. In January, we connected Wanda to Karen Loritts to facilitate her coaching experience- and WOW! Almost immediately, we saw God’s perfect orchestration as their connection blossomed and Wanda’s ministry grew.
Wanda recently shared that Karen has been the most incredible source of support and encouragement, helping her to stay focused and motivated even in the face of challenges. Already, I can tangibly see how the tools of the Orchard Institute paired with Karen’s coaching support pushed Wanda to gain the confidence and skills she needed to continue growing her Foundation and make a positive impact in her community.
Wanda has put in countless hours of hard work, fundraising, and building a team to ensure that her mission can continue and thrive. Of course, her journey has not been without its challenges, but she has faced them head-on with determination and grace. She has remained focused on her mission, and her willingness to do the hard work has enabled her to push through the obstacles and emerge stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to serve her community.
In fact, this year, the Ahmaud Arbery Foundation hosted the first ever “Run with Maud” 5K, with 2300+ registrants that ran both in Atlanta and across the country in honor of her beloved son. This is an incredible first for Wanda and we cannot wait to see God continue to move as she presses into her calling.
I can’t help but feel inspired by her example. Her unwavering faith, dedication, and hard work are a testament to the power of believing and trusting in God’s plan for our lives. Her journey is proof that even in the hard places, there is purpose and meaning to be found. Wanda stands strong in her foundation’s call to action: turning a moment of hate into a movement of love. We are honored that Wanda has chosen Orchard to help her non-profit thrive and to find redemption in tragedy!
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